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Sharecropping

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I was flipping through radio stations on my way to one of the colocation centers I have to visit for work, and chanced upon a Worcester-area right wing talk radio station. I got fed up about 60 seconds into the broadcast, listening to a man with very poor English asking why the government wants to take small business’s hard earned money away from them and give it to people who don’t deserve it.

Randian masturbation aside, it made me a little angry to hear. I think some of it has to do with the notion that some people “deserve” well paying jobs (and the intellectually bankrupt notion that everyone could have well paying jobs if only they weren’t so not white and lazy). “Why does the government want to force me to pay for poor people to see the doctor,” these people ask, “when it costs us so much money?”

Then I remember that Americans pay the people who do the actual work very little. Minimum wage in the United States is being raised to 7.25 this month. This effectively means that a day laborer earning minimum wage can look forward to a fat paycheck of 290 dollars a week before taxes, and about 15,000 dollars a year, also before taxes. That’s a monthly gross income of 1,160 dollars. How exactly are these people, who are the “cogs” who push production in this country, supposed to afford anything? Our growing wage disparity isn’t exactly helping, as the money which would be going to allow equitable pay and healthcare for workers is padding executive level bonuses.

Again, we see the spectre of forced capitalism rising above the common sense of single payer (or at least somewhat publically funded and run) healthcare. The same small business owners who are kvetching and crying about how they will have to fund healthcare, would effectively be paying the same or more likely *less* money, as government run healthcare would have substantially lower administrative costs. The crusty top of the US income earners, who suck in millions (if not billions) without actually *producing* anything would have to pay a greater share, to compensate for the gigantic overabundance of money they have siphoned out of our financial system over the last thirty or forty years or so of reduced regulation and non-existant watchdogging.

Then I thought of sharecropping. You get the ability to eek out a living from someone who actually *owns* things, but you never own anything. You rent your house, you lease a car (if your credit is any good), and you never really are able to afford much. If you are lucky enough to get married, your kids are either looked after by family or grow up as latch-key kids so that you can afford to buy them food and clothes. Which part of this sounds like the America espoused in all of those flag-waving campaign-time commercials? If we actually treated our people well and paid them an actual living wage, socialized the healthcare and benefits systems, and put some (oh noes! not teh capitalism!) caps on executive pay, we’d probably be better off.

But I know how this goes — we’ll hem and haw about everything, Congress will pass a meaningless law giving subsidies to insurance companies, and we’ll all get sicker and die poorer. Yay pure capitalism!

(Upon a bit more reading, I think that tenant farming might be a little more apropos for a comparison, since it involves forced evictions.)

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