Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ruminations on government, money, and work

In the past week I finished our taxes and, technically, I made the most money per hour that I've ever made in my life. Amid the glee I felt over our expected refund were pangs of concern: can the government really afford to give me back this money? While I ponder this question, I won't hesitate to take it.

My bankrupt state also passed a budget last week - in record time (they have tended to straggle over the finish line in late-September), and today I saw city work crews out en force. Coincidence? No. I need to remember these men and women in a few months when I begin to kvetch about the state's cutbacks. At least someone is at work. Sadly, this may not include the lunch lady, librarian, or recess attendants at young S's school. Rumors have it that in order to met the "budget" in my bankrupt state, these positions along with school lunch programs and busing will be eliminated. And while shaking my head at the extreme short-sightedness of nearly eliminating funding for public education, I will remind myself of directions the state has not gone yet. We dodged a bullet by picking the California job over the Georgia one. Georgia's state assembly is debating how to suspend funding for faculty who do "unnecessary research." How does tenure work again when you have no paycheck?

My final scrape with government and work in this past week was as that of spectator to the particularly vicious sport of immigrant labor. My neighbor - International Academic - moved to the US in the OC last fall to begin a tenure-track position at Nearby College. Now that Dr. IA and famille are settled, Nearby College dropped the bombshell: "you need to get your green card right now so we can continue to employ you, it costs $7000, oh, and by the way, we canceled all your summer teaching because we have no money - our state is bankrupt." Dr. I.A. is fresh out of grad school, so the fees associated with buying a U.S. job are staggering. Dr. I.A.'s Mrs I.A. has waded into a similar morass. She got a special work permit that will allow her to take the job she was offered and work in the U.S. for one year. The only catch is that she can't leave the country during that time. The family and research of both Dr. I.A. and Mrs. Dr. I.A. are all located outside the U.S. The obstructions this country has established between non-citizens and "legal" domestic work are draconian. This is nativism enshrined in government.

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