Poor People Can’t Have iPhones

They should have paper sacks for clothes, Razr flip phones from 2005, and never be seen with a pair of Jordans.

This is the message. That poor people can’t have nice things. Complaints from well clothed & fed filled with vitriol about how they are being taxed for welfare yet poor people “take advantage of the system”. How they saw a line of people waiting for the new Jordans instead of investing their money. Even though many factors have been assumed; such as everyone in this Jordan line have bad financial habits. Or that the working class’s paychecks don’t get taxed just as much as they do.

A snapshot of  the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-S.N.A.P. (formerly known as foodstamps) household below:

SNAP Partcipants 44,700,000
Average Household Size 2.1

SNAP Characteristics

SNAP average

source: Strayer, M. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Research and Analysis. (2011). Characteristics of supplemental nutrition assistance program households: Fiscal year 2011. Retrieved from website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/ops/research-and-analysis

However, I will still hear anecdotes from people on how they saw “a woman with a Coach clutch with $900 worth of food stamps”. Nothing infuriates me more during a debate than a person using their singular story to generalize a whole population. Even though it has already been proven that their story is not the average. This anger with the poor working class is one that is truly pointless, useless, and baseless. It’s just one of the many tools that divides us up. This tactic of framing the oppressed as the ones to blame have been used for centuries. For instance, the race riots of the late 1800s-early 1900’s were mainly poor white immigrants [Irish, German, etc] taking out their anger about the lack of jobs on black workers. Killing hundreds. Many companies would use non-union blacks to fill jobs during strikes as a strike busting tactic. So instead of the employer receiving the ultimate heat, blacks were easier punching bags and therefore easier to blame. They sided with the emotionally supportive rewards of white supremacy and nothing changed. Employers continued to use bad labor practices.

Today I hear people complain about ‘Mexicans taking our jobs’ and how they’re ‘not being a contributing citizen’. Even though being ‘paid under the table’ has nothing to do with them but everything to do with the employer. The employer. The companies. The conglomerates. Major economic and political players still get away, unscathed, with billions even after collapsing the economy. Receive shady loopholes and payoffs that skyrocket their profits and pay workers meager wages; which in result strain the overall financial health of this nation.

These practices cause the stress of the middle and lower class’s pockets. Not the Mexican immigrant trying to provide for their family or the person collecting Unemployment Insurance. Raising wages would actually help heal our economy and reduce poverty.

Living Wage

Yet the story is that “burger flippers” don’t deserve a living wage. Why is that? Well the arguments I have gotten is that they ‘receive less training’ or that their jobs are ‘low-skill’. Let’s not confuse low-wage with low skill. Low wage jobs include nursing aids, factory workers, chicken plant workers, elderly care aids, airport workers, security guards, grocery store cashiers, etc.

“Well they should want more, I have a bachelors and I don’t make $15/hr.”

It’s pretty obvious in 2014 that a degree doesn’t guarantee financial success. We have PhDs on welfare. That doesn’t mean that low-wage workers should struggle on $7.25/hr. Overall if your employer doesn’t pay market price for your labor and adjust for cost of living, once again that is the employer’s fault. Not the “burger flipper”.

“They didn’t work as hard as me, so they don’t deserve all of that money. They should’ve went to school.”

When the reality is, they worked just as hard, if not harder. This is just talking wages. Not even benefits and other perks of more higher wage jobs. This is bare bones. Plus, if one can afford basic living expenses, that is the only way they can ‘do better’ is when they can finally stop living in a constant game of catchup. Not everyone had the means and the opportunity to go to college [a whole other discussion for those who want to contest that]. It bothers me that blame falls with the working class for the current economic landscape and barely on the people who have created this burden. It is also peculiar that when it comes to helping the poor, that’s when critics pop up about how much everything costs.

We should all practice financial stewardship; but feeling the need to severely police a poor person for obtaining a smartphone over policing the actual creators of our current economic condition…is very troubling. Even more disturbing it has been working for centuries while a select few get to sit back and count the money while we all argue with each other.

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed”- Herman Melville

Inspired by the book:“The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and Their Families”

Living Wage NYC Landscape Assessment: Spring 2013 (Course: Marketing Social Good). Written and Researched in collaboration with Josette Compton and Amy Chasan

Check out the Center for Urban Pedagogy’s Interactive Project: Envisioning Development [in NYC]

Join the Living Wage fight: Nationally: http://www.raisetheminimumwage.com/facts/

Living Wage NYC: http://www.livingwagenyc.org/

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One thought on “Poor People Can’t Have iPhones

  1. Pingback: Fast Food Workers, Angry Student Loan Holders, and the Swindle | We Maraud For Ears

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