The Washington Welfare

We’re all aware of it: the rich are undeniably getting richer and the poor, poorer. But what’s happening to members of the in-between? As the disparity between the incomes of upper and lower classes expands (boundlessly), as it has over the last three decades, so do the accusations that the middle class is voluntarily dropping out of the labor force in favor of leeching the government for aid. Today’s CEOs earn 340 times that of the average worker; in 1980, they made only 42 times more.

Indeed, the middle class is diminishing. Many of those who were making median incomes prior to the recession now find themselves collecting unemployment checks and food stamps to get by. Meanwhile, the long-preserved pattern of wage stagnation in lower-income households has been preventing these families from pulling themselves out from under the poverty line and becoming self-sustaining — despite working full-time throughout the year.

To a shortsighted Republican Congressman in Washington (or equivalently, anybody living under a rock), the problem is fairly straightforward: the middle class is lazy. Once having prided themselves on their average quality of life and hardworking status, they now prefer to remain unemployed and freeload on welfare made available by our tax dollars.

Ah, how lavish the lifestyle of the impoverished! Who doesn’t want to be scrimping every last dime to be able to afford the bill and relishing the truncated life expectancies of his malnourished children? Alluring as it sounds, anybody with half a brain could inform you that the 50 million Americans currently struggling to make ends meet have not adopted their circumstances by choice. The truth is that they are pinned to this status by the top few richest people in America.

There is an increasing trend among multi-million dollar corporations to outsource jobs, even when the demand exists domestically. But it is immeasurably more profitable to do business internationally.

Take Walmart as a prime example: the world’s largest retailer has eliminated thousands of jobs for American workers by relying increasingly on the labor and imports of China. This, combined with their political influence in Washington has enabled them to avoid paying their share of taxes, appropriately compensating their employees, and following policies and regulations in accordance with American law (i.e. pollution level admittance).

Large companies like this one dictate the value of the minimum wage for the blue-collar worker and the level of success of the middle-class citizen all across the board. With an alternative labor force and supplier source overseas, unionizing becomes obsolete. The result is a 450-billion-dollar corporation with nearly 80 percent of its workers on food stamps and no viable market for middle-class, domestic manufacturers.

The current minimum wage is so low that, after adjusting for inflation, it would have to be raised to at least $10.50 to be equal to the minimum wage of 1960. Though legislation introduced by the Democratic Party would potentially boost the value to $10.10, it will still not be enough; even workers employed full-time would not be able to get by without government aid.

The poor are getting poorer. Yet the biggest welfare queens of the system are the filthy rich, who leech the U.S. economy by pinching the working class and indirectly, all taxpaying citizens who provide for them. If social mobility is to come about — that is, if people are to become self-reliant and independent from federal aid — then it is imperative that these billion-dollar CEOs be forced to make jobs available for the middle class and tolerably good salaries for the working class.

And that can only be initiated by the hand of the hard-pressed American population, not by money-minded Washington lawmakers.

Seema Wadhwani is a fourth-year biology major and can be reached at wadhwans@uci.edu.