Young Man Blues — We’re not lazy, you’re just greedy!

“But you know nowadays,

It’s the old man, he’s got all the money

And a young man ain’t got nothin’ in the world these days”

Image by Vincent Desjardins

The economy sure has recovered for some of us. Not most. Image by Vincent Desjardins

Lately the news has been awash with headlines proclaiming the economy, at least in the United States, to be on the mend. Not only that, but the Dow Jones recently saw a high that, though it might not have technically been an all time record, is certainly an indicator of recent economic changes. So clearly the economy is getting better – but for whom?

We hear a lot of rhetoric from the Right, particularly from the Randroids like Ryan and Paul, about individuals who supposedly mooch off of government “hand-outs;” growing fat and lazy these individuals would rather lay around and watch day time TV than get a job and help out our struggling economy. Even GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, was infamously recorded on video, in 2012, expressing his belief to a room full of wealthy campaign supporters that 47% of the voting country was a loss because that many people were enjoying “entitlements” and “hand-outs” from the government under Obama and as such would not vote for Romney for fear of losing them.

Atlas didn't quite shrug that "47%" remark off, did he? (Photo by Toby Alter)

Atlas didn’t quite shrug that “47%” remark off, did he? (Photo by Toby Alter)

The real question then is: What are those who are so heavily opposed to so-called “moochers” in the US actually doing to realistically reduce their need and encourage them to work?  In other words, what is really being done to curtail welfare use?

For the GOP, it’s a double standard – most government “entitlements” in the US go to corporations and large businesses, not individuals and “welfare queens.” As such, when the sequester came around which saw cuts to their government welfare — where did those cuts end up? Not for the “welfare kings,” those of us who are already wealthiest among us, but for programs like Headstart and unemployment. But of course, they deserve it, don’t they?

The Randroids in Congress believe that a successful, wealthy corporation deserves support where an unproven and (supposedly) undeserving individual does not – capital is not something to be flinged around indiscriminately, apparently. Unfortunately, such a mentality is exactly what has taken us to this point – where the job market is so awful that even college graduates are increasingly filling minimum wage jobs for lack of alternatives. Some low-skill jobs are even beginning to actually require a college degree – like at McDonalds. Then what happens? By filling our low-skill, low pay jobs with overqualified workers those who don’t have a college degree are being pushed out of the job market altogether. Not looking good, is it?

Couple that with this the fact that not only has 149% of the increased income just between 2009 and 2011 has gone to the nation’s top 10% of earners – but that since 1966 the average income for the bottom 90% has only increased an astonishing $59 and I’ve got to ask again – what is being done to keep individuals from becoming the “moochers” Republicans seem to despise so much? They seem to be more interested in creating a need for welfare than anyone.

The old wisdom (emphasis on old) was that if you were spending more than a week’s worth of wages/income on your housing and living expenses, you were living beyond your means. I doubt I have to point out that this is not the case anymore, nor has it been for a very long time. Costs of living, especially housing, have risen without restraint, as has everything else.

Not only have I got mine Jack, I've also got yours! (Photo by Liz West)

Grip it tighter Randroids, I’m sure you can afford to get treatment when the blood clot forms (Photo by Liz West)

So why have wages not risen as well, to match? The answer is obvious: Businesses do not want to pay their employees a livable wage. Every penny withheld is a penny more of profits this fiscal quarter to be touted to stockholders. This is why the federal minimum wage was introduced – to guarantee that American workers would be paid reasonably and fairly, not endlessly exploited. However, frozen at $7.25, the federal minimum wage has not been actively updated to achieve this end, to adjust for productivity, inflation, and costs of living. Recently Senator Warren raised this question herself and cited a study which indicated that had the federal minimum wage been adjusted periodically for increases in worker productivity it would be at $22 today.

Though an increase of the federal minimum wage to $22 is not actually being argued for by Warren, any substantial increase will have significantly beneficial effects for many Americans. If Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney and their sort are so concerned about this “moocher class” in America, then how about giving individuals a reason to work? When we’ve got a great number of individuals in this country who are working full time, doing their jobs well, but cannot earn enough to do much more than pay rent, utilities, and this week’s expenses – even when they have earned an expensive college degree – the need for welfare becomes inevitable. And when you’ve got qualified, educated individuals being continually rejected by potential employers repeatedly for years, and considering the above, what incentive is there to get a “proper job” anyway?

As welfare exists in this country at present, it doesn’t even “lift” people – it’s reserved for only the most needy and withdrawn the moment the recipient gets a grueling 40+ hour a week job that pays just above minimum wage; very much punishing those who gain employment or try to improve their economic situation. Go on paying them as little as possible – you’ll continue to see people turning to welfare out of necessity.

Frankly, it is not that complicated. You don’t need to have an economics doctorate to realize that if you pay your workers fairly instead of exploiting their labor for every cent of profit possible, then people will be able to support themselves and not need government “hand outs and entitlements.” If people have money to do more than keep a roof over their heads and feed their children, then they will be able to stimulate the economy, which in recent decades has become undeniably consumerist in focus. Take away consumers‘ ability to consume in a consumption-oriented economy, and economic recession should be expected. Really, it’s not difficult to comprehend – the only possible reason this logic hasn’t been followed or implemented into action is that there is an echelon of lawmakers and politicians who have only the interests of themselves and theirs to drive their agendas: Selfishness.

I’m tired of hearing about “moochers” and how my generation (yes, I’m that generation) is lazy and entitled – hell yes we feel entitled, after years of expensive college education, to get a job that gives us dignity and pays us enough to actually live. Many in this country refuse to go flip burgers because the top 10% of this country feel that they are so special and talented that somehow it entitles them to reap the majority of the profits the working class generates for them.

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Congrats! You are now qualified to work at McDonald’s…maybe. (Image courtesy Mary Gober)

Stop calling yourself “job creators” and instead “people exploiters” – that’s what you are. If employers wanted to have employees rather than profit generators then they wouldn’t require you to surrender two years of labor for free (called “internships”) in order to even be considered for a low-paying position in your field of interest. If employers and businessmen are genuinely concerned about the American workforce and our capability – you’re going to have to give a chance that doesn’t involve slave labor. No one should have to work for free in order to get a job; the education is the qualification, is it not?

As Warren asked during the recent Congressional hearings, “With a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn’t go to the worker.” No, the difference went into the pockets of this nation’s wealthiest – those who continue to funnel profits and taxpayer dollars their way, even with one fifth of this nation’s children in a highly preventable state of poverty. Or is it just that our nation’s children deserve it, born of some “original sin” of poverty?

Go ahead and shrug you Atlases (Atlasi?). I think the you’ll find the rest of the world will be relieved to no longer be drug around at the whim of the selfish and greedy whose comfort and excess is only the result of our exploitation. Good riddance to selfish rubbish!