By Martin Bosworth
Writing at the Huffington Post, blogger Susan Madrak does an excellent job of eviscerating a pet peeve of mine–that the progressive community substitutes psychic income for good wages:
I don’t know what it is about liberal groups whose leaders assume you should live on air while you give your life to the cause. Has it even occurred to them how much harder it is to get a “regular” job when you’re publicly and politically active? I guess not. After all, they’re already employed.
Absolutely, and particularly when Democratic campaigns expect people to work insane hours for low or no pay while forking over millions to consultants who do nothing but lose elections. Why should anyone be motivated to donate time and effort to the cause when they see their efforts squandered by idiots like Bob Shrum–and yet he walks away with the paycheck to write a crappy book?
Chris Bowers at OpenLeft picks up the conversation and expands it into discussing how the conservative welfare state ensures that even untalented hacks can find cushy jobs as consultants, lobbyists, and advisors–and how there is nothing similar on the progressive side:
For the conservative movement, the harsh economic realities their policies have created for most Americans have had a nice side benefit of drying up activist recruitment in the progressive ecosystem. Right-wing economic policies have made it increasingly difficult for would-be progressive activists to literally make a living in politics and social justice.
The system crushes you by saddling you with enormous debt just to get a college diploma, limiting you to career choices that will enable you to make enough money to pay the debt–so you go the law degree or MBA track, and pretty soon you’re working 12-13 hour days, drowning in corporatespeak, looking to buy a home for your family and pay for your kids’ education, and any thought of devoting time to causes is reduced to an afterthought at best.
The progressive community needs to realign its priorities and build support networks for those people who are out there fighting for our rights and our liberties everyday. Major organizations need to stop wasting money on direct mail campaigns and put those dollars towards paying their employees better, getting health insurance, etc. All the “feel good” liberalism in Hollywood would matter more if movie stars ponied up some money to fund the organizations out making real change–and some do, to be fair, but it’s not nearly enough.
Most of all, I fully support building unions, cooperatives, and associations that can get health insurance, medical benefits, retirement plans, etc.–anything that can enable bloggers and activists to keep out there with the work that they’re doing. I’ve given money to many causes over the years and seen it squandered in numerous ways. I do a lot and help out where I can, and when I can’t, I want the money I give to support those who CAN fight the battles I’m not fighting.
Poverty is not innately ennobling. Psychic income doesn’t pay your rent. And as wonderful as it is to feel good about yourself for doing a noble task, it doesn’t suck to have food on the table when you do it.