22 October 2011

That "I am the 53%" guy

Daily Kos has reposted a great open letter to this guy:



This stood out to me the most:
Do you really want the bar set this high?  Do you really want to live in a society where just getting by requires a person to hold down two jobs and work 60 to 70 hours a week?  Is that your idea of the American Dream?

Do you really want to spend the rest of your life working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week?  Do you think you can?  Because, let me tell you, kid, that’s not going to be as easy when you’re 50 as it was when you were 20.

And what happens if you get sick?  You say you don’t have health insurance, but since you’re a veteran I assume you have some government-provided health care through the VA system.  I know my father, a Vietnam-era veteran of the Air Force, still gets most of his medical needs met through the VA, but I don’t know what your situation is.  But even if you have access to health care, it doesn’t mean disease or injury might not interfere with your ability to put in those 60- to 70-hour work weeks.
Do you plan to get married, have kids?  Do you think your wife is going to be happy with you working those long hours year after year without a vacation?  Is it going to be fair to her?  Is it going to be fair to your kids?  Is it going to be fair to you?

The article reflects the reaction I had to this picture. First, I don't see why having to work two jobs and endure 70-hour work weeks are things to be proud of. Sometimes it's just what you have to do, but it's a pretty shitty life, especially if you have a family. Working two jobs, and still not being able to afford health insurance? That's something to boast about? Does that make you tough? When you get sick, what happens? I mean, a bout with the flu could seriously impact your earnings if you have to miss work from two jobs -- what happens if it's cancer? And if you can't even afford it for yourself, what happens if you have kids? Are you going to tell them that vaccines are for pussies? Stitch them up yourself when they take a spill on the playground? Hold them in front of the microwave to treat their cancer?

There are other long-term questions. If you have to work this hard just to get by, how much are you saving? Because, as the article rightly observes, two jobs and 70 hours isn't going to be so easy in 30 years. What happens when you reach retirement age, or when people simply won't hire you because there are plenty of younger, tougher workers wanting your jobs? What about your kids' college education? Is this the kind of life you want for them, too?

Obviously this fellow has worked hard, and I don't think anyone want to diminish that. But working yourself to the bone just to scrape by is not the American dream.


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