Saturday, November 20, 2010

Working Poor Deserve Break


While eating out recently I ask our waitress if she worked two jobs. She said yes. She has another job, not because she wants to, but because she has to carry such a load. She and her husband have three children nearing the teen years.

Unlike many working wives, she has a working husband. The widows, the divorced or deserted wives are among the working poor in the gravest predicament. But it is a sad commentary that the richest country in the world has reached such a condition.

I grew up in a fairly sheltered world. There were jobs when I finished college. No lotteries. Casinos, we walked a lot around the neighborhoods. No Internet trivia to tempt our base moments. Downtowns, large and small, thrived with parking meters, mom and pop stores an

Not so long ago families were not as separated as they appear to be today. I grew up with uncles and aunts and seven funny cousins. Too many of today’s kids have never met their cousins; siblings grow up with one parent or the other through no fault of their own; children with little idea of their heritage or self-worth.

The fun of having a grandmother two blocks away was special. Mammy, as all the grandkids called her, came to Texas in her mother’s womb in a covered wagon in 1870. Her “learning” did not come from books, but she could spell any word ever invented. Her common sense came from dirt farm living, nourished by Garrett’s snuff, giving the extended family security and a sense of being.

Minimum wage was thirty-five cents an hour and up to age 12 a movie cost a dime. No malls, just bicycles and drug store milk shakes. But memory can be tinged with myth. “I remember when” is not always trustworthy.

Today my grandson is on his way toward graduation at Texas Tech. Happy? Yes and no. Glad, because he had the grit to work and give it his best. Sad, because he will have student loan debts over $30,000 with little chance of a good-paying job.

We forget that over half a million Americans have gone through bankruptcy court, primarily due to health care costs. The rest of the industrialized world gets along fine without FOR PROFIT health insurance companies. Education for profit as well as for profit health insurance is wrong. European countries may pay fifty-percent taxes but they get free health and college education, books and all (look at Denmark).

Our ultra-wealthy Americans are upset because there is a possibility of losing what President Bush did for them ten years ago. Thinking people see the wisdom of doing away with the Bush tax cuts by letting them expire. If congress can get a spine they might let them expire for the wealthy.

Most Republicans say letting Bush's tax cuts expire at the end of the year would increase the tax burden for the rich. Actually it would only be returning to a more reasonable fair tax situation. Remember, the wealthy once paid ninety percent. All other thriving democratic governments pay more taxes than the U.S.

Paul Krugman, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, writes: “Temporary tax breaks for the rich are stunningly bad economic policy. . . Basic economic theory tells us that affluent taxpayers are likely to save rather than spend the great bulk of any funds they receive via a transitory tax break.” The middle class and working poor would not squirrel away a tax break, but spend down their debts and buy more goods. This, we are told, helps families and the economy.
Getting back to our waitress friend’s situation, realize how difficult it is for them in this economic downturn. Don’t forget to tip. Be generous and give a gratuity of more than twenty percent. Twenty-five percent would really help. It is a golden opportunity to do something for those who work so hard and have so little. You will enjoy your celebration of Thanksgiving Day a lot more.


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