My Letter To The Ladies of PBS's "To The Contrary"

I watched this roundtable discussion today and I gotta say, I was almost embarassed to call myself female. Where do they get these ladies? Corporate boardrooms? It was like listening to the white male conservative whose tie is so tight, it has cut off circulation to his heart (thought I was gonna say brain, didn't ya?). Sigh. Anyway, given I'm Nina, given I'm Irish and a mix of other hot-blooded, feisty ethnicities, and given I'm, well, me, I had to respond. The topic was on The Flexibility for Low Income Workers, corporations who are providing flexibility for low income workers. Never mind I think it's a grave grave sin (for lack of a better word) for a society to even HAVE that term, "low wage worker", I was also fired up and thus vocally opining (at first to the television and Mr. Nina until I got my butt in front of the computer and put down my thoughts and emotions into e-mail) when I saw the complete aloofness, the complete lack of awareness of the real problems plaguing today's low income worker (not to mention workers in general) and the ugly side of blaming the victim.

Read and comment if you so desire. I will post if/when I receive a response.

Hello ladies~

I watched the show today. First let me begin by stating that it is indeed wonderful to see women engage in political and social dialogue. It inspires me. Most particularly of interest to me was the piece on Flexibility for Low Income Workers. Most disturbing and thus frustrating to me was the comment made that, in short, blamed the victim by stating, to paraphrase, "One must make better choices. For example, if one cannot afford children, do not have them."

I have many things to say to that point. But let me start by saying that it is my vision that one day we see commentary that states: "Let us create a System where there is no low income worker. Let us create a System whereby every worker is paid a living wage." For indeed, it is my belief, a belief I believe we can all embrace, especially as women, that every person has the right to housing, clothing, food, running water, education and health care and that income have no bearing on any of these. I realize that goes contrary to our out-of-control capitalistic, rugged individualistic, white bread Protestant psyches. However, that can be changed when one tunes inward and focuses on love. On fairness. On freedom. On peace. All of those things which, when put to the average American, would be greatly supported.

Apparently, some of you do not recall the days, when retail and office clerks, which are classified as today's low wage earners, received an income whereby they could afford to buy a home, afford to have a family and often support the family on that one income, and whereby employers of said jobs provided full benefits. To give you an example of what I mean, my father was an office clerk during the 1960's and 70's. His income allowed my mother to stay home with my brother and myself. Money was tight, but we always had what we needed. He received full benefits, including health care for the four of us. His income enabled he and my mother to own their own home and we were never short of two fairly news cars parked in our driveway. My spouses father was a retail sales clerk for a major department store during this same time. His income was enough to support a family as well, this time a family of 6. Benefits? Yes. Home ownership? Yes. My uncle, also a retail sales clerk during this time, whose income also supported a family of 5.

Today's picture is much bleaker and completely different. My previous employment was doing essentially the same sort of office work that my father did, only I had the additional responsibilities of customer service and sales. However, my employer provided no health care benefits because of the expense. My income also did not allow me the privilege of buying a home. Supporting a family was out of the picture entirely, as was buying a new car. Two cars, even used? Completely out of the picture of economic reality.

Would you then look at me and put the full brunt of the responsibility for my economic situation on me and my choices alone?

Putting the focus on the low income earner by stating they need to make better choices, when just 30 years ago that same worker would be making enough to afford home ownership and family, not to mention receive health care benefits, is nothing short of blaming the victim. And when it was mentioned that we have a society where people have confused needs versus wants, what was implied was that people consume too much, buy too many gadgets and that is a big part of the problem of low income workers and life affordability factors. While I admit that our personal consumption's are a bit ridiculous and we have a problem confusing needs and wants, this problem is mostly played out in the middle and higher income earners. Low wage workers simply do not have the income to give into those "wants" and instead, are focused on basic living expenses, basic needs.

And what kind of a society do we really want? A society that says only certain people get to enjoy those little fun frills modern life has to offer while others don't? I certainly don't support something like that and I would be surprised to see anyone who really truly supports such a system when they think about it, especially the religious who purport to honor the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, etc., for such a system goes utterly contrary to their real teachings.

Listening to some of you speak today, I was reminded of the decades long disease of white male conservative elitist, who is completely out of touch with not only his/her own heart and soul, but with the average American, with needless suffering and struggle. Due to government deregulation, which has been the Corporate Type's best friend while quickly becoming the worker's worst enemy, we have seen growing numbers of people living in poverty, many of them working (check with social service offices in any city to see the real stats on people in need), we have seen a declining middle class, we have seen the cost of living, in particular health care and housing, skyrocket, becoming more of a luxury than the right they need be, and to top off that scene, we have seen wages either stagnate or decline for millions of Americans. Wages that have certainly not kept up with the cost of living.

And again, people need make better choices? Perhaps it is the Government and Corporations who need make better choices?

If you are still not buying into what I am saying, read Barbara Ehrenreich's books, "Nickel and Dimed" and "Bait and Switch". These books will give you a first hand account of life for not only the low income workers but for the growing number of displaced white collar workers. As she candidly points out, for example, there was a time when Corporation's would cut back on CEO's salaries and bonuses before laying off an employee. For further reading, I would like to suggest David K. Johnson's, "Free Lunch." Both of these authors have been featured on a variety of PBS shows, so you may be familiar with their work(s).

Bottom line is, the people are getting screwed and it isn't simply due to their choices, ladies. There are social, political and economic factors influencing and in many ways, limiting choices. That is a truth that must be included in discussions such as the one you engaged in in today's show.

I certainly hope my words were read carefully. If so, I thank you deeply and sincerely for reading. It is most appreciated. It is my hope that some new ways of thinking will be inspired as a result of reading my words.


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