Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Punishers Want To Run The Country or We Are All Tipped Waitstaff Now

From No More Mr. Nice Blog courtesy of Eschaton:

Why are Federal Workers a special case and a problem for Republicans?  In the case of Federal Workers I'd argue that its not merely that  they are workers (who are always despised) its because they are workers who for the most part don't conform to Republican ideas of the right boundaries for workers. The right boundaries for workers are that they know their place, that they can be fired capriciously, and that they exist primarily to make the employer feel good about himself  and, further, that like waiters in a restaurant and prostitutes with their johns their job is also to make the employer believe that he is receiving an extra good form of treatment not accorded to others diners or johns.*

Federal workers violate those central principles because they can't be fired directly by "the employer" because the individual Republican tax payer isn't the direct employer.  They also can't be humiliated and made to feel vulnerable because of civil service protections and unionization.  And in the matter of interactions, one on one, the taxpayer can't command good treatment by offering money (bribes) and thus often feels vulnerable and weak because there is no way to play the "do you know who I am" card which (like tipping) is an attempt to force a generic servant to give non generic attention and service to one class of people.  So Federal Employees create an extra level of status anxiety for Republicans when they come in contact with these "employees" who can't be fired or rewarded and therefore are not obligated to be extra nice to the individual Republican.

More here.

"I pay you, so you work for me!"

That's what you're supposed to say to uppity government workers, or, at least, that's what I've been hearing you're supposed to say for nearly all my life.  Of course, as neat as it might be to believe such a notion is true, especially when a cop's got you pulled over for speeding or running a red light, it's a total fiction.  The reality is that we pay taxes to the state, and the state uses some of that money to pay employees who perform the state's business.  So government workers work for the government, not each and every individual citizen who pays taxes.  I mean, obvious, right?  They're not YOUR employees; they're the state's employees, and whatever input you have into how they do their jobs is by way of the ballot box and other aspects of the political process.  You certainly can't fire them or withhold their wages.  Pretty simple concept.

So why do so many Republicans not seem to understand this?  Never mind the massive irony that the GOP is entirely responsible for the current state of affairs in Washington.  Remember, conservatives don't do irony, anyway, so that doesn't really matter.  But, apparently, the federal government shutdown has inspired more than a few Republicans to be total dicks to federal employees, who, like everybody else, are just trying to live their lives.  What's up with that?

The linked essay does a really nice job, by way of a meditation on the psychology of tipping restaurant servers, of providing some insight into this weird phenomenon.  The author's take is that lots of conservatives are very much into the notion that money, and the spending of money, create status, and the perceived recipients of that money damned well better fall all over themselves to kiss that status's ass.  If that doesn't happen, they're getting robbed, and pissed off feelings ensue.  No, it's not rational, but it's as good an explanation as any.  Actually, it's the only explanation I've heard, and it's something that really does need some explaining.  Because, you know, it makes no sense at all to go off on federal workers just for doing their jobs.

More widely, this ought to concern anybody who thinks of himself as a good American.  "All men are created equal."  That's one of our sacred national values.  It's pretty clear and non-negotiable.  You're not better than me and I'm not better than you.  I mean, sure, I do some things better than you and you do some things better than me, but nobody needs to kiss anybody's ass in America.  We're all citizens, not subjects.  And money cannot change this.  Strangely, a not insignificant number of Republicans seem to believe that spending some money does an end run around this principle, that all men really aren't created equal.  And that makes these total dicks bad Americans.  

Needless to say, it's a really bad idea to let bad Americans run the country.