Reflections on Competing Visions
By David Henderson
After my discussion this morning on KQED, I had an “aha” moment. It was when Craig called in at about the 40:40 point and the ensuing discussion, first by me, then by Sylvia Allegretto.
Craig said that he has a Masters’ degree and a teaching credential and he’s unemployed. He said he would take a job, “any job.” But, he said, the fact of the matter is that “when someone comes into a Wal-Mart with my resume, they say, ‘Why are you here?’ and I say, ‘Well, I need a job.'” Then, according to Craig, they tell him they’re not interested. Krasny even prompts him by putting words in his mouth about how he’s overqualified.
In the moment, when I heard Craig say this, I had the idea that he was saying he had actually tried to get a job at Wal-Mart. Now that I’ve listened to it, I don’t think he was saying that. I think instead that he was speculating about what a Wal-Mart person would tell him. Thus the term “when someone with my resume” rather than the simpler “when I.”
But that’s not the aha moment. The aha moment was in noticing the difference between my approach, on the one hand, and Michael Krasny’s and Sylvia Allegretto’s, on the other. I thought I heard a man who was frustrated at not finding a job in which he could use his professional skills–thus his opening statement about being angry. I thought of the fact that in the mid-1990s, my wife and I had paid a tutor for our daughter $30 an hour. I know that was the high end, but with the inflation since then, it’s probably about the middle. So that’s why I suggested that he consider advertising as a tutor. I was trying to help him solve his problem. For millions of people to get jobs, those same millions must, one by one, solve similar problems.
But then Krasny asked Sylvia, with a little laugh, whether she wanted to give her suggestion. I think Krasny’s laugh said a lot about his attitude. I think it said that he thinks we aren’t really there to help people solve their problems and that instead it’s about advocating large-scale government programs. Then Sylvia said. “The problem is that we have millions of people like the caller. So that trying to be a tutor, to work on your own, to be self-employed, which a lot of people do try to do, is really not the answer.” Wow! It’s not? He couldn’t find a job? Yet, she wasn’t saying that. She seemed to be saying that maybe he could but she didn’t care about him. She cared about millions of people as a mass, but not as individuals. It reminds me of a slogan that I saw on a T-shirt in the 1960s, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.” Well, I love people.