our local newspaper runs a column on the editorial page each friday in which a question is asked about a current issue, inviting responses from the public. in the same column, some of the responses to the previous week's issue are printed. the responses recently concerned the debate about raising the minimum wage in the usa. to my astonishment, four of the five printed responses favored the abolition of the minimum wage altogether. the responders sided entirely with employers and indicated no compassion for workers who were struggling to keep their heads above water financially.
as i read these comments, i wondered if these respondents had tried supporting themselves or a family on a full-time minimum wage job. i also wondered if they knew the desperate struggle that had brought about the minimum wage. were they aware of working conditions in this country in the 19th and early 20th centuries? did they know that men and women had died trying to insure that american workers could live in dignity, put food on the tables for their families, and have safe working conditions? had they read of how a wealthy elite lived in luxury, building opulent seaside "cottages" and palatial "hunting lodges," on the backs of workers who lived in abject poverty? did they realize that many of these workers were children who labored in factories when they should have been attending school?
history repeats itself when we fail to learn from it. we are forgetting what happens when unrestricted capitalism, the randian "objectivism" promoted by the radical right in our country, is the dominant philosphy. workers who demand to be compensated fairly are labeled as "looters" or "takers," and corporate executives who are paid exorbitant salaries become the "heroes."
my prayer today is that we will turn from this philosophy that wealth when acquired by oppressing those who actually create it is virtuous, this philosophy that those at the bottom of the economic ladder are slackers who deserve whatever those at the top choose to "trickle down" to them. may we honor those who are the true heroes, those whose labor is the true source of wealth. shalom.