Friday, November 20, 2009

Liberty & Justice for all?

Where's the Liberty and Justice for All?

by Jill Westerholm

A new report says Wall Street is set to post record profits that will exceed the record set three years ago. The four largest firms took in 22.5 billion dollars in profit in September. I imagine the American tax payers bailout helped them along?

What helped the American worker along?

The U.S. Hunger rate continues to grow. The Department of Agriculture estimates 50 million Americans, including a quarter of all children, struggled to get enough to eat last year.

A report from the Mortgage Bankers Association also found that 14 percent of homeowners with a mortgage were either behind on payments or in foreclosure at the end of September. It was a record-high figure for the ninth straight quarter.

In yet another study just out this week, The United States lags far behind other nations in offering paid sick days, paid parental leave and other workplace benefits that proponents consider vital to public health and workers rights, according to research released on Tuesday. To which a friend commented "Perhaps we are more educated and understand that offering more sick days to slackers is unproductive and produces a tremendous drag on the entire economy ...who would be left to do the work, pay the bills and provide the tax base for the slackers? It's those that expect handouts, think the world owes them something and worse, those who actually study and train to draw the maximum benefits from local, state and federal programs that never pay a nickle in taxes because they are not even citizens..."

Really, are we still at zero point evolution on these arguments? So a worker who isn't even paid a living wage to begin with and contracts H1N1 and wants to stay home but can't lose the hours on his check so he slugs on into work infecting other workers is a slacker? Or wait, maybe it's the immigrant worker whom the employer is taking advantage of and paying even less the legal American workers below living wage! My friend is not alone this is the ideology - or some are now arguing delusion-of most Convervatives who on top of that preach about Christian values eroding as well, which one has to wonder what state of cognizant dissonance got them to this awful place of not seeing their own hypocrisy even still after Wall Street's corporate bailout.

It's socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor right?

Okay to save failing businesses that has made enormous amount of bad loans putting an entire global economy at risk but if American worker wants to have guaranteed paid sick time he's a "slacker?" or at least after pressing concludes that there are alot of slackers out there "taking advantage of the system" which actually gave me a good laugh. So... an hourly worker is what fudging his earnings to squeezing out perhaps extra food coupons or his unemployment pays more than any jobs he can find is "using the system" or an immigrant is collecting $5 an hour under the table and costing U.S. HUNDREDS in missed taxes?!!

It boggles the mind that nothing appears to have changed. The health care reform is teetering on the brink of failing even without a public option on the table while the rest of the world stands back at our entrenched duality of the have and have nots in amazement at the extreme lack of compassion and even basic understanding of the have's.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is a book written by Barbara Ehrenreich. Written from the perspective of the undercover journalist, it sets out to investigate the impact of the 1996 welfare reform on the "working poor" in the United States. Written as an exposé, Ehrenreich attempts to combat the "too lazy to work" and "a job will defeat poverty" ideals held by traditionalists. Suggesting problems with the argument, Ehrenreich highlights many of the difficulties people have working jobs that pay low wages.

Foremost, she attacks the notion that low-wage jobs require "unskilled" labor. The author, a journalist with an impressive education, a Ph.D. in cell biology, found manual labor taxing, uninteresting and degrading. She says that the work required incredible feats of stamina, focus, memory, quick thinking, and fast learning. Constant and repeated movement creates a risk of repetitive stress injury, pain must often be worked through to hold a job in a market with constant turnover; and the days are filled with degrading and uninteresting tasks (e.g. toilet-cleaning and shirt-reordering).

She concludes by eloquently disputing the argument that low-wage workers, recipients of government or charitable services like welfare, food, and healthcare, are simply living off the generosity of others. Instead, she suggests, "we" live off their generosity:

When someone works for less pay than she can live on ... she has made a great sacrifice for you ... The "working poor" ... are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone. (p. 221)

And that came from doing it her self, living it her self. Is that our only hope for the compassion to make its way to the top of Corporate America or even the middle of Managers who are paranoid about slackers or immigrants hiding out their meager taxes? Do we not stand a chance unless THEY have to pick up a mop and be paid lower than living wage for month or more without health care or basic benefits? Many sadly say, Yes. That's the only way they will not be blind to what is going on and has gone on for a century or more in America.

Well, I tend to be at least somewhat more hopeful then that. Sure, I know that there a better chance of hell freezing over then these corporate businessman volunteering to pick up a mop to better understand the plight so that options out. But as a Christian I know God and Jesus are indeed on the side of the working poor and not just in heaven, but in the here and now. Jesus rejected greed, violence, the glorification of power, the amassing of wealth without social balance, and the personal judging of others, their lifestyles and beliefs.

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. [Luke 14:13 &14.]

Feed them even when they can't pay you back. And certainly, pay them the wages they are deserving. It shouldn't be a crime to be wealthy. But wealth and a basic,good quality of life a life that consists of ability to save money, acquire a home, that allows one to stay home when he is sick or be with his or her newborn baby at least for a few weeks (most developed countries believe and offer 3-12 months).

But this argument has continued without change even in fact as the middle class disappears by all accounts. The gap is not thinning the gap is broadening. But with unemployment continuing to climb at 10+% can the current system sustain itself? That depends on the will of all. The will of the employer to continue status quo. Pretty easy when your company is billions in the red and money comes in to save it creating an even greater invincibility.

the will of the worker continuing that status quo however seems less likely. Native American speaker Oren R. Lyons talks about the 7th generation and America's forgotten responsiblity & indigenous Native Americans have seen many prophecy's regarding the demise of America's strength due to continually putting economics over common sense.

More and more unemployed, less and less change in workers compensation or benefits. What will be the breaking point for the hard working American with little left to lose? "I can't pay my home, the bank was bailed out why aren't I?" That mentality is not only occuring but growing, remarkably slow given the billions poured into Wall Street so effortlessly but not to the man losing his home, but growing still. Corporate America should be mindful and cautious in the coming months of its expectations and dependance on the American worker. This tectonic shift that is rumbling toward the ultimate conclusion of an entire hourly work force essentially going on strike if not literally then figuratively as they run out of the ability to keep up with basic consumerism is perhaps the only thing that will save our beloved country and her monstrous duality that is sadly still moving so far away from "liberty and justice for ALL"

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