January 28, 2004
Dear Mr. Safire, Robber Barons Ripping Off the Poor is Not an Outdated Idea, It is the Truth
BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
Dear Mr. Safire,
Regarding "The Kennedy Comeback" (January 26, 2004), I truly wonder what your opinion would be if you made, oh, say, $9.00 an hour? Have you ever tried to imagine that? It doesn't seem so. After all, you yourself are rather wealthy. Aren't you?
I have a Ph.D. and make $12.50 an hour caring for disabled people. I have no insurance, I get no vacation or sick days. I get no lunch hour, nor any breaks. I must drive 32 miles round-trip to attend to my primary client for 17 hours a week. I drive more than that to help others in order to get close to a 40 hour work week. I do not get reimbursed for that travel, nor am I paid during those times. I do not get overtime pay. But undoubtedly, if you had a disabled child or family member you would be *very appreciative* of what I do. Can you imagine? For some reason I don't think you can. Perhaps you'll try.
Mr. Safire, do the math.... I take home less than $1,600 per month. How much do you take home for your pontifications? Is what you do actually more valuable than what I do? Do you work harder than I do? Is your job more difficult or skilled than mine? I don't think so!
My rent, here in low-cost Pittsburgh, is a very, very cheap (even for this area) $380 a month. I live in a dump. I must have a car -- the best value I could find -- a Hyundai Elantra -- after my 20-year-old Honda Civic finally died. The monthly payment is $300. Don't forget insurance. So, right off, with just those two very minimal payments almost 50% of my take-home pay is gone. Now, add in food and do the math. There is no house, no kids, no family, no vacation, no digital cable, no dating, no eating out. I try and do some freelance graphics work -- highly taxed as then I am self-employed. I am one emergency, one crisis, one injury, one illness, one paycheck away from disaster. This past year I had to borrow cash from credit card companies to pay my bills. There is no grace period for those payments. One day late and suddenly my interest rate shoots from 10% to 27%. Do the math Mr. Safire. What meager savings I've managed to collect over decades of caring for America's disabled children are gone in one fell swoop.
Have you ever imagined it Mr. Safire? CAN you imagine it? Because if you can, you will know that I am, in fact, poor (regardless of what government definitions may be-- being rich or poor is a real-life experience, not a theory, not a bureaucrat's definition). I still pay 1/3 of my income in taxes -- not "the poor pay none" as you wrote. Anyone with less income than I is not "poor" but positively poverty-stricken.
From where I sit "the rich" are so, more often than not, due to corruption, political cronyism, nepotism, and exploitation of people such as myself. I watch public money subsidize certain (connected, big) businesses, build sports stadia for the very wealthy (I certainly cannot afford to attend such events.), and take advantage of tax breaks I can never hope to have (many here don't even pay taxes, or even rent!). I submit, Mr. Safire, that in reality I, and people like me, contribute a much greater relative share of our income to the public trough than you do, and certainly carry a much greater burden than "the rich".
Here is a thought experiment: Let's say we're all taxed at 50%. You make $100,000, leaving you with $50,000. I make $24,000, leaving me with $12,000. Who REALLY has the greatest burden? Who is rich? Who is poor? Do the math Mr. Safire. Imagine.... if you can... if you dare.
For you to say "that average, hard-working, patriotic Americans are being ripped off by a plundering bunch of robber barons... sounds a little outdated at a time when the very rich pay most federal income taxes and the poor pay none" is completely absurd. Sure, in the above example you may be paying more dollars than I am, but I am the one carrying the greater burden. You are still comfortable -- more than comfortable -- I am not. You are financially secure. I am not. You can weather a crisis. I can not. And yet, all you do is write words. I help real live people and families. Is there even a valid comparison between what you do and what I do? No. There is not.
That the average hard-working, patriotic American is being ripped off by robber baron plunderers is not an outdated idea. It is the truth. Think about it. And then let's hope we might see that much-heralded "compassionate conservatism" in one of your columns.
Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr.
A BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
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