Friday, September 21, 2012

Now a word from the working poor (for a change)

There are poor people who work?
Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's disdain for 47 percent of Americans is inexcusable, but it may be understandable.

The 47 percent of Americans who are either retired or earn too little to pay income taxes (though they pay plenty of other taxes) are invisible in the mainstream media.

That's not an accident. Consider that six corporations control all but a tiny fraction of the news and entertainment consumed by Americans. That includes television and radio networks, news programs, movie studios, cartoon producers and cable systems. (FYI the six companies are Walt Disney, CBS, NBC, Time Warner, News Corporation and Viacom.)

The Economic Collapse Blog notes,
...each of us is deeply influenced by the messages that are constantly being pounded into our heads by the mainstream media.  The average American watches 153 hours of television a month.  In fact, most Americans begin to feel physically uncomfortable if they go too long without watching or listening to something.  Sadly, most Americans have become absolutely addicted to news and entertainment and the ownership of all that news and entertainment that we crave is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands each year.
None of these giant corporations has any interest in informing Americans about wage theft, exploitation, misclassification, wage theft or poverty. So much of what we see and hear is therefore about comfortable, affluent people -- in the news as well as in entertainment. Poor people show up as criminals.

Ignoring half the country that's considered the working poor may explain why journalism is fast shrinking as a career.

So it was a nice surprise to see a McClatchy reporter actually talking to poor people who work their butts off: Andrew Days at the Rock Hill Herald interviewed workers in South Carolina who don't pay income taxes. He introduces us to three women in age or income brackets that exempt them from federal income taxes:
Sandra Brown, 50, fresh off a shift in the steam and heat and sweat of a dry cleaner, sat on the front porch of a house Tuesday and reflected on the politics of the day... 
“I worked since I was 13 years old,” Brown said. “I worked in a mill. Then I worked at dry cleaners. I worked. I never got a welfare check in my life.” 
Next to her sat Terry Lee Boular, 48, who also works on her feet at the dry cleaner on Cherry Road – a street that bureaucrats and editorial boards call “a homely stepsister” to streets where the more well-heeled get clothes cleaned and where those with style do not have to look at the poor who work on their feet all day in miles of businesses and stores. 
In the third chair sat Shirley Mclean, 75, who still works some at the cleaners, too. 
Mclean’s husband of 43 years, Grady, who worked with his back and hands all his life until the back went, lay in a bed inside the tiny house. 
“His health ain’t good,” Mclean said. “Hard work made him old.”
(Read the whole thing here.)

More, please.