Jobs Americans Won’t Do

I have long been curious about the concept of “jobs Americans won’t do” and this curiosity has centered on the question of how there could be any jobs so wretched that a person would not do them if in extremis. Well, so much for my hopes of gaining tenure at an Ivy League college.  Worse, while focused on the entitled aspect of this phenomenon, I missed a splendid opportunity.

Several Texas Republican Congressmen are retiring.  Seemingly, the job of serving in the House of Representatives is so crappy that Americans don’t want to do it. Likely, there is a swirl of reasons. Indeed, it is possible that different people hate being Congressmen for entirely different reasons. There is no real job if you are in the minority. You have to hold your nose at some of the things you are required to do. Campaigning. Disdain. Travel. Incessant fund raising. Surely there are other good reasons and they seem equally unlikely to get fixed anytime soon.

Being a Congressman today might lead you to tell your children you played the piano in a whorehouse just to avoid the shame of telling the truth.

While shame might be problematic, my real concern is that nobody is thinking creatively about a solution.

We could split the job of being a Congressman in half. Let the guy who ran for office stay in his home district and never come to Washington at all. He could go to all the town halls, Rotary meetings, ribbon cuttings, baby-kissing and funny-hat-wearing events and never have to leave his family. Meanwhile, some old retired guy who already lives in Washington could go to his congressional office, show up for votes, serve on committees and ask intelligent questions at televised hearings.

Splitting the jobs between two people might also help the unemployment statistics.

The people who got elected could be called “Elected Non-Officials” while the people who did the Washington part of the job could be called “Non-Elected Officials.” Both Elected Non-Officials and Non-Elected Officials could use the Congressman honorific with no risk of diluting the prestige of the term because no prestige remains to be diluted.

I know somebody who would be perfect for the Non-Elected Official job. I would write the name of my adopted Congressional district, my party and maybe a district map on my hand so that I remembered what they were. Then I could go out and do whatever I wanted. My Elected Non-Official counterpart could keep all the money because I would do it for the book deal to say nothing of the free parking.

There would probably be some quibbling about staffing but, since we would not be using the travel budget, we might be able to lard up the staffing budget sufficiently to make it work. The Non-Elected Congressmen in Washington could have all of the staff people who cared about accomplishing anything and the Elected Non-Officials back home could have all the PR flacks and publicists who understood the subtleties of fluffy haircuts.

I bet I could find a few other contemporaries to do the same thing. We could carpool. I doubt we would be any less representative than the people now representing the rigged gerrymandered districts. Of course, not everyone would get a good book deal so there would have to be some other perks to get a sufficient number of people to do this important work.

Maybe a new cable news network would emerge populated solely by people who hated both Democrats and Republicans to say nothing of elections. That would provide some work for former Non-Elected stand-ins, though we might be lacking in fluffy haircuts.

The really cool thing is that while all 435 Elected Non-Officials were at home doing pretend Congressman things, the Non-Elected ones could be fixing stuff like the debt, the Veterans Administration, taxes, deficits, immigration, trade and so forth. We might even have time to address the miserable auto-correct problem that creates so much misunderstanding in text messages.

The press and public would never notice because they haven’t the smallest idea about any of those things. (Well, except auto-correct.) The only people who would notice would be the lobbyists because they are the only ones who actually care about what laws really say.

We could even keep the House of Representatives in session five days a week and hope nobody noticed that their Congressman often seemed to be in two places at once.

In due course, some fuckwit reporter would spoil the fun and blow the whole scheme wide-open, all in the name of “our democracy” or some such like. He would enter the Washington press corps fresh out of Oberlin College, astride the highest of horses, surrounded by a cloud of dudgeon, no doubt accompanied by a complicated algorithm of preferred pronouns and shaking both fists like Bernie Sanders.

But that might take some time, and think of all the fine work we could get done before we got busted. Plus, help wanted signs in front of the Capitol are kind of embarrassing.

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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  • Isn’t this system to some extent already in place? I gather certain non-elected officials, lobbyists, already write a lot of our laws.

    Hence a more effective way of exerting one’s right to petition the government might be to lobby a lobbyist. This implies the creation of a
    new civic professional category: a lobbyist lobbyist. Highly paid, of course. And rightly so.

      • Indeed. The new non-elected official class of lobbyist lobbyists would inhabit a strange penumbra that hovers between the private sector and the public sector. This hazy distinction between what’s public and what’s private is distinctly Chinese. An old model for a young country.

  • One might suppose when things get absurd, it is always best to continue the notion by writing about absurd inanities. Never the less you may be on to something…..

    As an eternal optimist;

    I do think that fixed sums are the answer based on district size. The first 5 to get the necessary signatures are on the primary Ballot. 2 parties, plus an independent “non-party affiliation”. The next question would then be: Are the final candidates the top 3 vote-getters regardless of “party” or the top vote getter from each party?
    In either case – the election would be federally funded- NO campaign funds to be released until 90 days prior to the election. ZERO Money from self, donors, or corporations, etc.
    Most importantly, the elected official would then spend most of her time working on issues, and not fund raising.

    • The arguments in opposition to your suggestions will be cloaked in uplifting rhetoric but they will actually be entirely self serving.

      • So Thinking about McCain-Feingold and Citizens United.. The upshot of which was to say Corporations and Unions could spend as much as they wanted… Does this now mean that in order to change campaign finance law a constitutional amendment is required?
        From Sunlight Foundation:
        So, Citizens United allowed corporations to spend on elections. But it isn’t the whole story of how we got to where we are today. Another very important decision followed Citizens United two months later: Speechnow.org v. FEC. This is the case that led to super PACs as we now know them, striking down limits on contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures, but upholding the requirement that they disclose donors. The court found that the government has “no anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to an independent expenditure group.”

        This ruling, combined with the corporate spending allowed by Citizens United, created super PACs: groups that can accept unlimited donations — from individuals or corporations — and spend as much as they want on expressly advocating for candidates, as long as they don’t coordinate with those candidates. This was unprecedented: While 527 and 501(c)(4) groups had been able to spend unlimited amounts, they were prohibited from explicitly advocating for the election or defeat of specific candidates (using words like “vote for” in ads).

        The disclosure requirements, which were supposed to provide some sort of accountability for this spending, haven’t been that successful. It is true that super PACs do have to disclose their donors, and we do learn something from that about who’s funding their ads. But, as is often the case, those who want to spend large amounts of money on politics have found ways around these rules, like setting up 501(c)(4)s or LLCs — which mask donors — that then donate to super PACs. American Bridge Project, for example, is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, and they give large amounts to American Bridge super PAC (in the form of “staff expenses”), which does disclose. Jeb Bush’s super PAC Right to Rise has received $100,000 from an LLC with untraceable origins. Sometimes, of course, these groups don’t even bother with the extra step of giving to the super PAC: a 501(c)(4) called Conservative Solutions has spent millions on promoting Marco Rubio without disclosing any of its donors to the public. If there are any consequences to this, it’s likely they won’t come until after the general election, let alone the primaries.