Thursday, January 11, 2007
Spoken like someone who has never had to, y'know, work for a living.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) made headlines last month after complaining about Congress’ new schedule that requires members to work five days a week:
“Keeping us up here eats away at families,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. “Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families — that’s what this says.”
Last night, Kingston offered some advice for Americans living in poverty: work longer hours. During House debate over the minimum wage, Kingston said raising the minimum wage would do nothing for poor Americans. Instead, if people marry and work longer hours, “they would be out of poverty,” he said. “It’s an economic fact.”
Kingston is wrong. The annual salary for full-time workers earning the federal minimum wage “still leaves a family of three about $6,000 short of the poverty threshold.”
KINGSTON: If the Democrat Party truly wanted to take on poverty, they would have to say what is the relationship between marriage and the poverty level and between hours worked and the poverty level, because the truth of the matter is, if people end poverty, many of them would marry and work 40 hours a week, they would be out of poverty. … It’s not something I have the knowledge of or the information of, but it’s an economic fact that I hope we could have committee hearings on and discuss this. If we want to attack poverty, that’s where we need to go. With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
See, this is a beautiful example of the fake "moralism" in this country: Poor people are poor because it's their own fault. They're lazy.
I truly believe it might never have occurred to Rep. Kingston that, for instance, a person might not be able to get 40 hours because the business cannot sustain it. Or because an employer might not want to, or be able to, pay for health care for that employee (usually based on an hours-per-week threshhold), or for a number of employees. (Wal*Mart, anyone?) Or because the employee can't pay for child care, or at least not full-time child care. Or because of public transportation schedules. Or any of a slew of other reasons.
And what does marriage have to do with it? Married people only make more money if both of them have jobs. If one of them stays home to raise children, that's a whole income missing from the equation -- you slackers!
John Tierney and David Brooks had some columns in the New York Times to this same effect last year. The gist was that you had to work your ass off to get anywhere in this country, unless of course you were a pundit for the New York Times. They seemed especially determined to convince people that women had to get a job, keep house, and have babies, foregoing any education or career until their forties if necessary. No, I'm not kidding.
In the spirit of Bill Maher, I propose a New Rule: Nobody can make asinine comments on how easy it is for people to just buckle down and overwork themselves out of poverty, let alone asinine laws about it, until they have lived for at least a calendar quarter by working at McDonald's. Pay your rent, your phone bill, your car payment and gas, clothes for the kids, oh yeah, food, heat and water if they're not part of the rent, electricity, cable TV if you have it, and any emergency that might pop up. And, in particular, anyone who's bitched about his own five-day work week has no business suggesting a longer one for anybody.
I have nothing to add to your comments on the matter.