Speaking Through the Lens of Affluence – A Wonderful Life?

“I’ve had every kind of rotten job you can imagine growing up and getting myself through school,” said speaker of the house, John Boehner on TV’s 60 minutes, “and I wouldn’t have had a chance at half those jobs if the federal government had kept imposing higher minimum wage. Low income jobs help people get skills and they can climb the economic ladder.”empty pockets

Really? What about the thousands of people who can only qualify for a minimum wage job because of the oppressive hand of poverty, lack of education, family support or disability? Should they be forced to live in squalor or remain in poverty so that more advantaged people can ‘get skills’ and ‘climb the economic ladder’?

homeless man

Should those same ‘ladder climbers’ have to share a couch at a friends house or sleep in their car while they are gaining those skills? Are we as a people so married to our cheap fast food and clothing that we refuse to allow a few pennies rise in the price of that hamburger or pair of jeans so that those who flip that burger, clean those public restrooms and stock the store shelves be given the hard earned right to decent housing and food –no matter their reason or need for working that minimum wage job?

As Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, from the film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” said to stone hearted banker, Mr. Potter, about the everyman in their town “they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?” 

Utterings, such as those by Mr Boehner–  when spoken by people who never lived life without the safety net of family and friends display, at best, ignorance–at worst a repugnant arrogance.

However, Mr Boehner did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth, as you might suspect. Second of twelve children, parents who slept on a pull out couch, modest one bath two bedroom family home, he took seven years to work his way through college. His siblings are blue collar, most still living in the same Ohio small town. He worked hard to climb that ladder.

So why do people who have experienced financial challenges expect everyone to be able to ‘pull themselves up by the bootstraps’? What hardens their heart or averts their eye from the huge numbers of everyday people who, though no fault of their own, find the challenges insurmountable? And why do they think it is somehow beneficial to anyone to allow the upwardly mobile path to remain more difficult than it needs to be—could be— be given a living wage, if those struggling were afforded those ‘couple of decent rooms and a bath’?


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