Monday, April 7, 2014

Poor Works

I think Mike Rowe should come back to TV with a new show called "Poor Works" documenting the days the "working poor" or as I call them aspirational middle class are working to survive an economy that is clearly not working for them. In the age of unbelievable corporate largess in the forms of compensation and in turn profits stashed overseas and alternative businesses in which to buy back stock and further distance shareholders from governance, you wonder if the American dream is just that a dream or in fact a nightmare in which you can never escape.

 Moyers and Company had the fascinating young woman who has been going up against the Corporate bully of all times and she is still standing strong fighting for a living wage for those who serve and prepare food in our Nations soon to be largest industry - the Service Industy.

 Today Seattle made the front page of the New York Times only not about the Superbowl but about the fight for a living wage. I thoughts the fights were for professional athletes but we are all now fighting for survival and we need not just gloves but protective gear for this group is not going down without a battle. In this most "liveable city"

I find it ironic, pathetic and well not surprising that this issue is a contentious one. We had a shooting in the street the last week by our ever increasign militaristic police force and the responses were twofold: These cops are outta control or he pulled a knife. What kind of knife was this man who robbed a bank in drag carrying? A scythe? In which to warrant being gunned down in the street like a rabid escaped dog in a well to do urban neighborhood? That is a hell of a knife that no one actually saw but has been "reported" as such. Of course coming out of an overturned vehicle would have rendered him already in a state of confusion but killing him saves taxpayer trial money. We have our priorities in Seattle, I am unsure of the type or kind.


“There’s been a forced exodus of low-wage workers,” said Kshama Sawant, the City Council member, center, who is leading the push for the $15 minimum wage. Credit

SEATTLE — In January, Teresa Fuentes’s employer told her she could work no more than 30 hours a week preparing burgers and passing out food at the drive-through for about $9.50 an hour.
It was just the latest blow to her already-fragile household finances. Ms. Fuentes, 47, had missed work to take care of an eye infection for which she could not afford the prescription drops. She is struggling to take care of her two children, reliant on a local food bank, working two jobs and behind on her bills.
“It’s very stressful for me,” Ms. Fuentes said. “Things are just so tight.”

For Ms. Fuentes and thousands of other workers like her, some relief may be on the way. The Seattle City Council is intensely debating a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour from $9.32 — forging ahead on its plan to tackle income inequality as efforts in the nation’s capital have languished.

“The accumulation of 30 years of rising income inequality is finally having its impact,” said Mayor Ed Murray, sitting in his glass-walled office overlooking Puget Sound. “People can’t afford to live a decent life.”

Local policy makers “can’t just wait for Washington,” said David Rolf, the president of the local Service Employees International Union chapter.

But economists from across the political spectrum warn that the policy choices available to local governments might, at best, do little more than soften the blow from rising inequality.

“Cities just don’t have the tax and trade policy and tools to rein back inequality in a significant way,” said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “They can’t really redistribute income in the way the federal government can, so they are reaching for the levers they have.”

Nonetheless, the movement at the local level goes well beyond Seattle. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who campaigned on a platform of fighting inequality, has won support for expanding preschool education but has run into obstacles at the state level to tax the rich more to pay for programs aimed at the poor.

Cities including Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles are also considering proposals to tackle inequality, such as bolstering programs for public education, transportation, affordable housing and wages.

This patchwork effort comes as the fortunes of the haves have diverged even more from those of the have-nots across the country. The top 1 percent of households has captured about 95 percent of the income gains eked out during the tepid recovery from the Great Recession. And inequality has increased in 94 of the country’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas since 1990, growing especially wide in the last few years.

In Seattle, as in many cities with a vibrant technology sector or a thriving financial industry, the increase in income inequality has been particularly sharp.

In 1990, the average household in the top 10 percent of the income distribution in the Seattle area made about eight times as much as the average household in the bottom 10 percent earned. Now, it earns about 11 times as much. The earnings of the very richest households have diverged sharply from those in the middle, too.

Today, million-dollar condominiums are selling at a record pace downtown, Amazon is working on a gleaming new office featuring glass geodesic domes, and boutiques and high-end restaurants draw a well-heeled crowd. But high rents and stagnant wages are increasingly pushing out middle-class and low-income families like that of Ms. Fuentes, further worsening the city’s inequality.

Seattle’s politicians — who generally range from left to far-left — said the result had been a less inclusive and less fair city. “There’s been a forced exodus of low-wage workers,” said Kshama Sawant, the City Council member who is leading the push for the $15 minimum wage. “Life is very hard for a large majority of people, and there’s a burning anger about these things.”

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