America’s Can’t-Do Attitude

Here’s a glimpse of government in America, as reported in my hometown newspaper.

The City Council is concerned about the large crowds waiting at bus stops, often watching three or four buses pass without stopping because the buses are already jam-packed standing-room-only.

The transportation administrator (we’ll call him H.A.) assured the City Council that his department is “doing the best they can.” He explained:

“The problem is just like the  _____ Steakhouse, you can’t build it big enough, you can’t staff it enough to meet the people, you can’t do it and you can’t afford to do it.”

Four can’t-do-its in one miserable sentence by a high-ranking public bureaucrat! And he’s the boss! Can you imagine how demoralized his employees must feel? It’s enough to make you cry. But wait. H.A. is only getting started. As the newspaper reported:

H.A. added that it is also difficult to fill bus shifts because driving a bus in   _______ City isn’t a fit for everybody. He said currently the department does not have full staffing and there are 32 vacant eight-hour shifts.

“As of today, we are not fully staffed . . . you can’t walk in the door and get in the seat of that bus,” H.A. said.

H.A. explained that if a driver does not have a CDL license (commercial driver’s  license) it would take an additional 30 days to train and acquire a passenger license.

Let me see if I understand this. Unemployment is over 9 percent in America — and higher in our local area — and yet the administrator is unable to hire sufficient bus drivers? The required 30 days training is too high an obstacle to overcome?

A City Council member assured H.A., “There are no problems in us giving you the money you need to have to do the job.” H.A. proudly acknowledged that money is NOT the problem. Money is not going to change his can’t-do attitude.

“If you hand me a bazillion dollars, it doesn’t mean I have all the drivers and all the vehicles,” H.A. said. “It’s an octopus with a lot of tentacles, you make it work.”

(H.A. also affirmed that the supply of buses is not the problem. He has 14 brand new buses waiting to go into service.)

If anyone remained unconvinced that HA can’t do the job, he went on to confirm his determined futility with the following:

“I don’t want anybody in this room to think we will be in a position to deploy a sufficient number of buses every time you’re waiting at the bus stop during a peak hour, on a peak night, on a beautiful hot, sunny evening in June, July and August and that we will be able to pick you up every 10 minutes.” H.A. said. “It’s utopia and it just can’t be done.”

Case closed. Ladies and gentlemen, when any bureaucrat, government agency, corporation, or business becomes so thoroughly demoralized and convinced that it can’t do its job, don’t you think it’s past time for a change?

American workers, businesses, and government used to proudly flaunt a CAN-DO attitude. No More. H.A.’s defeatist can’t-do attitude has become the new standard in America. Can’t-do permeates American government, politics, and business.

America seems immobilized by a deadly epidemic of passive-aggressive sickness. We can’t do it. Even if we could do it, we won’t do it, and nobody can make us do it. You can’t complain about it, because we won’t even answer the phone.

  • “Hello. We value your business.
  • Please press One for Lies.
  • Press Two for Dysfunction.
  • Press Three for Disrespect.
  • Press Four for Excuses.
  • Press Five to be Disconnected.
  • Have a nice day.”

Add up all the can’t-do attitudes like H.A.’s from every corner of this once-great nation, and you get the following:

American workers can’t compete with other workers around the world.

American businesses can’t stop moving factories and jobs overseas.

America can’t maintain its bridges and highways and water and sewer systems.

America can’t afford Medicare and Social Security. (Although every other advanced Western nation can.)

American business is sitting on billions in idle capital, but American business can’t put the money to work because of uncertainty. (Life is uncertain. Starting a business or investing capital is always fraught with uncertainty, by definition. Uncertainty is the nature of capitalism. Profits and stock prices routinely climb a wall of fear.)

The U.S. Senate can’t pass a budget because it can’t get 60 votes. On anything. You name it, the U.S. Senate can’t do it.

Congress can’t follow and the President can’t lead. Democrats and Republicans can’t work together. What did you expect?

We, the voters, can’t be serious. We’re surrounded by momentous problems, begging to be solved; but we can’t pay attention to anything, except sex scandals.

Ladies and gentlemen, our can’t-do attitude is killing whatever is left of the American Dream.

— John Hayden

5 thoughts on “America’s Can’t-Do Attitude

  1. Good post-hard to believe that someone is running that office with that kind of attitude. Sad, really. And elucidating.
    I think what that particular administrator needs is to be forced to depend on bus service for a week and see if his attitude changes ever so slightly!


    • Good idea! He gets the award for customer disservice. Take away his car keys and make him wait at the bus stop (and then stand up in the aisle for the duration of the ride).


  2. Very good post John. I agree that he needs that bus ticket. People who have power to make a difference would surely benefit from having had experience in the services for which they have an influence upon.

    I see and experience this “can’t do attitude” within the mental healthcare system all the time, literally, so I couldn’t help but think of that while reading your post. What surprises me most, is that we are expected to accept what isn’t working. The unanswered phone calls, the unfulfilled plans and promises that are never mentioned again and the right not to be held accountable.

    Remember when a person’s word meant something? Verbal agreements were common. If you owned a business then you knew that the customer was most important and without them, well, you know what I mean. Things have changed! People don’t have to be nice if they are going to get paid anyway. They don’t have to actually do the jobs they’re getting paid to do, if they get paid to talk about why they can’t do them.


    • Unfortunately, the health care systems for mental and physical health are among the most passive-aggressive sectors of our economy. I blame it mostly on the health insurance companies.


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