Al Jazeera America reports on claims of a Texas employment miracle. While some may be moving ahead in the Lone Star state, construction workers interviewed for this article are working hard for $8-$10 an hour. The state’s governor brags that Texas has an unemployment rate far lower than the national average (national 6.3%; Texas 5.5%). However, the state is producing as many low wage jobs as high paying jobs. It also offers less support for low wage workers, which means they struggle even more to get by. The working poor in Texas live harder lives than workers in New York or California, states that have more progressive labor laws and social safety net services.
Some may say, “A job is a job.” Those people usually have a job or other source of income that gives them the security needed to be glib and unfeeling about others. Across America, low wage workers are struggling to get by. So are middle class workers, who often resent the aid given to low wage workers. All American workers need to remember who the real winners in this society are – the 1% – and ask them to pay for their share of our common needs. The Texas Miracle is just one more example of an American economy that asks more and more of the working poor. That’s not a miracle. It’s a tragedy.
Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson examines the debate over extending unemployment benefits. What she finds is that there was no debate when George W. Bush was president. During a time when the unemployment rate was lower, the House approved 5 extensions, each of which was not paid for. Now House Republicans are insisting that the benefit which workers contributed to be paid for. Wouldn’t it be great if they asked for the same kind of responsibility from large corporations that pay no taxes and still receive government benefits? As Clawson points out, this policy also makes no sense because it takes buying power out of the economy. Of course, that is a common theme when it comes to how the GOP thinks about working people, as we have also seen in the debate over raising the minimum wage.
Do some poor people cheat through programs like unemployment and food stamps? Sure. So do upper income people cheat – legally – through tax dodges and estate planning. The problem is that poor people don’t fund the campaigns of the politicians who make the laws and tax policy. What poor and working class people can do is vote. Hopefully, they will remember and get to the polls.