Why aren’t you at work?

This summer is a sort of transitional period for me, between having been a TA and graduate student to being a faculty associate without the hassle of having to defend a dissertation. I taught a class for three weeks to a group of gifted and talented (and overwhelmingly upper middle class and white) kids, which paid me roughly what a summer of research assistanting would because ain't nothin' payin' like makin' privileged people's lives slightly more comfortable. I do have research to do, but no one is paying me to do that research.

What this boils down to: I have, essentially, a month and a half wherein I am completely without employment obligations for the first time since probably middle school. I blame Obama:

But Elmendorf backed Republicans' central argument — fewer people will work because of the law's subsidies. 

"The act [the ACA] creates a disincentive for people to work," Elmendorf said, under questioning from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. 

Ryan clarified that the CBO report found not that employers would lay people off, but that more individuals would choose not to work. 

"As a result … that [lower] labor supply lowers economic growth," Ryan said. 

Elmendorf answered: "Yes, that's right."

The fact that I'm not actively gainfully employed – that I'm sitting at home listening to construction equipment across the street and cars on their morning commute – is actually seriously distressing, despite the fact that I have all my bills taken care of until I start back up working again. I've been told to "take the time" and "enjoy it" by people who I know would all be feeling similarly restless and unfulfilled if they were in similar situations, because I have health insurance coverage, enough money to pay the bills, and I'm also kinda really fuckin' white.

However, my incentive not to work is not "because I will still be okay even if I'm not working", as Messrs Ryan and Elmendorf seem to think – that's just something enabling the decision, like what new parents are expected to do in this country. No, my incentives not to work are: to recover my sanity, to get in some reading and knitting, to clean up the house a little, and to be fresh and ready to go again come fall. Because I'm a people, and people need to do things like that sometimes. Other people have other incentives like "there are no jobs available right now" or "I don't want my kids to grow up while I'm off working" or "this book will turn out better if I just sit down and write it in one go".

As jobs become scarcer, it becomes more important to both enable and incentivise people to not work sometimes, because that's going to have to happen anyway. I'm aware that this concept rankles my betters and goes against everything Republican Jesus taught us, but maybe if more people had a bit of downtime to catch up on their families and housework and recreation, we'd all be just a bit more sane.


3 thoughts on “Why aren’t you at work?

  1. I must have missed the vote where everyone decided that we all had to work like the most hard driving Type A personalities at mindless jobs that are not that vital. Because when I was growing up, all these “labor saving” devices and innovations were supposed to free the working man (and woman) from a life of drudgery and toil.
    Turns out, eh, not so much. My entire career has been spent working more efficiently and longer hours for a paycheck that doesn’t quite keep up with inflation. All the Wealth generated by Labor has gone somewhere, but it hasn’t been into the pockets of the workers.
    There was a story in the alt-weekly newspaper recently about some young folks who were spending their summer snowboarding on Mt. Hood. None of them looked likely to find a cure for cancer in the next couple of years. What would be the harm if they had a guaranteed income and “wasted” four or five years (or longer) just bumming around? Things don’t have to be the way they are. We can choose differently, even if it makes some overpaid congressman (who isn’t working all that hard for his guaranteed income) have a sad.

  2. I get the impression that the people up in arms about incentives to not work aren’t actually upset about young people taking a “gap year” to backpack around Europe or really the downtime that I’m taking. It’s more that they resent the implied abolition of the indentured servitude of the working class.

  3. Paul Ryan — Congressman Paul Ryan — whose work “week” averages three days, who has the entire month of August off, who is a noted member of the least productive Congress in history — Paul Ryan is carping about “disincentives to work?” That’s like a mafia don complaining about violence in the streets.
    Irony may not be dead, but damn if it’s not taking a vacation too…

Comments are closed.