Who are the demonized 47 percent of Americans labeled as takers and who only “want free stuff”? Let me give you a portrait of one of them.
While traveling to Jeff City for a hearing, I stopped for a restroom break at Kingdom City. It was a little before six in the morning, and I was greeted with a pleasant hello from an employee cleaning the urinals in the men’s room. He is the face of the 47 percent, the working poor.
Unfortunately, right wing extremists would have you believe this attendant is a taker. Instead he really is a hard working underappreciated contributor. He is joined by dirt poor share croppers like my grandparents, the waitress at your favorite restaurant, the immigrant who mows your lawn, and close to half of America’s population who are working below or close to poverty wages.
We want our 79 cent tacos, our lawns mowed and homes cleaned for as little as possible, and the cheapest price at the pump. In order to for that to happen, we have sanctioned the one of the lowest minimum wages in the world as a percentage of average income.
Here is how our perverse welfare system works: Big business, especially agri-business, has convinced too many of us to drink their Kool-Aid laced propaganda claiming they cannot possibly survive without the lowest possible minimum wage coupled with almost zero benefits. Because their employees cannot survive on these wages, society is forced to supplement their pay with compensation for food, housing, and medical care.
So, who’s really on welfare? The employee who is willing to clean urinals at six in the morning? His employer whose poverty wages have to be augmented by our tax dollars? Or us? After all, we’re the ones clamoring for lower and lower prices.
It is disingenuously to call the low wage workers ‘takers’. We’re the ones who want a 79 cent taco and a burger for dollar. In fact, our welfare system is really best described as a pay me now or pay me later system. Low consumer prices demand low wages, which begets more people unable to survive on their salary, which leads to higher taxes to provide the working poor with a livable income.
As if low wages weren’t bad enough, America stands virtually alone among industrialized countries by not providing universal healthcare. Missouri’s legislature has been locked in a bitter and divisive political battle over whether or not low income workers should be provided healthcare.
Omamacare says: If you are employed but making less than 135 percent of poverty you are eligible for Medicaid. Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled each state can opt in or out of this expansion of Medicaid.
State after state, including conservative ones like Florida and Arizona, has lined up to finally bring healthcare to the working poor. Sadly even though the federal government will fund 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and 80 percent thereafter, Missouri has opted out.
Opponents say they are worried the federal government won’t keep their promise, but that’s a red herring. Other states have put in codicils saying they can withdraw from the Medicaid expansion if the feds don’t keep their word. Governor Nixon has offered the same proposal; yet, Republicans have stubbornly held fast.
Thousands of St. Charles County working poor will be unable to afford medical care while Missouri needlessly loses out on billions of dollars of federal revenue. In addition, our local hospitals will be major losers.
Ronald Reagan setup a system of over 2000 hospitals which were mandated to care for indigent Americans. These hospitals draw from a federal fund of over $19 billion a year to compensate them for their losses. Missouri hospitals currently receive over $700 million in what is called Disproportionate Share Care. Under Obamacare this DSC money goes away, because the low wage workers will be covered under Medicaid. Unless our legislature does the right thing, St. Joseph’s two hospitals in St. Charles County stand to lose almost $90 million a year.
It’s time to stop the political pandering and the demonizing of the working poor and Obamacare. Those who mow our lawns, cook our food, pick our fruit, carry our bags, wait our table, and clean our restrooms deserve better. We can never call ourselves a great country while leaving so many without hope of achieving the American dream.