29 August 2012

Class Warfare Explained

"Class warfare" has become the central theme of the 2012 election. The disparate views on economics and society at large come down to being one side of that war (and, contrary to what a small few may want to admit, it very much is taking place). For pretty much my entire lifetime, the GOP has framed the war as being fought between decent, hard-working Americans and lazy leeches looking for a free ride. Once upon a time, they added, "But of course, we should help those who really need it." No longer. Now the Libertarian strain of conservatism best represented by Ron Paul has come to deny even that. Helping people is immoral for them. They don't even bother to argue that they want to help people by "encouraging" them to help themselves. They simply express hostility at the very idea that people be helped.

It's really very simple. Millions are out of work, and the people who have the resources to find jobs for them won't spend the money to create those jobs. For the last decade, they've insisted that they can't afford to create businesses in America because their tax rate is just too high and those American workers expect way too much in salary and benefits.

Earlier this year, we learned from the National Low Income Housing Coalition that in no state in the union can someone working a 40 hour week at a minimum wage job afford to rent a 2-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent. It was determined that a worker must earn at least $15.37 at 40 hours a week, far above the federal minimum wage ($5.15, last raised in 2009) or even above San Francisco's $10.24 - the highest in the nation.
I personally balked at the picture painted by that situation, but the Interwebs are populated by people ever willing to prosecute their campaign against "entitlement" whenever they can invent the opportunity. For instance, there's Jesse in AZ, who scoffed
Minimum Wage is not a career path, it was never intended to be. That is why so very few people are on Minimum Wage.
It is meant for training months or teenagers.

I doubt many people living on Minimum Wage are attempting to rent/own their own place to live, most have room mates as they should. People are not entitled to single resident dwellings.
This statistic provided in the article is only meant to stir income jealousy and class warfare, it is a silly statistic. Why does a single person on minimum wage need a 2 bedroom apartment?
Last July, that bastion of liberal propaganda FoxNews.com, reported on a Gallup poll showing that 1 in 5 Americans are "underemployed," meaning they've had to take work beneath their skill levels and experience. Quoted by Fox News was Damien Birkel, founder of the non-profit organization Professionals in Transition:
“There was a school teacher who lost her job,” he told us. “She had two jobs bagging groceries, plus taking as many other odd jobs as she could find to keep her house.”
I wonder how that school teacher feels about taking a job that was "not a career path" that was "meant for training months or teenagers." She probably feels like Birkel himself, who lost his position as a marketing manager for Sarah Lee:
“I felt like I had ‘loser’ tattooed to my forehead, and ‘will work for food’ tattooed to my chest,” he says.
Oh, silly Damien Birkel. You didn't think you were "entitled" to not feel like a loser after working your way up the ladder, did you? I bet you felt "entitled" to a single resident dwelling, too. Actually, it's worse - one of Birkel's sources of shame was that he couldn't afford to send his daughter to summer camp. My advice? Don't tell Jesse that bothered you or your daughter. If he hates hearing about how minimum wage workers can't afford their own place, I can only imagine how he feels about summer camp.

Time and again, we hear the GOP insist that assistance programs are the albatross crippling America's economy. Corporations would quit keeping their money in foreign banks, we're told, if they could just keep it here in America and pay no taxes on it. We force them to move their money, though, in much the same way that California has forced Roman Polanski to stay in a non-extradition country for the last few decades.

The One Percenters are the only ones with the resources to hire American workers. We can't hire each other. Yet time and again, they've balked at even paying us the bare minimum to even live in an apartment on our own. Anywhere except the very highest level of the ladder is unsafe, subject to being downsized, outsourced and outright eliminated at any moment. Sarah Lee decided it was better to do without paying Damien Birkel to do his job. By firing him, one of his superiors was able to celebrate "saving" the company Birkel's salary, which was of course then reabsorbed back into the company's profits.

Yet, whenever anyone dares to point out any of this, there are Jesses champing at the bit to hatefully roll their eyes at this "selfish" notion of an America where you can actually take care of yourself by holding down a decent job that recognizes and rewards you for your hard work and doesn't begin running the clock toward when it's better to let you go than to continue rewarding you.

That's exactly what has been happening in workplaces across America these last several years. Employees have been tasked with compensating for being on shorthanded, even skeleton, work crews. The only way they could even afford their apartments was to eat up overtime, but then their corporate overlords cracked down on that. Better to pay two part-timers than one full-timer. They're often those kids Jesse talked about, eager to have a job at all and certainly not "entitled" to ask for a living wage. If they turn out to be underemployed professionals, so be it. They should be just as grateful for the job. No one owes them a rewarding career just because they've worked to qualify for one.

Say a full-timer comes up for a raise. It's of course, not in the numbers this year. The shareholders would rather keep that $520 per year (25 cents * 40 hours per week * 52 weeks per year = $520) than to reward you for your hard work. Who wouldn't be insulted? You're not entitled to be rewarded for working hard. Who wouldn't quit working as hard? You're being selfish. Who wouldn't seek a job elsewhere? Go. See if you can even find another job. We won't miss you. The new kid is three years away from even reaching your current salary, and he won't whine about that $520. There's the door.

Everyone who balks at an employment system that doesn't even allow workers to earn enough to have an apartment of their own, and underemploys 1 in 5 workers, devaluing their skills and experience, is painted as some kind of lazy "welfare queen" just looking for "handouts" and an easy ride they don't want to work to earn. So I think it's time we flipped that around and isolated a very peripheral One Percenter to laughably and entirely unfairly represent that entire socioeconomic class.
Snooki makes $150,000 per episode of The Jersey Shore and is estimated to have a net worth of $4 million.
The next time you hear someone talk about how the rich are overtaxed and how they shouldn't have to apologize or be punished for their success by paying more in taxes - revenue needed to continue operating programs that help those of us who are denied the chance to get or stay ahead in the workplace - just remember that what they're really trying to tell you is that you're not "entitled" to earn enough money to have an apartment or to have a job that rewards you for your skills and experience and accommodating your selfish demands would be unfair to this woman:

3 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more. We can't raise the minimum wage but we can afford to give huge tax breaks to the richest Americans. I loved the sign held by one of the occupiers last year, "I'm holding this sign because I can't afford to buy a congressman". It's corporate welfare - bought and paid for. Rmoney & the Repubs have no shame or compassion.
    Bob

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  2. What galls me is the outright hostility toward anyone who dares to express frustration. "I can't even afford my own place." "You're not entitled to your own place!" "I've got a master's degree and spent 13 years in this field, and now I'm bagging groceries." "So what? Nobody made you earn a degree and nobody owes you a career doing what you're actually qualified to do!"

    These are, or ought to be, very legitimate complaints and any reasonable person should sympathize and share in those frustrations. I don't think it's right that our grandparents could raise a family - in a house - on one income, but we can't even rent our own apartments. I don't think that's an outrageous bit of selfishness at all. Yet there are Jesses out there who clearly do, and I don't understand that. I don't understand how anyone can hear about this situation and say "So what? Shut up! I hate you!"

    And that's the part that I find so outrageous. It's not the fat cats at the top who keep trying to horde as much money as they can. Hell, I even accept that. It's disgusting, but at least that makes sense to me. It's the people who have come to truly hate anyone who finds it upsetting that things are so skewed. I mean, to resent people for being upset they can't even rent their own apartment? What is wrong with your wiring that you would be that hateful? Or that you wouldn't understand the discouraging effect that has on society? That isn't something that President Obama has told us we should find upsetting; it's not some kind of campaign scheme. It's a matter of economics, and that situation was created by the people at the top, who have done everything they can to avoid paying American workers a fair living wage. How can anyone resent American workers for being upset about that?!

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  3. Great observations. It made me think about how it seems, to me, like Republicans and even most Americans have forgotten that "society" itself is a choice. It exists because it benefits individuals. Individuals do not exist to benefit society, itself. Society gives us structure and infrastructure and laws and protection. By "society" I mean both government and corporations. Both are supposed to exist for the benefit of human beings. Yet, government and corporations act like it is they who have a right to exist and a right to freedom. They forget their responsibilities to us, the American People.

    See, I don't think it's acceptable to horde as much cash as they can--I think it's despicable. The fat cats should be reinvesting that money in their businesses, not buying a third Cadillac for their wife (I'm lookin at YOU, Mitt Romney!!) or a second sailboat, or a fifth house. They should be putting most of the money we give them into providing a better service or product--that's why they exist, after all, to provide us with a service or product. Likewise, so is government. We pay taxes and they provide us with law enforcement, laws, roads, train tracks and other infrastructure and other services that make our lives better. This kind of abuse we're getting from both entities needs to stop. I am pretty sure it won't, however. I see us only going further downhill. Mainly, because of one of the things you mention in your piece--the whole ignorance (ignore-ance) of the Class War. It's been going on since forever. The Middle Class was the buffer between the haves and have-nots. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s rich folks houses would get sacked by hordes of poor people. The rich, finally getting tired of sharing money with the Middle Class, have figured out how to return to that way of life and are slowly getting us there. I do not like living here any more.

    Sorry to go on and on!!!

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