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'Something for nothing' crowd is in the workplace

POSTED January 22, 2013 5:17 p.m.
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The re-election of Barack Obama illustrated that a majority of Americans have bought into the notion that government should overspend if (and only if) government takes care of them. In the real corporate world, any CEO with Obama's dismal record wouldn't have lasted four years but would have been turned out on his ear.

Mitt Romney, unfortunately, was so right. If it weren't for the voters dependent on the redistribution of wealth, Romney would have won hands-down. But we have a scary electorate addicted to government money through politicians who create dependence like drug pushers so they may keep the masses eating from the palm of their hand. As a result, the electorate bristles at candidates who call for reasoned debate in fiscal policy. The "51 percent" referenced by Romney believe whopping debt is fine as long as it means they get their share of the pie, and future generations are handed the bill. It's hard to run against Santa Claus and expect to win. But the truth is if you put too many people in the lifeboat, it will sink under the weight and all will perish.

While Obama tyrannically bullies Congress to lift the federal debt ceiling higher, some officials like Jerry Brown seem to be getting the picture: That government spends far too much! Duh! Exclamation point!

The Obama crowd, unfortunately, forgets that the role of government is to do collectively what the people cannot do for themselves - such as build roads, provide police and fire services and defend our freedoms at home and abroad. Working for a living is something our founding fathers expected Americans to do for themselves.

But even in the workplace we find the "something for nothing" mindset at play. Some employees don't bat an eye about giving sloppy service, wasting time on the job with chit-chat, using foul language in public, texting their friends, or outright thievery. In their minds, the employer "owes" them more than the employees give. The same squawk about how they are getting "screwed" by the fat cats with too few benefits. After all, Obama and company are masters at creating political tapestries about rich people not paying their fair share when, in reality, they pay more than their fair share.

Each time I see an incompetent fast-food worker - and there are more than not - I am convinced that minimum wage is nothing more than government telling an employer that they must pay somebody a wage they are not worth. After all, the market should set the cost of labor. (And no, fast-food was never intended to sustain a family; that's why one must go to college or attain the work skills necessary to earn higher paying jobs).

How has the welfare state pervaded the workplace, you ask? Let's go back to fast-food for a moment. Many in fast-food seem to have any drive to do their best, failing to pay attention to words and screwing up orders. If a doctor behaved in such a way, he'd be sued for medical malpractice. An air traffic controller who didn't pay precise attention would cause people being killed in air crashes. A police dispatcher could cause help to arrive late to medical calls and result in deaths.

If we can be honest, fast-food is not a tough job. They are not curing cancer. They are supposed to listen to what the customer wants, and deliver what the customer wants. Apparently that simple task is too great for some because how many of us expect our orders to be messed up?

Recently at McDonald's on Geer Road I asked for two Egg McMuffins with ham but the order ended up being sausage. She then got "an attitude" after I pointed out her error. Days later I'm at the KFC on Kansas Road in Modesto, asking for 10-piece Chicken Bites but only given six. At a Taco Bell/KFC on Irving Street in San Francisco days later I ordered a specific combo meal with a burrito supreme and a taco supreme. I took my order to a hospital visit and in 15 minutes opened a bag with three Doritos shelled tacos (a disgusting product at best).

It's hard finding minimum-wage -- or even non-minimum wage -- employees who give their best service. The mentality of the masses seems to be: I'm getting screwed with low wages, so why not fluff off? Problem being, of course, that they agreed to do the work for the wage they settle on. I daresay that some employees even take things from the workplace to "make things even." (In the 1970s, a childhood friend of mine unabashedly used to "hook up" his friends to free food when he worked at the Taco Charlie at Coffee and Orangeburg.)

Twice in the last month I heard diligent workers unloaded on me their frustrations about co-workers flaking and showing up late to work or not at all. One was at a U.S. post office in this county. When I asked why her boss didn't do anything about the consistent tardiness of the coworker, she replied: "My boss is worthless."

I know it can be tough managing people. Employees can be flaky, sneaky and undependable. But why can't management make sure employees get things right and just show up? Because we live in a society that doesn't hold anyone accountable? After all, how many school teachers believe in correcting students for a wrong answer, believing that it will hurt their self-esteem?

It's no wonder that Project Yes in Ceres must instill work ethnic values that were a "given" generations ago. I'm astounded that teens must be told to show up for work on time, the importance of working scheduled shifts rather than call in sick when some fun activity arises, and to refrain from using social media after punching the time clock at work.

There is another side of our work world, for sure, that represents those who excel because they believe good work reflect good character. To them, character matters and there is worth found in work.

I recently received exceptional service from a young lady working at the Hatch Road Burger King. I know she must have had a great upbringing. The same is probably true of the young lady working mornings at the BK on Mitchell Road. Both young ladies are cheerful, smile and they memorize the menu board, unlike the ones who give you the "deer in the headlights look" when you ask for a #3 combo meal.

A recent experience with Kevin Jordan Heating & Air Conditioning of Ceres gave me pause to think of the last time I had such exceptional service, a rarity in a world of mediocrity. With my home heater on the blink, I called Kevin. He called back to report that he was out of town but would send his 20-something son apprentice over for prompt attention. His son showed up and climbed on the roof, using his cell phone to correctly diagnose the problem with his dad on the other end. Kevin said parts were required, but that he would be there on my roof on Sunday morning (of all times). I was skeptical he'd make it, especially since it was cold and raining, and I headed out the door to church. Kevin did show up, made the repair and trusted me to pay the bill through invoice since I was still at church.

Kevin represents the diligent ones in society who believe one gets ahead by giving the best and working hardest. He represents the crowd that implores others to do the same so all can pull their own weight, so we can then downsize government, dismantle the welfare state, keep more of our own money through lower taxes, and truly live as free people as God would have it.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at jeffb@cerescourier.com.

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