The Face of the 47 Percent

I graduated college in the Fall of 2008, right after the big stock market crash in October. Lucky me. When I came home from school, I was fortunate enough to work per diem at my pre-college job for $9 an hour with no benefits and no union.

They had avoided giving me raises for two years (I was due a $0.30 raise per year). I finally called them on it, and they said they would have to get back to me.

Another raise-less week passed by before I received a phone call informing me that instead of giving me my $0.30 a year raise, they would only be giving me a raise of $0.20 for one year and $0.15 for the other. This had nothing to do with my job performance (as it was documented as "spotless" during reviews by my supervisor).

Yet I could understand why this had happened. Shorting me and other staff members of our wages would only serve one person: the owner, whose fleet of luxury vehicles mocked us every time he pulled into the driveway.

I was working at a privately-owned hospital. Though I was not happy about my low wage, I felt worse for the certified nurse's aids. They did so much work, the dirtiest work there was, and they too only made $9 an hour.

After working there for a month or so after college graduation, a supervisor came to work ill (though she was aware that she had pneumonia) and a few days later, I was in the emergency room refusing chest X-rays. My bill for the emergency room visit and the medication was already nearing $600. I could not afford another $400 for X-rays to tell me what I already knew: that I now had pneumonia.

One of my good friends graduated a semester before me, but wasn't doing much better. She had a full-time job working at a group home, and though she received health care benefits, she only made $10 an hour. It was more than I was making, yet it wasn't much at all especially once you factor in the $800 a month she paid towards her student loan debt.

A second friend got a job in NYC making a salary of $35,000 a year. Though she was not part of this 47 percent, she was not doing much better than we were. After taxes, she barely had enough wages to cover her food, rent and student loan payments.

Contrary to the lies that Romney continues to perpetuate, we were part of the 47 percent and we were never lazy, nor did we feel that our employers or the millionaires in the community around us owed us anything.

Supporting Governor Romney's ridiculous claims, Pennsylvania Representative Daryl Metcalfe said in an interview this week, "As Mitt Romney said, 47 percent of the people that are living off the public dole, living off their neighbors' hard work, and we have a lot of people out there that are too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need. If individuals are too lazy, the state can't fix that."

I think it is quite the opposite. Since the recession, a record number of college graduates have been forced to move home because of unemployment and underemployment. People like Romney and Metcalfe aren't concerned about us. Their attitude seems to be that we are young and can easily bounce back and that we can depend on our parent's if need be. That attitude is not only flippant, but it is untrue.

My former employer is a perfect example of what is wrong with this country. He shorted me $0.25 an hour (a total of $10 extra a paycheck and $520 more per year). Though it was not much money, it was a step closer (a very small one) to a living wage and more importantly, towards dignity. There is little reward working under a tyrant and even less knowing that promotion, nor monetary compensation is not likely no matter how well your job performance.

It is people like this that are the problem in this country. If they can't outsource the jobs to foreign places lacking sufficient labor laws, they cheat hard workers at home out of a living wage in favor of padding their already obese bank accounts. Obesity in this country isn't just a food-related problem. There is an even more harmful kind of gluttony going on and that gluttony is greed.