The Commodification of Jobs, or How I Learned to Stop Working and Love the Crumbs.

Somewhere along the way, work became divorced from jobs.

Gimme a minute and I’ll explain

The President and the Democratic Party in congress are passing job’s bills, or trying to, in order to provide jobs for the chronically unemployed. Republicans and the mainstream media speak endlessly of job creators and how if only these people of industry and innovation were left alone, they would give jobs to everybody.

Jobs have become party favors to be passed out at the whim of party politics.

All of this at a time when urban and rural infrastructure all over the country are collapsing or on the verge of collapse. Schools are overcrowded and understaffed. Artists go begging on the streets while museums, concert halls, and theaters warehouse derivative drivel by the truckloads; and they cloak all this mendacity and mass production of anti-art under the veil of post modernism. Our public airwaves, our public lands, our common wealth of every type has become but spaces provided by our largess to be plundered by the pirates of private interests. Building McMansions for the few is seen as evidence of a healthy economy while the numbers of the homeless and hungry swell by the second.

There’s work to the done as far as the eye can see but the elites of politics and finance keep pushing the idea that jobs must either be legislated or created by their will and their will alone. Jobs have become divorced from work.

There is a line from the movie McLintock where McLintock says, “I don’t give jobs. I hire men.” I like that line. It implies the dignity of work, the dignity of workers, and the equality of employee and employer. Work is not a commodity to the bought, sold, or used as charity. Work is the stuff of life, it’s what we do, it’s what we give to one another, it is what humanizes us, fulfills us, and gives us purpose and meaning.

But work is not what the politicos and pundits and all the other propagandists are selling, they are selling the giving and creating of jobs, the idea that if we are willing to do the right tricks, our masters will give us a treat.

A job is a unit of work. Something that needs doing is a job. Dishes need washing, that’s a job. Third grade math needs teaching, that’s a job. Bone needs setting, that’s a job. Insurance company needs suing, that’s a job. Need creates jobs, not people.

Now there are people who will pay a wage (or salary) for a job to be done. They are called employers or clients as the case may be. When there is profit to be made by hiring people to do a job, private parties will hire employees. When there is no profit or not enough profit in the performance of a job, the public sector hires employees. In either case, there is a need and the need creates the job. And what has happened in America over the last 40 plus years is that we have lost sight of these rather simple facts.

The priests of privatization looked at all that tax revenue going into working people’s pay packets and saw a gold reserve ready for mining. They proposed to the politicians that private enterprise would take all that money that the government was wasting paying living wages and benefits, and (for a nominal fee) do the same work for less cost and by doing so provide jobs for unemployed people. (No one mentioned that in order to give jobs to unemployed people, you were going to cut government staff and thus un-employ people, but that’s another discussion.) Private enterprise was selling jobs to the government (that was already providing jobs and getting the work done.) Thus, the commodification of jobs began.

Now we talk about people needing jobs, not work getting done, or needs being satisfied. People need jobs just as they need toothpaste, sneakers, and pork belly futures. Jobs have become commodities politicians and capitalists trade for votes and baseball stadiums.

And work goes undone.


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