Jon Stewart touched a nerve last night on “The Daily Show” in a segment criticizing the government shutdown. In a recap of the segment on Salon, Prachi Gupta writes, “One day into a government shutdown triggered by House Republicans, 800,000 workers have been furloughed and many government programs, like the Women Children and Infant’s nutritional supplement program, are suspended.” Stewart joked about WIC’s closure, “It’s like taking candy from a baby. Except instead of candy, it’s food.”
Later in the segment he went on to mock right-wing newscasters who were complaining six months ago that their kids couldn’t tour the White House after it shut down public tours due to “sequestration,” but who have no problem withholding food from needy children. In his most pointed line of the night, he quipped, “Hey, your kid didn’t get breakfast, that’s your problem. My kid didn’t get to tour the White House, that’s everybody’s problem.” (Watch the clip here.)
Reflecting on that clip this morning reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend this week about how employers have been treating their workers of late. We lamented that employees face an unstable job market with no job security, part-time work for variable pay, and a general lack of respect from bosses. As we grumbled, she opined, “You know, if you wouldn’t want your kids to be treated a certain way, you can’t treat anyone that way.” That one comment made me realize how cruel the double standard is that has allowed 1% politics to flourish in this country for the last several years, and how selfishness is at the heart of greed. For the record: “From 2009 to 2012, as the U.S. economy improved, incomes of the top 1% grew more than 31%, while the incomes of the 99% grew 0.4% – less than half a percentage point.” According to the Los Angeles Times, some attribute this to “changing social norms regarding pay inequality.” If by that you mean “CEOs refusing to pay workers,” then yeah. I’ll buy it.
As of this week, retailers like Forever 21 are cutting hours and reclassifying some full-time workers as part-time, according to The Guardian. “The move, which the company denied had anything to do with President Barack Obama’s health reforms, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will nevertheless help it avoid a mandate under the legislation requiring companies with 50 or more employees to offer those working 30 hours a week or more health insurance.” The paper also notes, “Earlier this month, Seaworld, which operates 11 entertainment parks across the US, capped hours for part time workers at 28, down from 32, according to the Orlando Sentinel.” So not only are workers being paid less, but now they’re responsible for more in healthcare costs. “To hourly workers, many of whom are living below the poverty line, a small increase in healthcare costs can represent the final straw for their already stretched family budgets,” The Guardian‘s Karen McVeigh writes.
Doesn’t anybody care that this is happening? Why are we all looking at each other like there’s nothing that can be done about this? Why are we allowing corporations and Congress to tuck their hands behind their backs and walk away whistling like they have no idea what’s going on and no culpability here?
In what is the most despicable move of any related to the future health and financial well-being of average Americans, Brian Beutler of Salon says that “well-heeled conservative groups are appealing to uninsured young people to remain uninsured — part of a backdoor effort to undermine the structural integrity of” Obamacare. Senator Angus King of Maine told Beutler, “Some of those people they persuade are going to end up dying because they don’t have health insurance. For people who do that to other people in the name of some obscure political ideology is one of the grossest violations of our humanity I can think of.”
Me too, sir. Me too.
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