It’s the little greed that kills.

Just a quickie about how it’s the small relatively low paying but easy/fun/flexible work situations that are eating up all our money collectively, not so much the Wall Streeters (although they are certainly getting their percentage out of it all).  This is an example.  That article is about government work as a family business, with several family members working easy government jobs after one person scored one and then got more family members jobs and feeling very entitled to their pensions precisely because those pensions aren’t six-figure ones.  And yes, everyone involved is white.  I often see the meme even in the mainstream right wing that this sort of behavior is limited to, well, non-whites and that whites would never engage in such blatant nepotism when working government jobs.  It’s funny how people don’t know their own history sometimes.

Another example is ripped from the pages of my life.  I pay “nanny taxes” and there was a discrepancy between what I told the IRS and what the state-level government told the IRS (spoiler alert, my records were the accurate ones).  The particular discrepancy happens very, very, very frequently.  It happens so often there is a guy whose sole job is to deal with this discrepancy.  Wisely, he takes generous paid leave during tax season, the only time of year anyone will receive notice of this discrepancy en masse.  The other 11 months he only has to deal with it for people who file quarterly, which is not that many people for this particular thing and of course spread out quarterly.

So two more paid full time positions staffed by amiable young women have been generated to do this guy’s job one month out of the year.  I have no idea what they do the other 11 months.  Three full time government jobs (60k/yr) with generous paid leave and excellent benefits and modest pensions of perhaps 25-30k/year in retirement.  All for a known problem that could be fixed with a very minor change to the state-level government’s workflow.

But then three white people, two of them women, would lose their easy desk jobs.  This is as corrosive in its way as any welfare mama (who of course provides a half dozen easy desk jobs for nice white people all on her own).  But nobody ever speaks out about the epidemic of makework jobs that whites hold when complaining about Wall Street beating up Main Street.  It is doing that, but Main Street is own goaling by encouraging bureaucracy without regard to whether it truly serves the citizenry, only whether it’s got flex hours and health benefits and a pension.



Some historical downsides of having household help, American edition

  1. Infectious-licious!

    Unvetted servants carrying infectious diseases.  The above is the most famous example, but there are plenty of other examples to draw upon.  Because a reference wasn’t necessary to secure a position due to the chronic labor shortages of a growing, wealthy society with free right of travel for all whites (and many blacks), a lot of servants would turn up to work in a household and get everyone sick.  Usually it wasn’t lethal (even Typhoid Mary had fewer than 10% of her 50+ victims die, the rest recovered), but it still was a very real risk and concern.  Anonymity was an early feature of American society, even when housewives still needed domestic help, and this was one of the nasty little side effects of that

  2. Harder to present the image of a classless society.  Being the land of opportunity, America has always struggled with the fact that some people are going to be servants or employees to others for their working lives.  Instead of considering this a reason to keep working conditions for domestic servants decent, it was considered a reason to just not have servants.  Or lie about them.  A notable example can be found during the Eisenhower presidency of the 1950s.  His then Vice-President Richard Nixon’s wife spent years pretending she did not have a live-in maid (Swedish), a yard man (ethnic background unknown), and loads and loads of babysitters to watch the two children they had, even to the extent of demanding the help never be photographed or spoken to by reporters doing “A Day in the Life of the Veep’s Wife” fluff pieces.  Something to keep in mind when hearing about how housewives don’t need domestic help because appliances.  As early as the 1950s, American women had many of what we currently consider modern appliances except for the glorious microwave and front-loading washing machine.  But they also had maids and childcare help (which was exempted from wage laws, of course).  Well-off Americans have claimed for a long time that they just magically do it all themselves, especially but not strictly conservatives.
  3. They just wanted a ten hour workday.

    Violent responses to poor working conditions.  The above is a picture of the Papin sisters, who were French and killed their mistress and her adult daughter after years of 14 hour days.  While not American, working conditions for American domestics were frequently not better.  This is occluded somewhat by racial stuff, but Northern white women were quite as happy to leave a white female servant bleeding from a slap or the strop as Southern white women were with black female slaves.  This is, of course, memoryholed like whoa in American discourse on domestic help.  Domestic service is not necessarily lowly, and given decent working conditions, many women are quite all right with serving others even if the pay is not the toppiest of top-end.  American women ran from service because the conditions and pay were both pretty crummy (the Woman Homesteader of Wyoming I wrote a bit about a white back was willing to trade the conditions of working as a laundress in an urban area for the backbreaking work of homesteading in Wyoming.)  They didn’t run because they disliked serving others necessarily.  Some did, but others would have been happy to keep doing that as a job if they were treated like humans by their employers.  Things these days are not going in that direction, with the rise of “servant apps” where you just-in-time schedule your domestic help (“assistants”).  Meanwhile, the paternalism that drives our own hiring is sneered at for not being all-encompassing enough.  Vacation days, feh!  You don’t pay health insurance!  Health insurance?  Pah, you don’t put in a 401k!  Middle-class American women used to be able to afford domestic help not just because the wages were exempted, but also because it wasn’t considered a job, it was considered a relationship with pay at its best (and worst, of course).  Nobody wants to have human relationships anymore or accept the consequences of paternalism at its best (being responsible personally for those you employ) and in America part of that is being able to just up and move away from paternalism at its worst (Papin sisters, worst of chattel slavery).


An Unprincipled Exception of wifely submission

Many conservatives talk a good game about submission, authority and hierarchy, but they don’t want to deal with having to live it.  Thus “submitting” solely to your husband is enough and suddenly you have no bothersome obligations, responsibilities or duties to anyone else, including your own children.  This extremely common position on wifely submission is frankly little better than the modern feminist position that any submission (except to employers of course) is oppressive and not to be borne by women.  It’s just a peculiar inversion of the Austerian unprincipled exception.  There is a clinging to individualism and patriocentricity that is quite telling.  The response to the idea that both husband and wife have obligations to submit to others under real patriarchy is generally to declare that this is a secret plot to have the wife determine who those authorities are by simply noting they exist.

This is essentially American, the usual individualism problem and inability of individuals to either be in or see themselves as part of an organic whole that is the village, so to speak.  I find all the talk in many Christian organs about submission to be a little weird, because it’s always so separated from the totality of life.  It’s just some husband-wife deal, which is just one little piece of the big Christian puzzle for a married Christian couple.  I mean sure, I submit to my husband as the head of our household, but it’s not something that I have to think about consciously, because it is natural and normal to submit to proper authorities, of which my husband is one of several that I have in my life.  And my husband doesn’t have dude-angst over submission to the authorities he is under in his life (mostly but not entirely the same ones that I have, for obvious reasons).  We don’t live in a perfect Biblical village with Divine Hierarchy perfectly applied, but we reflexively respond to what is there in the normal, historically typical ways.