Archive for the ‘Working Poor’ Tag

Drug Testing Is Only for the Little People   1 comment

When you read a lot of Help Wanted ads, you begin to notice certain patterns. One thing I’ve noticed is how common drug testing has become–for hourly jobs. In fact, if the employer is a midsized to large company, mandatory drug screening is now the norm for hourly workers. But not for most salaried employees. And the higher up you go, the less likely it is that you’ll encounter a drug testing requirement.

I was wondering why that might be. Are people who make very little money really more likely to spend that money on illegal drugs than people with plenty of discretionary income? That doesn’t seem likely. I admit, the constant stress and fear of not being able to pay your bills can make escape from reality a tempting proposition. Except, of course, that drugs tend to cost money, and it takes a hell of a lot more than a low wage job to finance a drug habit.

Maybe it’s just that employers, like many middle/upper class folks, have a rather low opinion of low income people. Poor people are lazy and have no work ethic. That’s why they’re poor, you see. Plus, they lie, steal, cheat, and they’re probably druggies too!*

It’s also possible, of course, that employers would love to drug test all those professional and managerial types as well, but they’re afraid people with options wouldn’t stand for that kind of privacy invasion. So they focus their ought-to-be-unconstitutional drug screening efforts on people who have few options. My partner and I strongly object to drug testing, but will that keep us from applying for a job that requires it? Sadly, no. Because we desperately need the work.
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Uber-Privileged Feminists Say “F*ck You!” to Low Income Women   4 comments

And to lesbians and to immigrant women and really to anyone who isn’t wealthy, straight, white, and preferably male and Christian. Because that’s what you’re doing when you’re supporting the presidential aspirations of anti-feminist wingnut Michele “Kill the Poor” Bachmann. And yes, The New Agenda, a nonpartisan women’s activist group, is actually urging women to vote for Bachmann, or Palin, should she throw her hat in the ring.

For those not familiar with this organization’s history, The New Agenda was founded by former Wall Street executive Amy Siskind in the aftermath of the 2008 election. Siskind, a longtime Democrat, supported Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primary and, like many of us, was appalled by the sexist treatment of first Clinton, then Palin. And so The New Agenda was created to combat sexism and elect more women to political office. Laudable objectives to be sure, except for one thing: The politics of the women they champion appear to be irrelevant; simply being equipped with a vagina is all it takes to win the support of The New Agenda.

As a result, Siskind’s organization routinely supports conservative candidates whose policies do enormous harm to huge segments of the female population. Such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who championed the nation’s toughest photo ID law in an effort to disenfranchise low income voters (who tend to vote Democratic). Cheering on Bachmann, however, is a little surprising, even for The New Agenda.

For one, Bachmann is an outspoken anti-feminist who believes wives must obey their husbands. But no worries! Siskind explains that while Bachmann may not be a feminist, she’s definitely “pro-woman”! In fact, feminism is kinda passé; the new “pro-woman” movement is where it’s at!
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Jobs Aren’t Enough   5 comments

Every time I hear that the administration needs to focus on job creation or that X number of jobs have been created last month, I can’t help but wonder what kind of jobs people are talking about. Because it’s not just jobs we need. America desperately needs well-paying jobs. The type of jobs that will allow workers to buy more than the bare necessities. The type of jobs that make home ownership possible. The type of jobs that do not leave workers dependent on government assistance. The type of jobs that produce substantial tax revenue. The type of jobs that have been eliminated in droves to be replaced–in so far as they are replaced at all–by ever lower paying jobs.

The reason the economy–and with it the country–is going down the tubes can be summed up as too much wealth in too few hands. For a while, rising property values and easy availability of consumer credit shielded most people (and the economy as a whole) from feeling the pain associated with stagnant middle and working class wages, but the massive income inequality at the root of our problems has been in the making for at least thirty years. And it has finally caught up with us. The growing number of people at the bottom of the income pyramid are going without because they can’t afford to buy much-needed products and services, while those at the top horde much of their income because they already have far more than they will ever need. Unfortunately their greed knows no bounds, so we’re seeing 25% pay increases for senior executives, while low income workers in the same company must subsist on minimum wage.

Speaking of which, what’s the point of having a minimum wage that doesn’t pay enough to live on? At $8/hr, California’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, but it’s still grossly inadequate. According to the California Budget Project, a single adult with no kids needs to earn twice the minimum wage just to make ends meet. Note that this budget does not allow for any vacation time ever (unthinkable in the rest of the developed world), nor does it include saving money for retirement or a down payment on a house. Also not included are dental/vision coverage/care, Internet access, cable or satellite TV, costs of having a pet, travel, entertainment (e.g., movies, concerts, video games, music), or saving for emergencies (such as car repairs or the included health care plan’s $500 deductible). And, of course, the cost of having and raising kids isn’t included. Families with children need to earn three to four times the minimum wage to get by.
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Sign of the (Economic) Times   1 comment

My partner got a ride into town yesterday to do some grocery shopping, and when he got to the store, he saw a long line of people leading into the store from almost halfway down the block. Turns out the store had advertised three minimum wage positions, and word got around quickly. They didn’t even have to put an ad in the paper; a sign outside the store was all it took for hundreds of people to show up!

People around here are so desperate for work that even bagging groceries or stocking shelves for minimum wage is looking real good. Given California’s high cost of living and out-of-control rents (which, btw, have only gotten worse because the foreclosure crisis increased demand for rentals), these jobs don’t even pay enough to cover the most basic necessities. But job openings have become so rare in recent years that any time a position becomes available, the response is huge.

My partner put in an application too. Getting a regular paycheck every two weeks would be enormously comforting. It’s incredibly stressful and frightening to barely scrape by as a freelancer. Every month we’re terrified that we won’t make enough money to cover our basic expenses. While it’s usually possible to delay a past-due bill for a month, doing so makes things even tougher the following month when there’s an extra bill to pay. We’re constantly teetering on the brink of total disaster, while necessary medical and dental care is put off indefinitely. We just can’t afford it. This job won’t change that, but it would provide some security and remove some of the stress that is taking a toll on our relationship.

Unfortunately my partner has little hope of being hired due to a lack of extensive retail experience. Being overqualified won’t help either. There were literally hundreds of applications for those three positions, and there are bound to be some applicants with grocery store experience.
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Poverty in America and the Emerging Slave Class   11 comments

My partner and I are poor. Really poor. We live in a small rental and we can’t afford many of the things most people take for granted: a car, TV, high speed Internet, health care, furniture. I was about to say we can’t afford anything that isn’t an absolute necessity, but then I thought of all the things we can’t afford although they are necessities, such as the aforementioned health care or even a winter coat. We’re part of a growing number of Americans who work hard, pay taxes–and barely scrape by. And there is almost no chance that our situation will improve.

From the government’s perspective, we’re doing fine. We don’t contribute to the unemployment statistics or the welfare rolls, so where’s the problem? It doesn’t matter to the powers that be that our lives are a daily grind of all work and no play. It doesn’t matter that we sleep on the floor and sometimes freeze in the winter because we can’t afford to run the heater. It doesn’t matter that we’re forced to ignore symptoms of ill health and suffer in agony because seeing a doctor or dentist isn’t financially feasible. It doesn’t matter that we own nothing, have no savings, and struggle to survive, although we’re working full time and paying taxes.

Speaking of taxes, last month we were forced to borrow money to pay our tax bill, and we’ll be paying back that loan for the rest of the year. Not because we owed such a huge amount, but because any amount is a hardship when you often don’t make enough to cover your bills and eat. What? You thought the working poor get a nice fat refund come tax time? Some do, but we’re self-employed. Self-employment taxes ate up our entire refund and left us owing Uncle Sam more money than we had. Hence the loan.

As companies increasingly hire independent contractors rather than take on new employees, more people will find themselves in our position. Although we’re technically freelancers, close to 90% of our income comes from four companies that hire us year round. We’re grateful for the work, but would we prefer steady employment with benefits? You bet!
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