“Often we blame the poor for their use of these safety nets, but how can we allow corporations to pay individuals a wage inconsistent with the reality of today’s economy and be angry when they choose to survive using the government safety nets put in place for that very purpose?”
By Terrah Baker
I read a column over the weekend entitled “How We Ignore Poverty and Blame Poor People,” that summarized for me the decline in the American working class. At the same time, an older friend who had been a stay-at-home artist and mom for over 10 years decided to go back to work. Luckily, she was able to find a position as a housekeeper working only three days a week, which worked great for her schedule. But, then they told her the pay — $7.50 an hour.
My natural instinct was to moan and groan about the low pay, but then I had to ask myself, “does someone with no work experience for 10 years deserve to make minimum wage at their first job as a housekeeper?” Because, like the ignoring of poverty in the whole of America, the argument is often personal responsibility, and she chose to exit the workforce.
After contemplating the price of groceries, gas, housing, and then seeing my friend’s first paycheck come through at under $200 for one week, the answer was a resounding “Hell no.”
Simply, $7.50 an hour — 25 cents more than the federal minimum wage — has in no way kept up with the cost of living. People can not survive on minimum wage in even the best of circumstances — or should I say the worst.
So, how are these people living? Well, the article mentioned above had some good explanations. One undeniable and lingering truth is these people must depend on government subsidies.
Yet, often we blame the poor for their use of these safety nets, but how can we allow corporations to pay individuals a wage inconsistent with the reality of today’s economy and be angry when they choose to survive using the government safety nets put in place for that very purpose? And how do we not discuss these same government aid programs as just another form of bailout for corporations not paying their employees a fair wage? We can’t. We shouldn’t. But we do.
So what are the solutions? Well, the obvious would be raising the federal minimum wage and moving some of that “trickle down” wealth to the places it was intended to be but isn’t because of the very framework of a corporation honoring profit above people.
It’s sad to live in the United States at a time when corporations earn millions and billions of dollars a year, where the highest paid employee can make more than 100 times more than their lowest paid worker that does a job just as necessary as any other, and that those low paid workers then have to turn to our tax dollars for the necessities of life, groceries, electric bills, child and medical care.
We haven’t become as bad as China just yet, or rather, China has outplayed us on our own “corporate favoring” game, but the number of Americans living in poverty conditions and collecting government assistance grows each year. The most recent Census data shows 48.5 million people, or 16 percent of the American population living in poverty. And this is the fourth consecutive year this number has seen an increase.
With the price of food, gas and living rising at a steady and astounding rate when compared with wages, people must realize the time is now to push Obama’s message of raising federal minimum wage to $9 an hour; and denounce groups like The Heritage Foundation that continuously say poor people are hoodwinking the system and stealing our money (a member-funded organization that touts members like the Koch brothers). In my eyes it’s clear who’s stealing the money, and it’s not my friend making $7.50 an hour, and those out there making even less off the books, and trying to survive in an economy where that barely pays for groceries, let alone the gas to get to work.
The article “How We Ignore Poverty and Blame Poor People” runs through all of the arguments often made by conservative capitalists and others who prescribe to their propaganda, as well as additional solutions and actions to support America’s working class (you). It shows in brief what is happening to our nation’s middle class, and who has been hit hardest by this anomaly of America’s people being slaves to the system that’s meant to serve them. It can be found at everydayfeminism.com/2013/07/how-we-ignore-poverty-and-blame-poor-people/?upw