TIME TO STAND FOR SOMETHING
WORKING POOR SUBSIDIZE THE REST OF US
It sure seems that royalty sells in America. Amid the pomp and ritual, the Queen of England got some recognition for avoiding tyrannical solutions to confronting her country’s diminished role in the world. Yet, with all those castles and all those soldiers, it sure seemed like something could have been done to avoid the United Kingdom’s break with the European Union. But the Queen wouldn’t go there, even though she probably realized what a bad idea it was. So, while the UK took a breather from falling apart to bury the Queen, Americans seemed to welcome a similar breather in the hopeful march toward Trump’s indictment.
Sharing the international stage with the Queen, the war in Ukraine slogs on with cheerleaders continuing to applaud the plucky Ukrainians, while the death and destruction continues, badly needed grain shipments are rotting in silos and ports, and a cold European winter will soon set in with limited fuel options. Meanwhile, the usual killing fields continue to provide their full share of carnage, and climate change continues to wreak havoc. In the midst of all this, children continue to go to bed hungry and preventable disease is allowed to fester.
Now inflation is added to the mix and is producing excessive handwringing over the economy in the US and elsewhere. Curiously, this angst seems most acute among those impacted the least. For poor people and poor nations, the global economic system is what it has always been – rigged to serve those with resources at the expense of those without resources. Meanwhile, there is little sign in the US that major lifestyle changes are afoot among the middle class and surely none to be found among the wealthy. Packed airports and stadiums are a far better barometer of economic hardship than trying to figure out if bottom round is replacing T-bone steak in shopping baskets.
As is often the case, the working poor are present in the inflation discussion but absent from the solution. Watching six-figure news readers carry on about inflation after just getting back from their summer vacations is laughable but only further obscures the depth of the problem for those with limited or no income and rising fixed expenses that they can’t meet.
So, this would be a good time in America to talk about raising the federal minimum wage. That minimum wage is still $7.25/hour or a whopping $290 for a forty-hour work week. Even so, it seems in America that it is never a good time to raise minimum wages across the board to ensure a living wage adjusted for inflation.* The real problem with this good idea is that the cost of the basic services in our communities would likely go up. Imagine having to pay more to the people who clean houses, mow lawns, pick up trash, and generally make our lives easier. While many bitch about the cost of that T-bone steak, the working poor suck it up, work longer hours and multiple jobs, and eat a lot of beans and pasta.
And here is the point, those working poor are shielding the rest of us from what should be the real inflationary costs of our collective excesses and corporate greed. But now there is another catch. There don't seem to be enough workers hanging around waiting for low wages to fill the low-paying jobs that support those excesses and corporate greed, so we are now doubly screwed. Prices are going up and basic services are going down. However, the long-term solution that seems most popular with many, except the working poor, is for the working poor to have more poor babies and then continue to provide the poor education, indecent housing, and unreliable healthcare that will ensure another generation of low-wage workers.
Or, how about immigration reform? Instead of waiting for new American poor babies to grow up, Americans could figure out how to parse out immigrants to communities in need of low-wage workers, gin up some dormitory housing, open a food pantry so they can eat, and then pay them a wage that looks good to them while knocking out any likelihood of low-wage inflationary pressures. Both McDonalds and your lawn will thrive anew.
Maybe you can see where this is heading. I want Governor Ron DeSantis to denude Florida of as many hardworking immigrants as he can find. Like international sister cities, America could develop its own sister sanctuaries program matching a sanctuary for White racists and Christian nationalists with another sanctuary that would welcome the Black and Brown immigrants so abhorrent to those racist Florida communities.
Using the DeSantis model, a matching sanctuary community would be found to welcome the diverse, hardworking, often skilled, low-wage workers that a significant segment of Floridians apparently wants shipped out of state. This would be good news, as well, for those looking for immigrants from White racist communities in Texas and Arizona.
We start there, and the movement grows. All of sudden, politicians willing to cruelly demonize immigrants would find their constituents trash on their overgrown lawns. Then think how inconvenient it would be if a good portion of those low-wage Latino workers in restaurants and country clubs headed out of town to a real welcoming sanctuary community somewhere else.
While this all sounds fanciful, it just might work to break the back of the resistance to a humane and inclusive American immigration policy. This would be putting inflationary pressures to good use and remind those doing all the handwringing that they are doing so at the expense of the working poor.
Maybe, with all of this wreckage around us, there will be a slowly creeping understanding that America’s self-delusional “exceptionalism” is just that and nothing more – self-delusion. Fantasy works sometimes in the movies, but it won’t last in real life. Maybe it took a warped Supreme Court, a dysfunctional Congress, an exposed insurrection, an unraveling rule of law, and a plane load of defrauded immigrants seeking asylum to finally begin to undermine the fantasy.
Women and thoughtful young people seem to be deciding that they are tired of rich White men and the people they buy trampling on the simple notions of access to meaningful healthcare and the freedom for women to make life choices for themselves. Many seem even more energized about losing access to their own healthcare than they ever were about making sure that everybody had access to meaningful healthcare in the first place. But they care now.
Also, there is some evidence that when essential governance is really threatened, Americans will awaken to protect and promote the governmental institutions required to confront existential problems like climate change and required to ensure the minimum infrastructure and basic services at the core of desirable community life.
It is possible that this will be enough in the weeks ahead to see the shameless right-wing vacuum collapse and suck Trump, his acolytes, his family, and his friends into the vortex. However, if their cruelty prevails and the nation’s government continues at a stalemate, there certainly will be additional suffering in the land.
If you have any doubts about any of this, you are likely beyond hope. But this may be the moment to actually think about the kind of community in which you want to live and who is most likely to lead you there. Think about the gun nut governors working to ensure that another school massacre comes to a neighborhood near you. Think about children without enough to eat and immigrant children bussed like cattle to be someone else’s problem. Think about all of this and more.
It is way past time for Americans to start standing for something with a clear moral core. Put the inflationary handwringing on hold long enough to vote for a nation that we can start to be proud of. This could, at the least, provide a foundation for confronting the corporate greed, political corruption, White racism and White Christian nationalism that stand in the way of realizing an equality of opportunity and the social and racial justice needed to achieve it.