Who actually makes the US work?

“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.”   ---Vietnamese

Writers whom I admire include John Steinbeck who wrote of the nobility, decency, and generosity of those who work hard and earn little money.   In Grapes of Wrath and In Dubious Battle, the laborers and their families are victims of drought, the economy, and of land owners and managers.  I also like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as he revealed the worthlessness and skewed morals of the rich.   

Those books reflect the era of the Great Depression, the 1930’s.  The message is as good now as it was then.

In recent years, we have been witness to great disparities of income.  The gap between the wealthy and the poor grows, and the middle class disappears.  Between 1993 and 2012, the income of the richest 1% grew 86.1%, while the incomes of the 99% grew 6.6% during that time.  People are also working harder and longer hours and postponing retirement.

The fortune of the Walton family, the Walmart people, is over $115 Billion!  You would have to work at Walmart for 7 million---yes million---years to earn that much money.  In 2010 the Walton wealth was as much as 41.5 % of ALL American families.  (Mother Jones, 2012)  The U of California, Berkley, estimates that each Walmart store of 200 employees who are paid an average wage of $8.81 per hour, costs taxpayers $400,000 per year in public assistance such as WIC, energy assistance grants, food stamps, and Medicaid. 

Is it any surprise that the Walton’s pressure congress to eliminate the Inheritance Tax?

Few ordinary Americans earn enough money to manipulate the system to avoid taxes.  In fact, most of us are willing to pay our fair share.  But the GOP is unwilling to raise any “new revenue” by raising taxes or social security contributions on the wealthy.

I recently read that tax loopholes cost the American economy $85 billion a year!  (Remember that Romney used those loopholes by stashing his wealth over seas to avoid paying taxes!)  Romney even said, “I enjoy firing people!”  His ingratitude to the US and to his employees to helped  him accumulate his wealth is appalling.

Consider Michelle Obama’s view:

“We learned about gratitude and humility---that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept the school clean…and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.”

That $85 billion lost to the US treasury through loopholes that have benefitted the Waltons, Romney and others, would triple the money to fund WIC, Head Start, Domestic Violence Protection, and Cancer Care at the National Institutes of Health.  I wonder how many people die for lack of cancer care, or how many babies’ brains will not develop properly due to lack of nutrition, or how many children and adults will suffer or die due to domestic violence.

While the government was shut down and 800,000 civil servants were sent home, no money was saved as congress decided to pay them while they were home.  

GOP/Teas COST the US $24 billion.  And, meanwhile, most congress critters of both houses and both parties continued to collect their salaries, and enjoy their benefits, which include a fine health insurance plan, a fine retirement plan, and a congressional gym. 

That gym includes a heated pool, paddle ball courts, flat screen TVs, and towel service.  I saw one of them on TV, griping that the towels were available during the shut down, but now They had to wash them themselves!  He offered no compassion for the workers who were laid off.  It seemed he only thought of his own minor inconvenience that HE had to wash his own towels.  He seemed clueless that he might be grateful to the workers who kept his life comfortable. 

I thought of my grandmother, who washed clothes on a washboard.  Who pumped the water and heated it on a cast iron range; who hung the laundry on a clothes line, even in freezing weather; who brought it in and sprinkled it, then  ironed those clothes and table clothes---she even ironed sheets--- with an iron heated on that wood burning stove.  She knew work, and she knew doing FOR others.  She did not know SLOTH and she did not need a gym to get her exercise. 

The congress critter I saw on TV gave not a moment’s thought to the workers who kept the congressional gym clean, or to the person who laundered and ironed his sparkling white shirt.  Or those of us who pay the taxes for his salary of $174,000 per year---the salary he was unwilling to forego, but willing to take from those who make far, far less.

And I’m quite confident that when he eats (food he doesn’t cook, I’d wager) that he gives no thought to the person who planted the tree, who stooped to pick the strawberries, milked the cow, or did the myriad other kinds of work that keep his (and our lives) comfortable.

He would be wise to remember the working poor, the folks who built American and who keep it going. 

“No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others.  The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”

Alfred North Whitehead