For years I've heard people say, "The best program for social uplift is a job."
For years we've been trying to assist people in finding jobs.
But, all along the truth has been quite different.
If you are an unskilled worker, getting a job today doesn't solve all of your basic problems.
The fact is hard work doesn't pay what it used to pay. Better, hard work pays about the same or less than it did twenty years ago.
I'm going to resist the temptation here to launch out on a tirade about raising the minimum wage. I just don't think I'm up to reading posts about how that doesn't help anything since it only drives the costs of goods and services up while eliminating jobs for the very unskilled and/or for teen workers.
So, today I'll just point the other direction.
News of executive pay scales appears in every daily I read. Saturday's (April 22, 2006) New York Times carried a report by Steven Greenhouse noting that "chief executives' pay increased by 27% last year, to an average of $11.3 million, while that of most workers languished."
Greenhouse appeared to be quoting from the special report that appeared in the same paper on Sunday, April 9, 2006 (Off to the Races Again, Leaving Many Behind, Section 3). The entire section of the paper reported on executive pay and its amazing growth at the same time ordinary workers suffered with static wages and declining benefits.
The ratio of CEO pay to average worker's salary has changed dramatically since 1960 when executives averaged 41 times more than average workers. In 2004, the pay for CEOs skyrocketed to 431 times that of the average worker!
I'm sure those folks have plenty of worries every day. But, '"making ends meet" is not likely to be found on their personal "To Do" lists.
The annual percent change in real wages for working class persons from 2001 to 2004 reflects a downward trend while the average annual percent change in after-tax corporate profits is up well over 10%.
Declining value in workers' wages is coupled today with the loss or absence of health insurance, the evaporation of defined benefit plans or even 401 K plans for many workers and rising costs for higher education.
Stories about the "golden parachutes" of retiring executives, the rising cost of crude oil and gasoline, record profits among the big oil companies, etc., etc., etc., never contain any analysis about the impact of the rising costs of goods and services on those at the very bottom.
Here's an interesting and sobering fact: nearly half of American children depend on a worker with a high school education or less.
People who work hard should be able to earn enough to provide for their families on their own, regardless of their educational attainment, social status or skill levels.
Some people will tell me that I should just stick to the business of handing out food.
While we will distribute over 1 million pounds of groceries during 2006, that cannot become our major enterprise.
As we work to build a genuine, powerful community of people, our goal is to attack poverty and its causes. That will include providing all sorts of other services and opportunities.
It will also lead us to support organized efforts to see workers' pay increase.
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Rising from Ashes
Larry James' Urban Daily
A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
Today and throughout 2013, we need your support to continue our life-changing work in inner-city Dallas. Every day hundreds of our wonderful neighbors arrive at our doors seeking our assistance, offering their help and prepared to pursue a better life. Frankly, the folks we "serve" make essential contributions to the scope, nature and soul of the work we attempt. At CitySquare we honor and recognize the amazing value and richness of our low-income neighbors. During 2012, almost 55,000 different people received the benefit of our wide-ranging services designed to assist in the process of building better lives. We need your help TODAY as we continue to respond to the needs of our community. Even more, we need you to become our PARTNER in the work of compassion and community renewal--work that continues day after day at CitySquare.