Minimum Wage

Courtesy of TiVo I’m watching today’s Oprah. I sit in the comfort of my cozy living room learning about the life of people who make minimum wage.

Years ago as part of a book club I read Nickeled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenrich, which left a sour taste in mouth. I felt like she took an important point and put it through the mangler of her self-important, liberal artist agenda. Her legit contention that lots of people are not making a survivable wage, despite working full time got subsumed by her horror that anyone would have to do something as demeaning as scrub a toilet or wrap a sandwich. I will give her an “amen sister” that many many of these people are treated in dehumanizing, inexcusable ways. But she lost me with her attitude that that work is inherently humiliating. My cousin is a cleaning lady. My friend’s mom works at Wal-Mart. My very own husband has done demolition work. For years I was a nanny. And I think that was all honorable work that we could be proud of.

But I digress.

So these folks on Oprah today… I will go to sleep tonight thinking about the woman who works full time as a medical assistant. She looked to be about 40. She’s the person who takes your blood pressure and fills out your chart before you see the doctor. She’s got one kid. And she can’t pay her bills. Not because she got into credit card debt. Not because she’s frivolous. But because she makes $5.15 an hour (federal minimum wage — which hasn’t gone up in 10 years) BEFORE taxes. She sat there justifying herself, saying “I never never never go out to eat.” It was just unbearable. I have no good solution other than to support (demand?) a rise in minimum wage, even if it’s covered by yet another rise in my taxes. It doesn’t seem like enough. I do know guaranteed health care would make a big difference. It would be nice if a person didn’t have to spiral into total financial flatline before she got a little government help.

You know what else I want to know? They keep showing woman after woman going by, trying to support herself and her kids. Where the hell are all their daddies? I know there are men out there in the same position, and I know there are righteous men who do right by their kids. But the number of those who don’t really seems to be stacking up.

I’m not one for prosthelitizing in my journal. But it’s all I’m thinking about right now.

Advertisements

10 responses to this post.

  1. It’s Holy Week and Good Friday. It’s a good time to be thinking about social justice and what we can do to bring it about, whether Christian or not.

    Reply

  2. It’s Holy Week and Good Friday. It’s a good time to be thinking about social justice and what we can do to bring it about, whether Christian or not.

    Reply

  3. It’s no surprise that poverty is linked to broken families, either. I’ve read a million times how after a divorce, men’s standard of living almost always goes up and women’s down. If a couple isn’t married and splits after kids, it really is harder to get support. My cousin works as a child support enforcement officer, and most of those fathers–of which there are thousands–don’t even KNOW their kids and a lot of them can’t identify them in pictures.
    The thing that bugs me too is that the government is a protector, not a provider, but in many cases it’s a piss-poor job of protecting that leads to the necessity of providing.
    And furthermore, it has always made me angry when trades are snarked by anybody, especially liberal-arts-graduate computer helpdesk attendants or starving-artist baristas. There’s no shame in being an electrician, a plumber, or a hairdresser; they are as necessary (if not more so) than many business careers, and if I’d had any sense I’d have majored in carpentry instead of English. I can read on my own time. Anyway, I’m with you on that.

    Reply

  4. It’s no surprise that poverty is linked to broken families, either. I’ve read a million times how after a divorce, men’s standard of living almost always goes up and women’s down. If a couple isn’t married and splits after kids, it really is harder to get support. My cousin works as a child support enforcement officer, and most of those fathers–of which there are thousands–don’t even KNOW their kids and a lot of them can’t identify them in pictures.
    The thing that bugs me too is that the government is a protector, not a provider, but in many cases it’s a piss-poor job of protecting that leads to the necessity of providing.
    And furthermore, it has always made me angry when trades are snarked by anybody, especially liberal-arts-graduate computer helpdesk attendants or starving-artist baristas. There’s no shame in being an electrician, a plumber, or a hairdresser; they are as necessary (if not more so) than many business careers, and if I’d had any sense I’d have majored in carpentry instead of English. I can read on my own time. Anyway, I’m with you on that.

    Reply

    • I have a friend who is a full-time artist and she and I sometimes butt heads over what she perceives as my lack of appropriate respect for what she does. I tell her: If someone told me that I had to pick between all the actors or all the garbage men going away, I wouldn’t hesitate to say goodbye to the actors.
      I think they are important, but they’re certainly not more important than a gardener or a claims processor or whatever. And if it helps my artist friends feel any better, I also think web directors are plenty more expendible than my garbage man.

      Reply

  5. Wow. I can’t believe that medical assistants make minimum wage. That just seems absurd. After all, they know some valuable skills.
    Where the hell are all their daddies?
    I hear ya there. Failure to support your children should be a felony. I bet the threat of jail time would get some of these deadbeats to pay their fair share towards raising their children. I also support the idea of subsidized child care for parents who have to work to make ends meet.
    It’s interesting to think that many of the quality of life things we have in the United States were the result of liberals pushing for changes. Everything from child labor laws to women’s suffrage to the abolition of slavery began as a liberal cause. Maybe it’s time for another liberal movement in the United States.

    Reply

  6. Wow. I can’t believe that medical assistants make minimum wage. That just seems absurd. After all, they know some valuable skills.
    Where the hell are all their daddies?
    I hear ya there. Failure to support your children should be a felony. I bet the threat of jail time would get some of these deadbeats to pay their fair share towards raising their children. I also support the idea of subsidized child care for parents who have to work to make ends meet.
    It’s interesting to think that many of the quality of life things we have in the United States were the result of liberals pushing for changes. Everything from child labor laws to women’s suffrage to the abolition of slavery began as a liberal cause. Maybe it’s time for another liberal movement in the United States.

    Reply

    • Try this one on:
      There was also an interview with an EMT. You know, the person who shows up in the ambulance to re-start your heart, help you breathe, save your life, etc. She makes $8.15 an hour (less than $20k a year) and is looking for a second job to make her rent.

      Reply

  7. I have a friend who is a full-time artist and she and I sometimes butt heads over what she perceives as my lack of appropriate respect for what she does. I tell her: If someone told me that I had to pick between all the actors or all the garbage men going away, I wouldn’t hesitate to say goodbye to the actors.
    I think they are important, but they’re certainly not more important than a gardener or a claims processor or whatever. And if it helps my artist friends feel any better, I also think web directors are plenty more expendible than my garbage man.

    Reply

  8. Try this one on:
    There was also an interview with an EMT. You know, the person who shows up in the ambulance to re-start your heart, help you breathe, save your life, etc. She makes $8.15 an hour (less than $20k a year) and is looking for a second job to make her rent.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: