Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When Did We Lose Our Ability To Empathize?

What the heck is wrong with people?  Are our math skills so poor that we can't do simple addition and subtraction?  For a supposedly Christian nation we sure are harsh on those who have the least.  A recent Gallup poll finds that even though the economy has tanked, that rental prices have risen as home prices have fallen, that food and medical costs have also risen high enough that families making $50K a year are visiting food banks to supplement their pantry and doing without medical insurance while hoping for the best and yet only 41% of Americans think that the poor are paying their far share of taxes and 16% believe that the poor pay too little.  If you want the poor to pay more taxes, you should let them earn more money.  As Warren Buffet pointed out a few years ago, his secretary and cleaning lady paid a higher tax rate than he did.  In other words, a larger proportion of their income.

In California the minimum wage is $8 an hour.  If your company hasn't forced you to take an unpaid vacation or cut your hours you will gross $320 per week, $1,387 per month and $16,640 per year. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?  Back in the day, the rule was that you were to spend less than one third of your income on lodging so living by yourself is out of the question if you plan on eating.  Rents in Santa Clara for a one bedroom apartment hover between $950 and $1400 a month.  These numbers can be reduced if you are willing to live in a high crime area on the wrong side of town or live so far away from your job that it takes you an hour to get to work.  But what the heck, you're poor and don't deserve to live with the "better" members of society.

Federal and State taxes are taken out before you ever see your check, along with Medicare, State Disability and Social Security taxes, so that $1387 a month is really closer to $1000 which means you compromise and live in a house or apartment with several other people and rent will only cost you $550.  That doesn't include utilities or telephone, be it a land line or cell.  If you don't have a car there are no payments, repairs, registration or insurance to worry about but the bus pass for the bus that doesn't run on weekends or holidays that's a mile from your apartment on one end and a mile to the job on the other is $70 a month.

Now this job obviously doesn't have health insurance and if you are young and never been seriously ill, the premiums can be pretty low but heaven forbid you're over thirty because you are looking at premiums around $250 a month.  I hear tell that you are supposed to buy new clothes occasionally so you had better be a Wal-Mart shopper, but not too often.  No going to the dentist either and if you need glasses they had best be of the birth control variety.  Fortunately they happen to be in style now.

You really shouldn't have pets, hobbies, own a television now that everything is going digital and you can't afford cable or satellite, go to the movies, smoke cigarettes, or enjoy a beer or latte because that money is coming directly out of your food budget since you gross over $1100 a month you aren't eligible for food stamps.  And with the price for a decent loaf of bread coming in at over $3.50 you should be eating rice and beans.  It doesn't matter if you aren't getting proper nutrition and are gaining weight because all you can afford are simple carbohydrates, you're poor and that's all the world owes you.

Now what happens if you stupidly fall in love and get married?  That salary will not support two people but you will finally qualify for food stamps.  According to the traditional view of Christian marriage a man is supposed to support the wife and she is supposed to stay home and take care of the kids you can't afford.  Reliable birth control is out of the question and abortion is a no-no so you better not have sex either.

Unfortunately this recession is hitting all income levels and the ranks of the newly poor are swelling at the same time as all of the safety nets are being eliminated.  For those of us who are either not knowledgeable or have too much knowledge, poverty is our future.  It won't matter how much you have paid into the system over the years, your fellow Americans think you are a loser and abusing the system because they are positive you're lazy.  Not that the job that required a Master's degree when you took it was shipped overseas and the only thing left in your area is working at Wal-Mart and they won't hire you because you're over qualified.  Even though you had six months of savings that have run out and now can't pay your bills, it's all your fault now because you're poor.  You should have planned better and gotten an advanced education.  Oh wait, you did that and have the student loans to prove it.

What the heck is wrong with us that we must make ourselves feel better by demeaning those who can't fight back? The poor pay into the system in many ways (including the regressive sales tax) and then society determines that this isn't enough and that they aren't contributing as much as they should even though it's all they have.  And then have the audacity to say that the poor should work harder and pull themselves up by their bootstraps when all they have are flip-flops.  How messed up is that?


No comments:

Post a Comment