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I know people—some as close as the mirror—who will go to work as long as they have vital signs. America’s so-called “Protestant work ethic” says that takinng off for illness is weakness, and since illness itself is weakness, the least you can do is press on. Furthermore, if you can skip a day, you’re obviously not that important, and who wants to admit that?

For us, today’s New York Times offers some plain advice.

A useful suggestion it is, indeed. Except except except: how many people can take sick days? Half of all workers don’t have paid sick leave, some studies suggest, and there are a hundred and one ways to officially or unofficially encourage employees who do not to take it. Illegal, perhaps, but the vast majority of the time companies will get away with it. Moreover, the employer is perfectly within their rights to require some sort of proof, obtained at the employee’s expense.

Consider, too, the plight of those who don’t get paid when they’re sick and are living paycheck to paycheck, with no cushion. If you miss a day’s pay, somewhere down the line you’re short, and if you miss a day, you risk being told not to bother returning.

So it’s all well and good to suggest that workers take the day off when they’re ill. The changes in the culture, however, have to go further, and reach the people who run the organizations. It is they who can—must—make it possible for sick workers to recover, rather than infect co-workers and customers.

wildsoldiers

In late spring of 1864, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock River in Virginia, whose course served as the de facto boundary between the Union and the Confederacy. Led by Ulysses S. Grant, they inconclusively fought Robert E. Lee’s forces—his first battle facing Grant—for three days at a place called Wilderness, decamping and continuing their advance (to Todd’s Tavern and Spottsylvania Court House) 145 years ago today.

wildfield

Now the Wilderness Battlefield is at risk. Wal-Mart, riding the tide of the booming economy, is planning to open a store on the site.

On the side of right are actor Robert Duvall, Vermont Democrat Rep. Peter Welch, and historians and preservationists nationwide. On the side of Wal-Mart, however, is Wal-Mart . . . and the Commonwealth of Virginia, which is making no move to induce the megacorporatioon to spare the historic site.

The name “Wal-Mart” normally sets liberal blood a-boil, but even many who shop at and like the big-box chain are standing against them on this one: the issue, at least for them, is not the existence or even the presence of Wal-Mart, but rather the location. Wal-Mart would be well served to choose a site not in the middle of a Civil War battlefield for their newest store along the banks of the roaring Rappahannock.

h/t magpie

Yesterday the President went on television to discuss the stimulus package (which is now highly likely to pass in spite of Republican claims that it will put people to work without creating jobs), and show off his newly grown balls.

Even his tone was a parental “I’m very disapointed in you.” It’s the first time I’ve ever—even before he announced—heard him speak when he didn’t sound actively friendly.

I was happy to see that he seems to have embraced the idea of “bipartisanshp on my terms“:

And I’m happy to get good ideas from across the political spectrum, from Democrats and Republicans. What I won’t do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place, because those theories have been tested and they have failed. And that’s part of what the election in November was all about.

The first question he was asked (complete with a dig at Bush) allowed him to address head-on the idea that a smaller government is a better government, and therefore government’s role is to do as little as possible. Government’s role is to keep up our quality of life. If that means simply stepping back, so be it, but if that means supporting the arts, education, welfare, or public works projects that provide employment (hat tip Amanda), that is what government needs to do.

When the stimulus package is passed, it will be the first step in pulling the economy out of the hole it’s now in. It has to be followed by action on the part of the government, which has the resources available to make significant changes and the mandate to do so in the public interest.

A former senator from Illinois—now president—has an op-ed in Thursday’s Washington Post sellng the stimulus package to the citizenry.

In it, the man who ran on a platform of change and was elected on a platform of change begs the electorate to support change. Even he noticed this shouldn’t be necessary:

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of [the recovery] plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change.

As I said Tuesday, Barack Obama should be taking charge. The next election is in 2012. He has plenty of time to get over a few missteps with advisors-designate—or even the waffling and fumfering on the economic recovery plan. He can’t yet be punished for the plan’s failure. It hasn’t failed; indeed, it hasn’t even been tried.

The nature of time means this is the longest Obama will have before an election during his first term. It is the perfect time to get things done. But if he doesn’t govern—perhaps for fear of seeming arrogant, perhaps lest his popularity drop—he may not have a second term.

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