Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

April 23, 2013

We the People: Why we gotta be so mean?

CROSSVILLE — Forty-five years ago this month Martin Luther King Jr. was visiting our state to help “working poor” people, the Memphis sanitation workers. Despite long hours at jobs nobody else wanted, they couldn’t earn a wage that allowed them to support their families. Two of them died due to negligence.

Dr. King marched with the workers. He was slain for his efforts. Stand on the balcony by Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel. The feeling is profound.

A year earlier Dr. King stated, “There are literally two Americas… people who have food and material necessities… culture and education for their minds… The other America has …poor by the millions… perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

He wasn’t talking about racism alone; he was talking about the poor among us. The same words apply 45 years later.

46.2 million Americans live in families that work, often full-time, and still earn less than the poverty line. They are trying. They aren’t the GOP’s “takers.” If we add those who cannot afford basic needs of food, housing and transportation, 146 million Americans are in the poor-but-working middle class. Nearly half of these families are white. But poverty afflicts African-American and Latino populations disproportionately.

Why does such meanness persist?

The income gap has widened. CEO pay has grown 127 times faster than that of average workers over the last 30 years. One out of every four Americans earns less than $10/hour.

Educational opportunities that might lead to better jobs are out of reach for working folks in communities and states that are hacking away at school finance. Those who do earn a high school diploma will earn $12,000 less annually than the average grad in 1980. College costs keep that opportunity available for only 30 percent of Americans.

How about increasing the minimum wage? The knee-jerk conservative response is that it would “kill” job growth. Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn whines that it would prevent teenagers from getting jobs and learning responsibility, like she did in the late ‘60’s. At that time the minimum wage was around $2.15/hour. In today’s economy that would be around $13/hour, not the current $7.25.

Respected economists have found that increasing the minimum wage to just $10.10 by July 2015, would increase the GDP by $32.6 billion and create 140,000 jobs. And it would certainly offer relief to working poor families.

Apparently it’s easy to be mean. The South has a higher number of struggling families, yet both Blackburn and our own Congresswoman Diane Black have earned an F- for their voting record on poverty. Our beloved Tennessee legislature is planning to “fix” things by cutting benefits to families whose children fail a grade. This “Starve our Children” plan is supported by our own Representative Sexton. Talk about blaming the victim!

Poverty among us is bad for everyone. One study finds that U.S. taxpayers already pay more than $1 billion annually helping working poor employees at Walmart. Increased productivity won’t improve our economy when wages haven’t kept pace. Who can buy the stuff being produced?

Let’s take back the argument from the Ayn Rand devotees with their irrational disgust for the poor and model this country on the words and actions of Reverend King.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
Parade
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar