“The words that reverberate for us at the confines of this long adventure of rebellion are not formulas for optimism, for which we have no possible use in the extremities of our unhappiness, but words of courage and intelligence which, on the shores of the eternal seas, even have the qualities of virtue.

“No possible form of wisdom today can claim to give more. Rebellion indefatigably confronts evil, from which it can only derive a new impetus. Man can master in himself everything that should be mastered. He should rectify in creation everything that can be rectified. And after he has done so, children will still die unjustly even in a perfect society. Even by his greatest effort man can only propose to diminish arithmetically the sufferings of the world. But the injustice and the suffering of the world will remain and, no matter how limited they are, they will not cease to be an outrage. Dimitri Karamazov’s cry of “Why?” will continue to resound; art and rebellion will die only with the last man.”

That was Paul Ryan’s line before last Friday, when the health care bill he designed in secret went down without a vote, his own party showing what they thought of his policy.

Time and again when he was asked about President Trump’s attacks on immigrants or the courts, his ties to Russia or his claims of massive election fraud, the speaker of the House would say he was too busy working on his agenda, “A Better Way,” to think about all that nasty stuff.

That Mr. Ryan failed on the policy promise that Republicans have been running on for eight years makes it clear that if he is the policy wonk of the Republican Party, then the Republican Party has no policy. And with a health care plan that would have stripped 24 million Americans of basic care and drastically hiked premiums for people over 60, it seems that they don’t much care what Americans need or want.

The discrepancy between promise and reality should be no surprise to anyone who has looked at Mr. Ryan’s proposals over the years. Mr. Ryan has been rolling out grand pronouncements in bound volumes with fancy covers and snappy names, but the main message never changed: America‘s “path to prosperity” (remember that one? 2011) lies in tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and slashing social programs and regulations.

Three years ago, a House Republican leader said his report on antipoverty programs showed that “Paul Ryan remains our big-ideas guy.” We called it “a high-minded excuse” to “eviscerate programs like Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps.”

After Mitt Romney, with Mr. Ryan as his running mate, lost the presidential election in 2012, Republicans commissioned an “autopsy” that called for a realignment of the party.

“We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people,” the report’s authors warned.

Mr. Ryan responded by repackaging the same agenda for the 2016 election, even though working-class Americans were demonstrating fury at his establishment orthodoxy. They didn’t want Social Security cut and they wanted the “health care for everybody” that Mr. Trump promised.

Mr. Ryan swallowed Mr. Trump’s insults and offenses, in the name of passing his agenda. After seven years and 60 failed Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Mr. Ryan finally got his moment, and blew it.

After pulling the bill, Mr. Ryan showed he hadn’t given up on trying to make people think he was someone they could believe in. With no detectable irony, he described his humiliating defeat as “an incredible opportunity,” adding “There remains so much that we can do to help improve people’s lives, and we will.”

But he’s fooling no one any longer. Put to the test, Mr. Ryan revealed that all along, he doesn’t have anything more creative in his cranium than stale conservative dogma.

He had helped fulfill a cynical prophecy delivered last month by John Boehner, who was ousted by the same Freedom Caucus radicals who took Mr. Ryan and his White House boss down a peg on Friday, and may yet give the speaker the boot.

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress,” Mr. Boehner said, “Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once. And all this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal — yeah, we’ll do replace, replace — I started laughing.”

This is a key action manual for members of the Resistance. Astute strategy and tactics for resisting Trumpism in the coming months and years.

“Every crowd has a silver lining.”
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
P.T. Barnum

The Teeth Mother Naked at Last

Now the Chief Executive enters; the press
conference begins:
First the President lies about the date the Appalachian
Mountains rose.
Then he lies about the population of Chicago, then he lies
about the weight of the adult eagle, then about the
acreage of the Everglades

He lies about the number of fish taken every year in the
Arctic, he has private information about which city is
               the capital of Wyoming, he lies about the birthplace of
Attila the Hun.

He lies about the composition of the amniotic fluid, and
he insists that Luther was never a German, and that
only the Protestants sold indulgences,

That Pope Leo X wanted to reform the church, but the
“liberal elements” prevented him,
that the Peasants’ War was fomented by Italians
from the North.

And the Attorney General lies about the time the
sun sets.

Does he remind you of anyone?

Just how “abnormal” is Trump?



Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives.

What makes for a successful public-sector workplace? 

By Monte Bute

January 13, 2017

Wherever we work, employers use a fundamental mission to shape our daily labor. For the private sector, it is profit maximization. For nonprofits, it is service to others. For the public sector, well, that has become increasingly murky. I contend that the purpose of public employment is a stewardship of the common good.

However, the means by which an organization seeks to achieve those various ends is more important than the goal itself. Means reflect a workplace’s ethos, its character, moral nature, or norms. In other words, an ethos is the oxygen of an organization, the cognitive, sensory, and emotional atmosphere that envelops our daily work — and it may be benign or malignant.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, all successful workplaces are alike; each unsuccessful workplace is unsuccessful in its own way. Having been in the public sector for 33 years, I will attempt to sketch what makes for a successful public workplace, and what may derail it. I will use as an example my employer, Metropolitan State University.

At a tipping point

While our new president, Ginny Arthur, is a strong advocate of stewardship, our institutional ethos is currently at a tipping point. In 2016, the administration proposed measures to resolve a significant budget shortfall. The faculty union pushed back, rejecting changes to the status quo. Management claimed that these solutions were temporary measures; some faculty saw a Trojan horse, a hidden agenda for an irreversible reduction of compensation. Compromise became elusive.

Consequently, the administration went ahead and made cutbacks that the union did not agree to, adding toxins to the atmosphere. In turn, the faculty’s rampant mistrust of management’s motives is further polluting the institution’s ethos.

The faculty is not exempt from self-scrutiny. While we deserve a just wage for our labors of stewardship, do we have any obligation to shoulder part of a shortfall that was not of our making? Under normal circumstances, the faculty has a right to seek whatever compensation is available. In a financial emergency, does that still hold true?

Distortions abound

Welcome to a hall of mirrors, where distortions abound. Nearly every fact in this workplace drama is contestable: The cause and scope of the budget crisis; the parties responsible for it; the appropriateness of responses to it; the need for faculty to share its burden. Is there a way out of this impasse?

What every organization needs to avoid is an institutional ethos that fosters a constant zero-sum game; rather, what it requires is an ethos where both managers and employees agree that everyone is in this together. However, that also means everyone, from the president to the janitor, is accountable for his or her fair share of the load. If the distribution of that burden is unjust (or perceived as unjust), discontent spreads like a contagion.

That often leads to conflict, something that is too often discouraged. Conflict is essential for the well-being of any institution. The distinction that we fail to make clear enough is between realistic and constructive conflict and unrealistic and destructive conflict. The former actually fosters a positive ethos; the latter is nihilistic and the enemy of all organizations.

A successful public workplace needs both an aspirational mission and a corresponding ethos that encourages both managers and employees to walk the walk. Will Metro State resolve its present discord in a manner that strengthens its long-term heritage of stewardship? Conversely, will ongoing strife push the university into a future of zero-sum hostilities? It could go either way. The onus is upon the leaders and followers of the institution’s various constituencies.

Monte Bute teaches sociology and social science at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. This article reflects his opinions alone.