The “Amercian Dream”. What does that even mean anymore? When my dad brought my mother and myself here from Afghanistan, it meant that anyone who worked hard and saved his/her money could make a good, honest life for him/herself. Not anymore. The media and government would have you believe there is a new class category in today’s America called “the working poor.” I would argue that there has always been a working poor, however, there are more of them today than there was yesterday. But we can get into that another time.
When working class people and people living below the poverty line receive money from Social Security, healthcare from Medicare, nutrition from food stamps, and other social welfare benefits, the conservatives and the rich would would have you believe that they are receiving so-called “entitlements”. As in, “How dare those dirty poor people think they are entitled to MY tax dollars??” Let’s be clear, Richie Rich, poor people are responsible for paying Uncle Sam from their meager little check, too.
In the latest race to snatch away the entitlements of the working poor, the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections (which probably should be renamed the “House Subcommittee on CEO profit-share Protections”) introduced the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. Theoretically, it would allow workers to choose between getting overtime pay or being comped with additional time off. Seems like a totally non-evil scheme on the surface, sure. But let’s look at how this plays out in practice:
I get paid on an hourly basis. If you ask me to work 45 hours this week, not only are you legally required to pay me my regular salary, but now you have to add 5 hours of time-and-a-half to my paycheck. You needed the work to get done, but now you’re stuck paying me more money. Money I really needed. Boo-hoo for you.
Now, you’re presented with this option of not having to pay me for that extra 5 hours of work. You still have to pay me my regular salary, because let’s face it, this isn’t a garment factory in Bangladesh, but whatever, you’ll figure a way around that another day. But now you can just say, “Hey, do me this solid and stay another 5 hours and I promise, one day, I’ll let you have 5 hours off of work. Deal?”
It’s a month down the line and your dog is sick. You need to take him to the vet, so you ask your boss, “Remember that extra 5 hours I worked a month ago?”
Boss, “Kind of…”
You, “I need to take my dog to the vet today, so I’ll probably need to use 2 hours of that time today. I’ll be in around 11am.”
Boss, “Actually, today I have to leave early to go to the chiropractor and I need to make sure there is coverage at the front desk. Can it wait until another day?”
You, “Well, I think he got into my secret chocolate stash last night and today he’s been throwing up, he’s lethargic, I really don’t think this can wait…”
Boss, “Yeah, it’s just chocolate. He probably just has a tummy ache. Rub his belly and tell him to walk it off. I’ll see you as usual at 9am. I left a pile of work for you on your desk. Thanks.”
Ok, maybe it doesn’t go down exactly like that, but you get the point. There are a lot of questions surrounding H.R. 1406: whether it is the employer or the employee who gets to decide when that extra time is taken off, under what circumstances, and whether the employee really will get the right to choose between overtime pay or overtime time off.
With the economy the way it is, a lot of employees feel the pressure of keeping the jobs they do have. They are constantly reminded, whether explicitly or not, by their bosses that there are literally hundreds of people lined up for your job if you’re not satisfied with it.
I’m just going to put it out there: Yes, employees are entitled to receive proper compensation for their time, skills, and labor. And yes, I do think taxes are the cost of living in a civilized society. And yes, I do think that when you fall on hard times, one of the benefits of citizenship is that your government helps you out a bit. I’m not talking about buying you a mansion to live in and a Mercedes to drive you there. But I’m talking about providing you with healthcare, food, and safety. Have you been to the projects in any city? If you want to call that an “entitlement”… I don’t know, maybe you just need a new dictionary or something.
Maybe you’re finding it hard to sympathize with me here. I get it. Even the media are having a hard time sympathizing with the poor… although, I’ve got to hand it to them, they sure are trying. Check out all of these sad sacks all bummed out about their taxes going up. How will they ever survive on their meager salaries???
Let’s bring this discussion full circle: My dad was making less than $35,000/year when he retired. That was the peak of his salary. The peak. But somehow, he and my mom, who made even less than him, managed to pay their taxes every year, buy a house, buy themselves cars, buy me a car, and pay for my education on their salaries. I never remember them looking as sad as the assholes in this picture who are making between 3 and 10 times what they made!! If you are making $650,000/year and you can’t figure out how to make ends meet, YOU, my friend, are the entitled asshole. Wow, it looks like I may be lacking in some sympathy too…