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September 28th, 2012

Atlas Stiffed His Waitress…

…of course it was to teach her self sufficiency, not because he wanted a free lunch.   I saw this graphic go flying by on the net yesterday…

And a lot of the time they’re drowning in it because of the greed and avarice of people who like to yap about how there aren’t any free lunches.   Cheap labor, sure.   The cheaper the better.

I know a little about how it is to be working poor.   Not as much as many.   Somehow I never went to bed hungry or without a roof over my head.   And I didn’t have children to support.   But there was a time back when I was in my late thirties that I lived in a friend’s basement and mowed lawns and did Manpower jobs to make ends meet.   This was after the Savings and Loan crisis had cost me the small but steady income I’d had as an architectural model maker. Time was I couldn’t afford a car and sometimes not the bus either.

I had this geeky little mindset for fiddling around with electronic gismos.   Mom always said I got it from her dad, a man who opened one of the first businesses in his area building and servicing radios back before World War II.   But there was never enough money to send me to a nice college and I had to go to work right out of high school.   I had one low wage job after another, mostly stock clerk and warehouse work, and no idea what to do with my life.   I liked to paint and draw, and I had done some photography for a couple local newspapers.   But you need time to pursue a career in either of those and I had to bring money into the household.   Eventually I got a job working for a man who went to the same church mom did, and who ran his own business making architectural models.   It was work that tweaked my artistic side and I loved it, but my new boss was a fundamentalist nutcase who wouldn’t leave his employees alone about religion and he had an explosive temper.   One day right before Christmas I and most of his other employees bolted after one of his outbursts and I was on my own again.

But I liked doing that work and eventually established myself as a freelance model maker with several big customers and one former co-worker who brought me into the shop he’d established.   During that time I bought a Commodore C64.   I had little use for computers before then, not even as video game playing devices, but the price of the Commodore had come drastically down and when I discovered I could write pretty decent job proposals on a word processor and figure out my costs with a spreadsheet I snapped one up.   That little computer turned into a sort of hobby with me as I taught myself how to write programs in its BASIC interpreter and began to tentatively explore the emerging online world of Computer Bulletin Boards, in hopes of finding a gay community I could socialize with there instead of in seedy pickup bars.

Eventually and I was able to build an IBM PC clone from parts I got at a HAM Fest and with its for-its-day vastly greater horsepower and tons of software tools available for it I really started getting pulled into that world.   While my customers for my freelance architectural model making business were going belly up all around me I kept dinking around with my PC clone because computers interested me, and because they had become my social outlet.   But I had no college degree and no money to go get one so I never seriously considered trying to earn a living with it.   Eventually I found a community of fellow gay geeks online and began doing support work on a local gay community BBS system, using what I’d learned dinking around with my own computer.   That eventually led to my getting a few one-off jobs writing software.   One job was for a local gay community organization that wanted a membership database and form letter generator.   I did it in dBase IV, a little Word Perfect macro programming and a little Microsoft Quick Basic.   Then, through that same gay BBS, I got another one-off job.   And another.   And another.   Just at a moment in time when having even any sort of IT experience you could put on a resume meant you could get a job at decent pay and you didn’t need to have the college degree that I didn’t.

The dot com boom lifted me out of poverty almost overnight and I managed to hang onto this new career path after it faded.   Otherwise I have no idea what would have become of me.   I was 38 years old the day I could finally afford to rent my own place, a little one bedroom apartment in a Baltimore suburb.   And it was all because of some really lucky breaks.   Yes, yes…clearly I have the aptitude for the work I do and a good work ethic or otherwise I wouldn’t now be making a six figure salary and working on the James Webb Space Telescope project.   But don’t even start telling me that my income level today is because I am a highly motivated and intelligent person who worked hard to get ahead.   I was all of that when I was living in a friend’s basement and mowing lawns to make ends meet.   I was all of that when I was standing in an unemployment line because I needed that government handout to put food in my mouth.   I had some damn lucky breaks.   And…support…when I needed it badly…from my friends, and from my fellow citizens.   That is why I’m making the living I am now.

So I get a little ticked off whenever I hear some winger yap, yap, yapping that the unemployed are just lazy and unemployment checks amount to freeloading.   There were times in my life I took unemployment and gladly.   And I needed that money not because I was lazy and didn’t want to work, but because my jobs had been yanked out from under me.   Because Wall Street bet on red 25 when they should have bet on black 17.   With other people’s money.   Then they wag their fingers at the unemployed and tell them they’re lazy.

Not everyone gets the break I got.   Poverty does not equal stupidity or laziness.   People who work two grueling minimum wage jobs to make ends meet are not lazy, and particularly if they have children to support.   There is a serious lack of opportunity out there and some of that is deliberately crafted to keep wages low and Wall Street profits high and it is obscene for those financiers and their sock puppets to be wagging their fingers at people they’ve basically trapped in low wage lives and the unemployment line and calling them irresponsible.

You want responsibility Mr. Romney?   How about taking responsibility for costing people their jobs?   How about taking responsibility for trashing the hopes and dreams of all the workers and their families after you Bain raided their companies, and/or shipped their jobs overseas?   How about taking responsibility for the fact that the American Dream is smaller and further out of reach of so many hard working Americans because you needed a car elevator?   All the luxury that surrounds you every day…it could have been a reflection of the wealth you brought into this world, not the wealth you took from it.

Am I better off now then I was four years ago?   No doubt your kind thinks it’s the most important question of all but it’s the wrong question.   It isn’t all about Me, it’s about US.   As in U.S..   We’re electing a president of the United States.   That calls for a different question.   You had wealth, which means you already had power.   Now you want more.   Well of course, lots of people want more power.   And…wealth.   There’s just never enough is there?   The question is, is your country is better off for your having used the power you already had.

   

[Update…]   Someone else who isn’t biting the hand of the neighbors who helped them when they needed it most

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