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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weekend Reflections: Minimum Wage Wars on Humanity

I stumbled across (not upon) this article via the Washington Post without knowing the history of the person who started at Hardee's and is now some sort of political person. I didn't bother to look her up. I know many rags to riches success stories -- but many more rags to more rags stories. But I digress.

Trashed dreams?
WPost: Day in the Life of Hardee's Employee Article

Stock photos courtesy MorgueFile & used with permission.

Ann Hull wrote quite the short story / expose about a day in the life of the average fast food worker. As a human interest story, it tugged heartstrings. As an educational piece promoting raising the minimum wage -- it fell short. Very short. Just look at the comments.

Judgmentally, I was saying the same things. A $200 tattoo? Cigarettes? Who needs multiple HDMI cables? Who has kids at 18 by multiple dads? Who misses financial aid deadlines?  

Where are their parents? 

Having a tattoo doesn't make one a bad parent.

 In a perfect world, everyone would have parents helping make sure that s/he struggled a little less and was at least a little more successful in life than the parents themselves. We don't live in a perfect world. Not to mention that such perfection would mean different things to different people. Being rich and being happy may not be mutually exclusive, but happiness seems more attainable to me than wealth. To a rich person, happiness may be just as elusive. To a person living in poverty, I am wealthy. Compared to the superintendent of my son's school district (who has been in the same position since I started school in the same district over 30 years ago), the CEO of WalMart (or pick a Walton), any living president of the University I graduated from, or even the people who live in the posh neighborhood across the street from me, my family's paycheck-to-paycheck existence and rented home keep us very near the poverty line. It's all relative.

Many things I wanted five years ago have been acquired -- debts paid off, new car, better place to live. A trip to Florida to see the Harry Potter amusement park with my kid. A book published and sales to my name. Having accomplished those, I'm not satisfied. Debt has crept back in -- new car, furniture for the new house, moving fees, funeral expenses, a new laptop, and the trip. We got out of debt only to climb right back into bed with it. Like a child, I still want more things. I want more vacations. I want to worry less about money. I want savings and retirement accounts. I want health insurance that costs less than my car payment and would kick in before I'd spent $10K out of pocket. I want someone to typeset, edit, and format my books for me. A marketing director who would do the asking so I didn't have to. I want money to pay an artist -- or a team of them. I want, and I don't feel like I'm asking for a lot.

One person in the article thought that $28,000 a year was good money. That's what her mother made. And she wasn't doing better than that working at Hardee's. Granted, it's more than I've made in book sales and speaking fees. A lot more. But it isn't a living wage, as far as I'm concerned.

I don't have tattoos. I don't drink. I've never been to jail. I have an undergraduate degree with no student loans to repay. (I did attend, but did not graduate from, graduate school. I had a student loan for that. It has been repaid. My husband, who earned a PhD, still has student loans.) All four of our parents were college graduates. We both have friends whose parents were single tattooed chain smokers, and some of them grew up like the young people in this article. Others grew up and have jobs that make more than we do. My husband and I did not seek wealth as a primary reason for employment. We wanted steady incomes in jobs that made a difference -- for both of us, the difference we wanted to make was combatting combating (that just looks wrong, like the a should be long) combatting (it may be wrong, but it looks better) ignorance. But neither of us are doing the work we went to college to pursue.

There are opportunities in this growing Arkansas area that don't exist in truly rural areas -- like where my father grew up. My mother's family was never in poverty, but as an army brat, my mother spent time worrying about her dad in combat in an existence I don't wish upon any kid. To know that these days, active military service does not set a family up for financial security is an outrage. The growing gap between the haves and the have nots just gets wider and wider. And people do lose hope.

Until we can effect true change in our nation, we will have hopeless citizens striving to be happy because financial gain is elusive. And if tattoos, cigarettes, and cable TV makes someone feel life is more than suicide, or homicide, or some other kind of felony -- then we should support that. After all, it is a lot easier and cheaper to support the poor's extravagances than to fight the massive crime spree of our nation's politicians, Wall Street, and the terminally elite.

Author Photo by Tori Brunson

Phyl Campbell is Author, Mother, Dreamer. She writes on a variety of topics: Parenting, How-To, Grammar, Women/Feminism/Equality, Book Reviews, Work in Progress and Reflections. Her books are available on Amazon and she's pursuing her dreams as a motivational and professional speaker. If you'd like to see her speak at an upcoming function, contact her through her website or Facebook page.