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Finding Zero

A Facebook meme pictured a sign, “We are out of French Frizes.” Underneath was the comment, “This guy wants $15.00 per hour.” We’re taught and conditioned each day to hate our fellow-man. If the minimum wage were indexed to inflation, the current minimum wage would be around $22.00 per hour. Of course, we can’t do that, automatic pay increases are reserved only for members of Congress.

What the author of the meme missed is that you can either pay people a living wage, or you can pay for not providing a minimum wage. Restaurant employees often go to work hungry, think about that for a second. While you’re eating your steak or munching on your tasty salad, the server who brought it to you might not have eaten today. The callous comment, “Well, they should get a better job then!” We aren’t talking about buying new cars; we are talking about having enough to eat. The restaurant workers and retail workers are living off of food stamps; unable to earn subsistence, we’re willing to subsidize low wage employers, by subsidizing poverty, while blaming those who are only trying to subsist.

The same politicians who told us NAFTA and free trade were going to bring us new jobs are the very politicians who now point and call Americans lazy. The old adage says death is the great equalizer, but I think it’s food. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The belly is an ungrateful wretch, it never remembers past favors, it always wants more tomorrow.” An empty refrigerator is more powerful than a college education. It’s learning Kung Fu from Bruce Lee or boxing fundamentals by three rounds with Mohamed Ali. Pennies become precious, gas money for a raggedy old car or a bus pass becomes a choice between trying today and eating tomorrow. Once your immediate hunger relents comes the fear for tomorrow.

I’ve seen the politicians trying to relate to American poverty and hunger by living on a food stamp budget for a month. No, no, no. Kudos for trying, but try six months or a year after all the little things in your kitchen are gone. Say you need flour, that’s $2.50 or $3.00 and it’s the 22nd and you might only have $20.00 left for the rest of the month. These things rock along and come the first of the month, you’re out of everything. You start the new month without salt or pepper, mayo, margarine, cooking oil or milk. Milk is a good example, if you only use milk to cook with like me it goes into the miscellaneous file. You only have $185.00 per month, so you can’t afford $40.00 of the miscellaneous. This pushes you into the smaller size, more expensive by volume purchases.

Poverty builds lousy consumers; $10.00 in food stamps is a better bargain than $3.00 in gas money when you don’t have the three dollars. Ditto for drug testing welfare and food stamp recipients. Drugs cost money and if you don’t have enough money for food…well? It’s that food/poverty disconnect. The well-fed believe if you are poor there’s something wrong with you. You’re probably a criminal just out to game the system. What is the most available, most abused, inexpensive drug in this country? It’s alcohol, does alcohol show up on a drug test? Nope. What is the most dangerous, most destructive and violence-inducing drug in America, it’s alcohol.

Salmon swim upstream to spawn, they keep swimming until they either run out of water or give out from exhaustion. It’s what scientists would call the “lazy salmon / drug abusing salmon” syndrome. Salmon that fail to spawn must be defective, they make poor choices! Ever heard that one before? They should have swum over to the Atlantic Ocean; or they shouldn’t have been born in an inner city aquarium. They should move to where more water is available. And they would too, if they weren’t so lazy and drug-addled!

I wonder sometimes if a foreign visitor to this country were to step off the plane and announce: “You Americans are no good! A bunch of lazy drug-addled slobs!” Let me at ’em! I’ll show you lazy, Bubba!” Yet we let our politicians say these things about us, without penalty. But again, it’s not party speaking, it’s stomach. Ask at any food bank “who the lazy people are in America?” They will tell you it’s the politicians. If you’re poor and need help government is your last recourse. When government not only doesn’t want to help, but treats you as a criminal, that’s stealing your lunch and talking bad about your mama!

“We don’t ask you to believe in our ability to bring change, rather, we ask you to believe in yours.” ~ Barack Obama

President Obama is saying, if you’re waiting on us to help you, that bus ain’t coming.

Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

I met a woman in a food bank one day and although missing a front tooth, she was still quite attractive. I don’t know why she didn’t have that tooth fixed, and her coat needed a good dry cleaning, too; but that’s just the way with lazy people. As we talked, I asked what she did for a living. She explained she’d been violinist for the symphony orchestra in town. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes, a violinist in a symphony orchestra, with all the good truck driving jobs available. The symphony had gone out on strike because they hadn’t had a raise in five years and the millionaires who ran the symphony merely disbanded the orchestra. Hell, it’s not like anyone would miss it.

She’d tried giving music lessons, but in a sour economy that went out the window. Besides, anyone can buy a used violin and teach themselves to play in a symphony orchestra, it only takes a couple of weeks. She’d made poor career choices; playing violin in the symphony doesn’t really give you the necessary skills to drive a forklift. A college degree in music doesn’t really help you much working at 7-11. I guess she’d just been foolish to dream.

The other day I was at the food bank and it looked like a senior center, without the checker board. Lazy, shiftless seniors, all talking about their health problems, bad knees, bad hips and a myriad of maladies, what were these people thinking? Didn’t they know they’d get old someday? Didn’t they suspect the plant would relocate to Mexico? Why didn’t they anticipate skyrocketing health care costs? Seniors are the most common recipients of food banks, these are the people the politicians want to drug test for food stamps.

It’s a long process finding zero, everytime you think you’ve hit bottom someone shows you the stairs down. I got a letter the other day from the food stamp office explaining they were increasing my benefits by $8.00 a month, after cutting them by $15 per month last year. I got another letter two days later telling me it was time for my semi-annual evaluation. Ten thousand letters times forty-eight cents, times ten thousand more letters, times forty-eight cents. Plus ten thousand envelopes, ten thousand sheets of paper, printer cartridges and labor. It’s like trying to make a doorstop by cutting up an eight foot 2×4, spending $1.25 trying to keep hungry seniors, children and the unemployed from stealing a dollar.

It’s that food disconnect again; nobody steals food if they have food. Only people with food think people steal food.

Cross Posted from http://www.alifeahead.com/2014/09/22/finding-zero/

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David Cox

David Cox

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