Bob Simpson

Bob Simpson
Oak Park, Illinois, United States
August 05
Retired history teacher and former web production guy
Webtrax Studio
So who is this guy? Well, my name is Bob “Bobbo” Simpson.I am a retired teacher and former web production guy. I am also 1/2 of the Carol Simpson labor cartoon team.

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DECEMBER 16, 2011 3:08PM

“No Poor Man Ever Gave Me A Job”

Rate: 39 Flag

“No poor man ever gave me a job.” How many times have you heard that one?  Sadly, these words are often spoken by a working class person who should know better. It’s always said with a self-satisfied sneer, sometimes accompanied by some racial or gender slurs.  Maybe you’ve heard people repeating the cruel sound bites from TV about how lazy and irresponsible poor people supposedly are.

I’m not much good at snappy comebacks, so here is what I would like to say in response to these individuals.

If you go around saying this, aren’t you just trying to conceal your own insecurities? You need people “below” you to prop up your self confidence, don’t you? But you know in your heart that  you are just one lay-off, just one health problem or just one family tragedy away from poverty yourself. So overcome by fear, you adopt a worshipful attitude toward the wealthy 1% and their allies, hoping that you’ll be exempted from financial disaster.

But secretly, don’t you feel you feel a bit ashamed? I hope so, because that means you haven’t surrendered your humanity yet. So let’s talk about poor people. Maybe no poor person ever offered you a job, but it takes a lot of poor people to maintain an employer. In fact, let me  introduce you to some of the poor people who help keep employers in business.   

Lucas BenitezEmployers cannot not live without food, but the people who plant, raise and process our food are mostly poor people.  Lucas Benitez was one of those people. He came to the USA at the age of 16 to pick tomatoes. The pay was low, the work was hard and there were  threats against anyone who spoke out. 

But Benitez was not intimidated. He is now an organizer for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers which negotiates with the big tomato buyers like Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Whole Foods. Benitez also helped to break up slavery rings that kept farmworkers captive: 

“Modern-day slavery is real. The Immokalee farm workers are working with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice investigated and prosecuted five cases of real slavery. Farm workers are recruited and put in slave camps that have armed guards 24 hours a day. Sometimes the workers receive only twenty to forty dollars per week for the whole week’s work. If you try to escape, and you are found, they take you back to the camp and beat you in front of the rest of the workers as an example to show that you can’t get away.” 

 Farmworker  annual income in the USA is still only around $11,000; for a family it is around $16,000, but Benitez and his colleagues are as patient as they are hardworking. They may not have offered you a job, but they keep your employer well fed. 

Employers wear clothes, both for legal and comfort reasons. How many words have been written in business publications about dressing for success? But it is poor people who are the backbone of the clothing industry, mostly out of sight and out of mind, but doing the hardest work.  

KalponaSo meet Kalpona Akter who first began working in the Bangladesh garment industry at the age of 12. The supply chain for many clothing lines  begins in countries like Bangladesh with their low wages and repressive governments.  

 You may have heard of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City. Back when garment sweatshops were in the USA, the owners locked the doors on the mostly immigrant women who worked there. A fire broke out and trapped many of them, killing 146 people, many of whom jumped to the deaths. It was one of the worst industrial accidents in US history and completely preventable. The same conditions  exist in the Bangladesh garment industry where many of today’s sweatshops are now located. At least 400 workers have died since 1990 because of locked exits.

 It was conditions like these that drove Kalpona Akter to organize garment workers in her country. She has had false charges brought against her and received many threats. But she has persisted, even coming to the USA to testify at a Walmart stockholders meeting: 

“Based on my own experiences, the working conditions in Walmart’s global supply chain are very difficult. In my country, Bangladesh, garment workers receive just 20 cents an hour–barely enough to put food on the table for one worker, let alone her family.  This work takes place in remarkably unsafe conditions. Last year over 40 workers were killed in fires at garment factories. ”

 The garment workers of countries like Bangladesh may not have a job to offer you, but when you get dressed for that big interview, you might want to thank them anyway. 

Cleanliness is important to good health. You wouldn’t want to go into a hotel that is dirty or visit a hospital where sanitation isn’t even an afterthought. A plague or epidemic could certainly produce a shortage of employers.

So we hire people to clean up after us. Many of them are poor people. In an industry where official hourly pay ranges from a low of 7.69 an hour up to $14.19 an hour, the low is pretty low. The trend nowadays with union-busting and contracting-out is pushing wages downward.  So is actual wage theft.

So meet Francine Jones. She put in 20 years at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago and recently went on strike with her union. Hotel housekeepers have an astounding injury rate. Here’s Francine Jones speaking out:

“Housekeeping is hard work that gets harder every year at the Hyatt, and over the years it’s taken a toll on my body. Today, I now have pain in my wrists from an injury at work, and I live with chronic pain in my back and knees from all the heavy lifting and bending I do to change beds, scrub floors and toilets, and push heavy furniture around to vacuum. I wake up at night because of the pain, and I need two hands to even just hold a coffee pot.” 

Jones faces a terrible choice. Her job is wrecking her body, but Hyatt is reluctant to switch longterm workers to lighter duty. Leaving her job to save her health could throw her into desperate poverty.

Francine Jones Francine Jones and her colleagues may not have a job to offer you, but they help employers stay healthy.  A shortage of employers due to an epidemic would certainly could put a crimp in your career plans. So the next time you check in to a motel or hospital, you might want to say thanks to the house keepers.

Are you getting the picture now? Many of these  poverty level jobs are critical to the functioning of society.  They also create a demand for goods and services that creates more jobs because poor people buy things. If people were paid decently, that would create more jobs. It’s a multiplier effect. And BTW, watch what you say about the unemployed. They spend money too, whether it’s from some kind of government aid, what they can borrow or what they can beg on the streets.

Actually the Wall Street 1% elite loves unemployment, not too much unemployment mind you, but just the right amount. They even have economists who calculate how much unemployment is the “healthiest” for the economy. Unemployment makes them money. It keeps wages down by throwing fear into workers that if they speak out or organize a union they’ll be fired. There are lots of desperate people who will replace them.

How desperate? Just advertise a minimum wage job fair in January and you’ll see thousands of people lining up freezing their asses off, even if there are only a few actual jobs available. They’re applying for jobs that won’t even pay the bills they have now, much less the ones that will come rolling in later. But what choice do they have in this dysfunctional economy? There are employers who laugh all the way to the bank at scenes like that.

Full employment means power in the hands of working class people. That’s the last thing the 1% wants to see.

 So if poor people are so important to the economy, why the endless propaganda against them? Such as:  They’re lazy.  They’re irresponsible. They live off welfare. They don’t want to work. They’re drug addicts. They’re dirty. They’re a drain on society. They don’t pay taxes. They’re criminals. They breed like animals. They’re trash.

 This is similar to the wartime propaganda used to dehumanize an enemy. It’s designed to make poor people feel ashamed and helpless, disarm them psychologically and wreck their self-confidence. It’s also designed to divide poor people from the rest of us, divide us from people like Lucas Benitez, Kalpona Akter and Francine Jones who want a global economy that actually works. Poor people are our allies, not our enemies.

So exactly who is doing the recruiting for a class war against the poor? Who’s behind this nasty display of public bigotry? Just follow the money trail and see who benefits. You won’t have to travel far.


 Wall Street

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very good. one of the best posts on os i have read.
You said it and you said it well. Maybe not a snappy comeback, but a reasoned and thoughtful response. Even better.
I'm so glad you're writing on OS. This is great stuff.
I just noticed you and will get to your other work over the weekend.
It's the small business owners, too. In the comment section of my local paper, a small business owner said that he only pays an employee as much as he has to. Not as much as they're worth, not as much as he can afford, but only as much as he has to.
That used to be the mantra, Bob, but I think a lot of people who bought that fantasy awhile back are starting to see that they are part of the 99% and are coalescing around the idea that we're all getting screwed. That's what I've been hearing in traditionally right-wing circles (the gun clubs) and I think it's a good sign. Thanks for putting this together. It's a persuasive piece.
Before my body went south, I was poor and had 3 men working full time for me. But the time I paid their salaries, and all the stuff that went with it, supplied the vehicles, paid the gas and upkeep, and kept the government happy, my employee's made almost as much as I did. Plus, when they were home partying, I was doing paperwork and going out on estimate calls.
Excellent post, also brings to mind the late shift employees locked in overnight at Walmart. One of the workers had a heart attack while locked in, another was injured by a machine. All because their employers thought they might steal from them. That is enslavement too. rated.
I think it's a good thing you're not good at snappy comebacks, because you are good at thoughtful ones and we suffer from an abundance of glib garbage that's polluted the very ability to think.

One of the most toxic elements to be found in public discourse is the cloned sound-bite, the tossed out phrase of glib construction which is designed to draw the simplistic, snide (and demeaning) agreement of one group at the expense of another. What's been so sad is the inability of those who are smirking, to realize they are frequently demeaning themselves. Such is the power of pushing the buttons of agreement and implied acceptance, one of the most powerful directives of human survival and the one which best serves the power seeking individual (or their class) for the purpose of duplicity and misdirection.

What we need, is the dissembling of these manipulative bits of propaganda as fast and furiously as they are employed, not by countering them with others, but by pointing out how suspect they make anyone who employs them. They all need to be revealed as seeking to do nothing more, than manipulate and obfuscate the much more complex realities we need to elevate the conversation to. If in the effort to do so, we find out we're a people who aren't up to it, well, then we'll continue to get what we collectively deserve.

Fantastic post. Should have broader exposure.
A better post on economics than I normally read here.

Thanks. . . .

However, my belief is that there are many employers like Scanner, poor guy. For several of my businesses, the early years were similar to his experience. Further, I know many business owners who have much hope, but whose experiences are close to Scanner’s.


You wrote:

“. . . it takes a lot of poor people to maintain an employer.”

My preference would have been to read that it takes employees to maintain an employer. Not all employees are poor. Not all employers hire vast numbers of employees.

Nevertheless, the general concept here is correct. Further, it has an interesting corollary.

Every business (potential employer) requires the risk investment of capital. No potential employer (business) survives without customers. No customers exist unless they have funds with which to buy the products of services a business provides. In general, potential customers do not exist unless they have employment that provides them with such funds. Jobs do not exist unless businesses hire. No potential employers exist unless a risk investment of capital is made. . . . and so on.

Those who claim that one of these arcs in this circle must come first are either ill informed and/or inexperienced. All of this is very close to the chicken and the egg question.

However, I wrote all of that to say this:

Without customers, there are (eventually) no employers. If the few employers are presumed more wealthy, while their many customers, who may be mostly employed by other employers, are less wealthy, then we have a stable, negative feedback system.

Employers (more wealthy) cannot survive without customers (less wealthy). Consumption becomes a requirement to maintain the wealthy. Hence, the wealthy are not well served by the collapse of a consuming class or the collapse of consumption.

One must presume that the wealthy are intelligent enough not to act against their self-interests. Similarly, the poor must be presumed to act always in their own self-interest.

Therefore, it would seem that rich and poor are co-dependent. They will spread the wealth sufficiently to maintain both classes.

The rich understand that they cannot have income without consumption. The government will (eventually) understand that an economy is best served if it leaves all the capital it can in private enterprise by not diverting vast amounts to the public sector or to welfare. The poor will someday understand that jobs that do not pay sufficiently are not worth taking.
Well reasoned, well written. It stuns me daily how many people adamantly defend the right of the few to pillage the rest, for any reason at all.
God, this was beautiful. Music that I have not heard for awhile since Studs Terkel left.
"This is similar to the wartime propaganda used to dehumanize an enemy. It’s designed to make poor people feel ashamed and helpless, disarm them psychologically and wreck their self-confidence."

That's the most accurate statement about the motivation for saying terrible things about others I've ever heard. You're correct that those who repeat it are insecure and want to make themselves look better by comparison to one they consider less worthy. For many it's less work to put someone else down than to build them up.

Outstanding post. Thank you.
You know, of course, that this insane thought is limited to the American right wing followers. When non-Americans here these right wing anti-poor slogans they think we are crazy. Timely, relevant and an excellent post. R
Excellent post from beginning to end. I wish I had a snapppy comeback for remarks like the title of this post, but your answer was so much more comprehensive and thoughtful.

This nation's priorities are seriously out of whack. And it's up to us to get things worked out again in a way that comes a lot closer to justice.

Great Stuff, Thank You
Wonderful analysis, and so true.
Just put it on my FB page....a perfect parallel to our immigrant treatment here in Italy...thanks
Excellent analysis and a thoughtful piece. Good choice of image. Thx.
It's the people wanting a free ride who deride the poor.
The sooner we understand that we are all interconnected and need each other the better off we will all be. The myth that the poor somehow deserve to be poor while the rich deserve to be rich needs to be dispelled and the sooner the better. In reality, it has more to do with being born into one class or another than anything else.
Hooray for you, brother. Well said. I've been needing a come back for that stupid phrase. Thanks.
While I agree with your post, there are many many small business people like Scanner out there. Your closing paragraph regarding the money trial would point to the large corporations (think Fortune 500) and such. The rest of us are guilty as sin of mass consumption of cheap stuff, the cheaper the better. Why are we buying everything we possibly can from third world countries using the equivalent of slave labor. Because we love our crap more than we love our idealism in action.
Wonderful, important piece. Thank you.
Excellent article. So many people talk about "poor" people, but they mean people who are ethnically different than they are. Thank you for calling them out.
Excellent post, and really, it's a no-brainer. The poor can live without the rich. The same things will get done. The rich cannot live without the poor. The poor give more of their resources to the public, the rich, including the corporations, often (like now) sit on their wealth. I truly don't understand poor or even middle class people who identify with the rich. They will smash you like a bug if it puts a dollar in their pocket.
The truth of the matter is the multinational corporatism has made slaves of the entire planet. When one group makes too much noise, they simply pick up their factories and move to the next impoverished nation.

Globalism, as presently practiced, is an enormous hoax. The final link, making American labor compete with underdeveloped nations was installed in 1980.
My son feels like Scanner and that is sad. Well, maybe he feels a lot angrier than Scanner. It saddens me because he can no longer see the people that you write about, so frustrated is he with the trials and tribulations of running his small business. And he's a very, very good employer. I want him to read your piece because I know that underneath the crust of anger he's built up, there's the humanitarian that I raised. I wish I could rate this more than once. Capital R.