91 year-old has “great work ethic,” says governor turned celebrity

Work

Work: We all have to do it, except for rich people, who don’t. Even those people do a kind of work, though, by stewarding their family fortunes and encouraging the rest of us to cultivate strong work ethics. Sarah Palin participated in that second kind of work today, when she shared this story from usa.sarahpalinnews.com. I wish there were a news site that had my name and the name of my country right in the URL, but that’s beside the point. The point, in the words of USA Sarah Palin News, is INCREDIBLE! You’ve Got to See This 91 Year-Old’s Attitude About Working, It’s Perfect.

Elena Griffing is a patient relations coordinator at the Sutter Health Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. At age 91, she’s been working there 71 years—ever since she came in with a hemoglobin disorder at 19 and stayed four months, until a lab technician told her to “get to work.” She took a job as a secretary and has been at SHAB Summit ever since. In all that time, she’s only taken four sick days. It’s an inspiring story, especially if you are a human brand who went from local newscasting to executive government to vaguely monetized celebrity. If you are a person who has been working in medical billing for 40 years, on the other hand, it’s a glimpse of a nightmare from which you might never awake.

USA Sarah Palin News describes only taking four sick days in 71 years as the “perfect” attitude toward work. Perfect for whom? If you run a hospital, that’s exactly what you want from your workers. But if you work in the hospital, one day off for illness every 18 years does not describe your ideal working life. Yet the Yahoo piece from which this article was aggregated frames the relationship between Griffing and her employer in terms of ethical obligations on her side and her side only. Here’s the lede for their recurring feature, called Lifers:

In current culture, millennials move from job to job in order to climb the ladder. The average time spent at a company is just two years. For baby boomers and other generations, this was not the norm. Loyalty and dedication to a single company or career drove, and still drives, many of their careers.

Damn you, current culture! Another way to look at the statistical differences in employment length between millennials and baby boomers is in terms of what employers are offering. Compared to older generations, millennials are much less likely to find jobs that offer benefits or even a living wage. You can see their propensity to move from job to job as a failure of “loyalty and dedication to a single company,” or you can read it as a failure of those companies to give them reasons to stay. Millennials change jobs because the jobs available to them suck. Maybe that’s because nice old ladies refuse to retire, perhaps because the same economy that forces young people to move from job to job also forces older people to work until they’re dead.

But that would require us to think that businesses owe something to their workers. Businesses owe nothing to anyone; their sole obligation is to make money, and the rest of us should thank them for what jobs they create in the process. USA Sarah Palin News skirts the question of why Griffing didn’t work for the same company for five decades instead of seven and then enjoy a posh retirement. Instead, they hit us with some statistics about how unreliable millennials are. Quote:

According to the most recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, American workers often changed their employment after just 4.2 years, but one 91-year-old woman looks to blow that average out of the water as she is celebrating 71 years working for the same company. The employee tenure saw a noticeable difference between age groups, with workers ages 25 to 34 years staying with the same company for 2.8 years, workers ages 55 to 64 stayed 10.1 years on average.

Yeah, it is bullshit that the average 25 year-old hasn’t been working at the same company since they were fifteen. It’s a rare editor who looks at these numbers and does not point out that people who have been working four times as long stayed with their companies, on average, four times as long. That’s the kind of ace USA Sarah Palin News is hiring, though, and I assume they’re getting great pension plans.

Straight-faced, AP reports 11 year-old “saving for college” by flipping house

Horatio Alger

The 19th-century novelist Horatio Alger had one vein of narrative skill, and he mined it deeply. Alger specialized in stories about young boys who escaped poverty through hard work and/or good character. His fourth book, Ragged Dick, exemplifies the form. At the outset of the novel, Dick is a 14 year-old bootblack living on the streets. Various middle- and upper-class characters note his refusal to steal, supporting him in small ways until he has occasion to rescue a drowning child. The child’s grateful father gives Dick a suit and a job in his firm. Now a respectable member of middle-class society, Dick changes his name to Richard Hunter, Esq., and lives (mostly) happily through six sequels.

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In poll, 85% favor big changes to campaign finance laws

Democracy

Democracy

In a New York Times/CBS poll released yesterday, respondents were split on the issue of campaign finance: 39% favored “fundamental changes” to the way elections are funded, while 46% said the system needed to be “completely rebuilt.” There is too much money in politics, and everyone but the Supreme Court seems to know it. Show me another issue on which 85% of Americans agree. While we’re at it, show me an issue that poses a greater existential threat to our democracy. Forget corruption and the appearance of corruption. When two thirds of respondents say the wealthy have a greater chance to influence elections than ordinary voters, they’re describing a crisis of faith in the American experiment.

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Since 1978, the cost of college tuition has increased 1,225%

Knowledge is good.

Knowledge is good.

According to Bloomberg, the cost of college tuition has increased thirteen-fold since 1978—more than medical care, at nearly five times the rate of CPI. But that’s because a college education is five times as good now, right? Possibly not—anecdotes suggest that our universities have not become dramatically better at teaching than they were four decades ago, and the record number of bachelor degrees we’ve awarded has not necessarily yielded a smarter populace. It has, however, produced an enormous quantity of debt—Americans owe $1.2 trillion in student loans, compared to just under $900 billion in credit-card debt. The class of 2015 is graduating with an average of $35,00 in debt per borrower; meanwhile, 46% of recent college graduates are working jobs that do not require degrees.

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Zinke calls estate tax “tax on the American dream” in House repeal

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1105 to repeal the estate tax. Before we go even one sentence further, know that the estate tax applies only to inheritances greater than $5.43 million. That’s very few; according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, approximately 0.2% of deaths in 2013 involved estates large enough to be taxed. Perhaps that’s why Republicans invariably refer to the estate tax as the Death Tax: 99.8% of Americans will not pass on taxable estates, but everybody dies. On Twitter, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) called it “a tax on the American Dream.” Speaking in favor of the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015, he said:

“I rise to bring awareness to a pervasive tax that threatens the very livelihood of the future of generations of Montanans…This tax punishes Americans that have worked hard, played by the rules, and want to pass that legacy on to their children.”

I submit that 0.2% is “pervasive” the same way inheriting more than $5 million is the American dream.

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