Mothers are all slightly insane-J.D. Salinger
Oh yeah, J.D. Salinger? Well so are some people in Congress.
I love my family. I really do. My husband is a wonderful guy. He works hard, does a lot around the house, and would give you the shirt off his back. I couldn’t be more proud of my daughter. She’s loving, beautiful, intelligent, and has a great sense of humor.
That said, there have been more than a few moments in my life when I grew very weary of the day-to-day drudgery of housework but more importantly, its accompanying taken-for-granted nature. I call it the “POOF! Everything magically gets cleaned, cooked, washed, and put away syndrome.”
Moms, you know the drill. Many of us not only work the full-time job, but then have another full-time job waiting at home for us. We do the mega-loads of laundry, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the errands. We pick up after our families as they drop stuff on the floor, spill stuff on the counters, and generally mess things up. Some of us moms are more anal than others. While I can let certain things go to pot in my home very easily, I do have an admittedly obsessive-compulsive need to keep counters free from crumbs and stains, drips and spills. One day I estimated that I wiped my counter down nearly 30 times from morning til night. That’s because:
My family has some sort of visual acuity issue and cannot see the crumbs and spills they’ve caused, or…
My family doesn’t mind living with crumbs and stains on their counter, or…
My family knows the “Magic Cleaning Fairy” will take care of it.
Methinks it is more likely than not the last reason.
I also can’t stand fingerprint smudges on sliding glass doors or books and magazines askew on my coffee table. My family mocks my every attempt at Windexing the glass for the umpteenth time, or straightening the reading material once again as I pass through the living room…on my way to the kitchen…where I will no doubt need to wipe off the gazillionth coffee stain my husband has left on the kitchen counter, or the 50 million tiny crumbs my daughter has deposited on the counter and floor after making her gourmet Panini.
Hey, I’m not looking for a pat on the back or even your pity. I try to keep things fairly tidy and habitable because it’s the way I want to live. Truth be told, you can’t exactly eat (safely) off of my floors every moment, and don’t open some of my closets unless you have quick enough reflexes to escape tumbling hoodies and baseball hats. And yes, some months my fridge contains Tupperware filled with fuzzy, fermented food barely recognizable as dinner from weeks before. But my house is not hoarder-worthy either. The clothes get washed, the shopping gets done, the dinners get cooked, all the essentials are taken care of, so that my family is fed, clothed, safe, warm, and generally happy. Our home has run pretty smoothly using that formula over the years.
But I’m human and there are some days that I just feel like I’m taken for granted. Sometimes I get sick and tired of working 24/7. There are moments when I blow my stack and scream at the unsuspecting family unit. “I’m tired of cleaning up after you slobs!” Oh, I can rant and rave with the best of ’em. “Do you even once try to wipe up your mess?!”
They look at me, usually with a tilt of the head and a look of bemusement after one of those eruptions.” . “Geeze,” they must secretly ponder, “What’s eating her?”
Honestly, it’s moments like that when the thought crosses my mind to go on strike. That’s right. I’m going to cease doing anything around the house for a while. A long while. Let’s just see how they like it. Let’s see how long they can go before they beg me on hands and knees to get back to doing my invisible “mom” jobs. They will swear on a stack of Bibles that they will do better. They will appreciate me more. They will finally get it. They have taken me for granted for the last time.
There is precedent for this course of action. I watched Eyewitness News one time where they interviewed this harried mom who became sick of similar treatment and who made up a sign that said, “Mom on Strike!” and plunked it down on her front lawn. They interviewed her for her side of the story and then got the family’s reaction. It was kind of a funny story and yet it made its larger point. Moms get taken for granted, and when they stop doing all the unseen “mom” things, then everyone notices…then everyone worries.
“I have to make my own lunches?”
“I have to clean-up the dog-poop in the backyard?”
“ I have to sort the underwear from the towels?”
That sound you hear collectively from the family now is one, giant, “GULP.”
So in the dark and sinister recesses of my mind, I picture myself doing this very same thing to my family.
STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
Laundry? Guess you’ll have to do it yourself darling. There’s the laundry basket over there. Dinner? Well, the environmentally friendly shopping bags are in the car. Go to it fella. Pick up something really yummy at the Shop-rite to make for din-din. Cat box starting to stink? Oops, guess ya didn’t realize that I clean it everyday of my life so that the offensive smell wouldn’t permeate the house…like it is now…since no one has bothered to clean it for a week. Garbage piled up? There’s this thing called a garbage can out in the backyard. You can walk the bag back there and then replace it with a fresh, clean bag from under the sink. Annoying, I know. Bathroom getting a little…well…gross? Ha! That brush near the commode is the one I use every week to scrub your sh__ …
Gettin’ my drift, here?
I can see it now. Dishes piled up in the sink for days, as far as the eye can see, with nary a clean utensil to eat with. Rugs not vacuumed and littered with cat hair and dirt balls carried in from the street, ground into the carpet, lessening its lifespan. Entire ant colonies doing the cha-cha as they carry away the food crumbs scattered on the floor. A teenager scrambling around and screaming for a clean pair of underwear minutes before having to leave for school. Dinners ordered out every night, stressing the budget, because shopping and cooking every single day is a drag. Appointments not made or missed. Lots less “free time” to lounge around surfing the inter-webs or watching the ballgame or just snoozing. Yeah. A few weeks with mom on strike might just be the best solution to the problem of a household that takes mom for granted.
But alas, I never did do it. Mostly because I could never let my home get that bad without it making my life miserable. But how I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to…
Which brings me in a very round-about way to this idiotic sequester. If you don’t understand the sequester, read this. If you don’t get why it is mostly the fault of the do-nothing, Conserva-Teapublicans in Congress for the last few years, then read this.
But the sequester and my little family story has something in common. I’ll attempt to explain.
The reason we have gotten to the ridiculous point of sequestration is that the Conserva-Teapublicans running loose in Congress (that the worst Speaker of the House ever in John Boehner can’t reign in and is threatened by), want to end almost every government program there is. The Conserva-Teapublicans secretly have made the calculation that the sequester is the best way to begin cut the social programs and safety nets and institutions that they despise. You see, they don’t want any government that restricts the wealthiest or the corporations from running amok. Conserva-Teapublicans want unfettered capitalism, the system whereby the plutocrats are able to make their own rules and be guided by the bottom line. Profit.
They hate the EPA. They hate the FDA. They hate the CDC. Evidently, they hate anything with three letters in it. They hate unemployment insurance, federal student loans, food stamps, Head Start programs, and Big Bird. They hate Medicade, Medicare, and Social Security. They hate when government tells corporations that they can’t do stuff…like pollute the air and water. They hate when the government says you can’t drill for oil because it may become an environmental disaster. They hate when OSHA comes into a business and tells the boss that the working conditions are hazardous for his employees. In short, the Conserva-Teapublicans have never seen a program or government institution they like. Conserva-Teapublicans are like teenagers. They just hate being told what to do, although most of the time it is for their own good.
The very definition of ‘conservative’ is “opposing change.” If we had listened to and followed the conservative ideology and mindset only for the last two-hundred plus years I shudder to think where we would be today. Racism, sexism, unequal rights, worker abuse would still be our reality (yes, I understand that it was the Democratic Party who opposed ending slavery and the Republicans who ended it. However, the term “Conservative” also refers to the party since the “Southern Strategy” of the 60’s and the takeover of the party more recently by Tea Party and Christian Right ideologues who have hijacked the Republican Party). Rivers so polluted that they catch on fire, cars that kill, tobacco revered as “healthy“, air that causes kids to suffer from asthma attacks would be our daily existence. Seriously. When has a Conserva-Teapublican ever promoted something besides “laissez-faire” or “the invisible hand of the free-market” to solve problems?
The idea that somehow government sucks eggs and spends like a drunken sailor on leave and what we need to do to save ourselves is cut and slash spending (except the bloated military budget) is the Conserva-Teapublican purview. Or as Ronald Reagan once said, “Government isn’t the solution to the problem. It is the problem.” He then proceeded to triple the deficit, expand government and raise lots of people’s taxes. Huh. Imagine that?
Then there are the progressives, like myself, who think that government, while admittedly not perfect, can do more good for more people by using our vast resources wisely. Naked capitalism and privatization would never account for things that government has done, and done well (what, you think government has never done anything well? You are dead wrong).
I find it telling that when Americans are asked whether or not they have benefitted from government largess, the percentage that says “yes” is fairly low. However, the perception is often just not reality. A study from Cornell University found that “96% of Americans have taken part in government benefit programs in one form or another.”
Interestingly, conservatives were much more likely than liberals to underestimate their use of government programs.
Yes Americans, whether you want to admit or not, and whether you care to believe it or not, the fact is, most of you benefit from big government from cradle to grave. The problem is, it has become ingrained in all of us that government= bureaucratic incompetence and waste. And yes, there is some bureaucratic incompetence and waste in government. However, there are lots of examples of waste and incompetence in the private sector (the holy grail for Conserva-Teapublicans) as well.
However, it is all too easy to overlook how we all do greatly benefit from government. One of my favorite written pieces of all time is the one I came across years ago which chronicles how we forget what government does well, and proves just how damn much we take for granted.
Let’s examine a typical day in the life of an average middle-class American and try to identify some of the ways that government improves that person’s life during that 24-hour period.
You are awakened by your clock radio. You know it is actually 6:30 because the National Institute of Standards and Technology keeps the official time. And you can listen to your favorite radio station only because the Federal Communications Commission brings organization and coherence to our vast telecommunications system. It ensures, for example, that radio stations do not overlap and that stations signals are not interfered with by the numerous other devices – cell phones, satellite television, wireless computers, etc. – whose signals crowd our nation’s airwaves.
Like 17 million other Americans, you have asthma. But as you get out of bed you notice that you are breathing freely this morning. This is thanks in part to government clean air laws that reduce the air pollution that would otherwise greatly worsen your condition.
You go into the kitchen for breakfast. You pour some water into your coffeemaker. You simply take for granted that this water is safe to drink. But in fact you count on your city water department to constantly monitor the quality of your water and to immediately take measures to correct any potential problems with this vital resource.
You flip the switch on the coffee maker. There is no short in the outlet or in the electrical line and there is no resulting fire in your house. Why? Because when your house was being built, the electrical system had to be inspected to make sure it was properly installed – a service provided by your local government. And it was installed by an electrician who was licensed by your state government to ensure his competence and your safety.
You sit down to breakfast with your family. You are having eggs – a food that brings with it the possibility of salmonella poisoning, a serious food-borne illness affecting tens of thousands of Americans every year. But the chance of you getting sick from these eggs has now been greatly reduced by a recently passed series of strict federal rules that apply to egg producers.
You go into your newly renovated bathroom – one of a number of amenities that you enjoy in your house. But the fact that you can legally own your own house is something made possible by government. Think about this: “ownership” and “private property” are not things that exist in nature. These are legal constructs: things created by laws that are passed and enforced by government. You couldn’t even buy your home without a system of commercial laws concerning contracts and a government that ensures that sales contracts are enforced. So the fact that you live in your own home is, in part, a benefit of government and the rule of law.
Government also helps you own your house in more than the legal sense. On a more practical level, the federal government actually gives you money every year to help pay for your house. It’s called a mortgage interest tax deduction and it is one of the larger benefit programs run by the federal government – amounting to over $60 billion dollars a year. You can also deduct any real estate taxes you pay. These largely overlooked subsidy programs have enabled millions of people to buy their first home or to move up to a larger home than they could afford otherwise.
Back in the bathroom. You use the toilet and flush it. Your local government then takes care of transporting this waste, treating it, and disposing of it in an environmentally responsible manner – all without a second thought by you.
As you are getting dressed, a glance outside the window shows some ominous clouds. You check the weather on your TV. All these weather forecasts are made possible by information gathered and analyzed by the National Weather Service, a government agency. Every day, on your behalf, it takes in 190,000 weather observations from surface stations, 2,700 from ships, 115,000 from aircraft, 18,000 for buoys, 250,000 from balloons, and 140 million from satellites – all just to help you plan what to wear and make sure you don’t get stuck in a snow storm. And oh yes, this agency may save your life with its hurricane and tornado warnings.
Before you leave home, you take your pills to control your high blood pressure. But how do you know that this medicine is safe or effective? Without the testing required by the Food and Drug Administration, you wouldn’t. And without the vigilance of the FDA, you could easily fall victim to unscrupulous marketers of unsafe and worthless medicines.
You put a couple of letters in your mailbox. For less than the price of a cup of coffee, a government employee will come to your house, pick up the letters, and have them delivered in a few days to someone on the other side of the country. A pretty good deal.
You and your child walk across the lawn to your car and arrive without getting dog poop on your shoes. A small but welcome achievement that is made possible now by a local law that requires people to clean up after their pets. Also, the reason your neighborhood is not plagued by stray cats and dogs is that your local Animal Control officer is on the job dealing with this constant problem.
You help your young child into your car and you pull out of your driveway. You have now entered an experience that is improved by government in almost more ways that you can count. Driving your car is inherently dangerous. But it is made immensely safer by government laws and regulations, such as those mandating child safety seats and the use of seat belts – rules that have saved tens of thousands of lives. Driving down the street is also made much safer by a local government that enforces traffic laws and discourages people from driving too fast or driving drunk. Most state governments also minimize your risk of being run into by someone driving on bald tires or with faulty brakes by requiring regular inspections of all vehicles. And state driver’s license examinations ensure that all drivers are at least minimally competent and can actually see the road. In addition, if you are hit by another car, the potentially disastrous costs of an accident are covered because the government requires that all drivers to have auto insurance. In fact, without this extensive network of government laws and regulations covering automobiles and driving, it would be foolish for us to ever venture out on the road.
You drop your child off at day-care. It took a long search to find a good program and it is an expensive one, but it is worth it so you can feel confident that your child is in a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment while you are at work. One of the reasons you can afford this program is the $3,000 child care tax credit you get from the federal government every year. Equally important, your child benefits from the fact that most state governments now enforce day-care requirements for group size, ratios of children per staff member, teacher training, nutrition, health, safety, and space requirements.
Your trip on the freeway is much safer due to federal restrictions on the number of hours that truck drivers can operate their vehicles without resting. Thousands of people die every year from truck-related traffic accidents, but it would be much worse without these regulations that keep sleepy truck drivers off the road.
You arrive at work and take the elevator. You just assume that the elevator is safe; and it is, thanks in part to the annual elevator inspections conducted by your state government. It is probably nothing you will appreciate until the next time the elevator breaks down with you inside, and that makes you think a bit more about the reliability of elevators.
While at work, your rights and wellbeing are constantly protected by a wide-ranging network of federal and state laws. The Occupation Safety and Health Act works to protect you from unsafe and unhealthy work conditions. Federal law protects you from workplace discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, or disability. State laws may also require your employer to purchase worker’s compensation insurance so that you are covered in case you are injured on the job
For lunch you have your usual sandwich and microwaveable cup of soup. But why did you choose that particular soup? Perhaps because it was low in salt and fat. But how do you know that? Because the government requires all food packaging to have a truthful and easily readable panel on the label that supplies you with the nutritional information necessary to make a good choice. Food companies tell you what they want you to know about their products, but the Food and Drug Administration’s labeling requirements tell you what you need to know to eat in a healthy way.
How do you know the lettuce in your sandwich is not laced with unhealthy doses of pesticides? Because the Department of Agriculture has developed and is enforcing uniform standards for pesticide residue on raw foods.
Microwave ovens are potentially very dangerous machines, but you can use this one with confidence because of detailed government regulations that limit the maximum amount of radiation leakage and mandate two different safety interlocks that prevent its operation with the door ajar or open.
After lunch, you walk to a nearby ATM and get some cash out of your account – and your money is actually there. That wasn’t always true during the economic depression of the 1930s when many banks failed. But your money is safe — as it was during the recent financial and banking crisis — because the government guarantees your deposits. In addition, those pieces of paper you put in your wallet are only worth something thanks to the federal government. Our monetary system is entirely a government creation, and the value of money is only maintained because the government regulates the money supply and protects it from counterfeiters. Quite an important service really.
Back at work you hear rumors about a new downsizing plan being talked about by management – a fairly typical occurrence in these days of heightened national and international corporate competition. You know your job is one that could be lost, but you also know that you will be eligible for state-mandated unemployment insurance should that happen. This is just another way that government helps you to cope with the economic risks and uncertainties of a modern economy.
On a break, you call your elderly mother in the hospital to check on how she is recovering from her broken hip. Thanks to Medicare, her medical expenses are covered and she does not have to worry about this becoming a financial disaster for her. Thanks to the federal Family and Medical Leave act, you will also have the right to take several days off to tend to your mother when she comes home from the hospital.
You call to arrange for a physical therapist to work with your mother when she comes out of the hospital, and again this is paid for by Medicare. And you can be reasonably confident that she will get good therapy because your state Department of Health has a program of examining and licensing these therapists in order to ensure the quality of their work.
You leave work—thanks to the government-mandated 40-hour workweek. Labor Department regulations prevent your company from making you work past 5:00 unless it pays you overtime.
You stop at a local gas station to fill up. The very fact that this oil company offers this gas to you for sale is dependent on the existence of certain government laws. This company would not do business in your town without a legal system that assures them that you will pay for any gas you pump into your car. This economic exchange – like buying your house – would not be taking place without a system of statutory and common law that protects private property and regulates sales transactions. This simple sale is covered by Article Two of the Uniform Commercial Code – dozens of pages of laws that regulate every phase of a transaction for the sale of goods and provide remedies for problems that may arise.
You pump 15 gallons of 87 octane gas into your car and pay for it. But how do you know that you really got 15 gallons, and not 14½? And that the gas was actually 87 octane? This is only ensured by the presence of that little sticker on the gas pump that shows that a worker from your city’s Division of Weights and Measures has inspected the pump and the gas. These public employees make sure that you get what you pay for – from a pound of sliced turkey breast to a carat of diamond – by constantly testing and inspecting all commercial meters and scales, and by verifying the accuracy of checkout scanners. This is a crucial service, since more than half of the income of the average family is used to purchase necessities bought by weight or measure or scanned at a checkout station.
How do you know the price you are paying for this gasoline is a fair and competitive one? In many states, the Department of Attorney General has been responsible for finding and prosecuting cases of price manipulation and price fixing by oil companies and distributors.
As you drive home, you notice the tree-lined streets and the nice houses in your neighborhood – generally a pretty good place to live. Thanks again to government. Without zoning rules, you might have an auto body shop or a fast-food outlet move in next door. Or worse yet, a fertilizer plant or a toxic waste site. But there are no noxious smells in the air, no excessive and dangerous traffic on your street – thanks to your government. Pleasant and livable neighborhoods are only possible with extensive government planning and zoning regulation.
As you approach your house, you see your child coming down the sidewalk. The government-provided sidewalk. The sidewalk that allows your child to walk to the neighbor’s house down the street to play with a friend without the risk of being hit by a car.
You go for a jog in your local public park.
You take your family out for dinner at a local pizza restaurant. You enjoy a good meal and no one gets sick from E. coli or other food-borne illnesses. This is in large part because your local government conducts regular inspections of all food establishments to protect the health of customers.
Back at your house. You settle in for a quiet evening at home – one that is undisturbed by those annoying telemarketers calling you up to try to sell you something. This is because you have signed up with a state or federal no-call registry – a government service now enjoyed by over 60 million Americans.
You do a quick check of your e-mail – just one of the many services you enjoy over the internet every day. We all tend to think of the internet as the product of those talented and imaginative entrepreneurs in the high-tech companies. But the internet actually began with government programs that created ARPANET and later NSFNET, early computer networking systems that developed the software and networking infrastructure that form the foundations of today’s internet. The government also helped to fund research that led to web browsers like Internet Explorer and search engines like Google.
. You go to bed. During your sleep, you are protected by a smoke detector that your city requires to be installed in every residence. Maybe you would have bought one of these yourself, but this law helps to ensure that everyone is protected from the dangers of fire.
You are asleep in your comfy bed. Unlike that time you stayed in a small inn in Costa Rica, where you were woken up regularly at 4 in the morning by the roosters crowing in the neighborhood. By law, no one can keep roosters in your neighborhood and so you remain in blissful slumber.
Do you ever really think about any of that everyday? Of course not. These benefits of government are totally taken for granted…until they are slowly taken away.
And taken away they will be if the Conserva-Teapublicans have their way. That day will come if we let it.
I know it is much more fun to bitch and moan about how awful government is than to admit it does do some things that are necessary, important, and completely overlooked by the masses. I realize that snarky humor and sarcastic quips make better fodder for radio talk show hosts and certain television outfits who get better ratings when they portray everything the government does as idiotic or wasteful (I mean when Obama does something-See Fox News).
In that vein, this lunacy called the sequestration is exactly what the Conserva-Teapublicans have been looking for in order to completely dismantle the government and almost every single program or institution that has brought benefit to average Americans for decades.
Robert Reich makes that case in his blog. The fact that the right was so intransigent to the President’s more balanced approached, two dollars in spending cuts for every one dollar of revenue (mostly by closing the loopholes for the wealthiest… one like the so-called “corporate jet loophole”), proves that these people aren’t interested in working towards a compromise. They are working towards “drowning government in a bathtub,” and then throwing the baby out with the bath water.
This Conserva-Teapublican monster would rather let the arbitrary sequestration cuts take place, and watch possibly a million people lose their jobs or have their wages severely cut back, in order to accomplish their stated goal of destroying every social program and institution of government.
How much longer can this country sit back and let these ideologues bit by bit try to destroy our economy and our safety nets? They use fear and insecurity that Americans feel about their personal financial circumstances and claim that if we only got rid of government, all would be well.
You see, deficits are not the problem, wealth disparity and unemployment is. Big Bird isn’t the problem, an aging population is.
We simply cannot take for granted that the things that government does well and does best will be there down the road anymore. This sequestration will be the start of the chipping away at Social Security, Medicare, Medicade, government research, student loans, and a host of other really important functions that the government serves and that too many of us take for granted every single day of our lives. Reich comments in his piece about how their goal is
“ending worker protections we’ve had since the 1930s, eroding civil rights and voting rights, terminating programs that have helped the poor for generations, and making it impossible for the government to invest in our future.”
Please don’t take for granted that mom will have dinner on the table every night and that there will always be clean underwear at the ready, because someday…someday…