Thursday, March 31, 2016

Job 101

Want a sure fire task that will amuse and frustrate you all at the same time? Look at your job description. I looked at mine recently and had a broad range of reactions as I was reminded what it covered and what it didn’t cover compared to the reality of day to day working and producing results. One of the things that the Great Recession did was consolidate positions so that many jobs have elasticity so a lot of traditional descriptions don't matter much. There is a huge breadth of deliverables for each role in companies and organizations. Then there’s always the all-encompassing “other duties as assigned” that give employers a wide berth in adjusting the job on the fly. Even in this environment, however there are instances of people just not doing what they’ve been hired to do. It’s infuriating.

People who may not have a white collar gig or a formal outline of their role still have expectations of what they're supposed to do for work. I think of how many times I’ve gone by a construction site on the roadway where I see 10 people standing about and one poor schlub doing the actual work. “Unions” I tend to mutter in ignorance and frustration. For all I know they are following a very careful infrastructure for reasons that I don’t know. Even in that instance there's order in how things are done.

There seems to be a trend in this area. The U.S. Senate has declared President Obama not just a lame duck but an invalid President. The institution won’t do its job and "advise and consent" on a nominee to the Supreme Court. They won’t even meet with him stating that the American people need to hold an election first. 

Of course there was an election in 2012 and even though it didn’t go the way I or others might have wanted it was a valid election. Following that logic, what do we do with the 34 senators who are up for election this round? I guess they’re not doing anything until the electorate weighs in as well? Useless! This is no way to run the asylum. Why not just lock the front door, turn out the lights for the next 9 or 10 months and not pay any of them (senators, staff, custodians, etc.) until the next round are sworn in and agree to do what they were hired to do. Or Obama should make a recess appointment since the Senate is defacto acting as if they aren't in session. Let the 8 justices on the Supreme Court rule on adding a 9th. Whatever the solution: the electorate must assign a consequence and send a message to those not doing their job. I think the expression Mr. Trump uses is: you’re fired.

The refusal to do their job isn’t relegated to the Grand Old Party. The Attorney General of North Carolina (a Democrat) announced on 3/29 that he won’t defend the law that the legislature passed and the governor signed. It's an anti-gay law that sets back the state by decades in terms of social progress. As a member and activist of the LGBT community, my initial personal reaction is “yea!” But then I look at it from the other perspective. It feels somewhat akin (but not exactly parallel) to a County Clerk in Kentucky who wouldn’t issue marriage licenses that she thought were illegal. She was wrong not to do her job just as the AG is wrong not to do his.

The Attorney General could have outsourced the defense of the law to a third party firm if he couldn’t find a way to do it himself or have his office do it. The best thing for the misguided hateful North Carolina law is for it to be ruled unconstitutional, invalid and an affront. The only way that happens is through a lawful process within the justice system. Not defending it allows the law to stay in place. It may be good politics but it’s terrible policy and encourages others to follow the example.

One of the core functions of the Attorney General is to represent and defend the government of the state. What if people just started deciding which laws they wanted to follow and which they didn’t? Which institutions to listen to and which not? It's bad enough that in Alabama the Chief Justice there still thinks that there’s a legitimate same-sex marriage ban in place because he claims the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t apply to his state. It's not just crazy: it's illegal. Do we really need more people flaunting the law? 

The United States of America – any country really – is built on a basic premise of law and order. There is an infrastructure in place and a process to create law and to challenge law. And when the law is created, challenged and decided upon it is incumbent on the people to follow it. There's lots of dumb laws, but so be it, we have lots of dumb legislators. Without such a structure anarchy is inevitable. U.S. politics is moving towards mob rule – mix in a little anarchy and those post-apocalyptic movies Hollywood produces will quickly be reality shows.

People need to do their jobs - or quit or be fired. For those of us who may not like the result or the way something’s done then our job is to (a) suck it up and deal with it and then (b) vote. Gumming up the works might feel good in the moment, but it will only cause more pain along the way.

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