The Word Is ‘Bleak’

I read last night that 35 states pay welfare benefits that are higher than the minimum wage.
This is bad, but it’s not because welfare is too high. It’s because wages are too low.
The rest of this is going to be based on the “micro,” not the “macro.” It’s from observations around town. The workforce has changed. Grown-ups fill the jobs that used to be filled by kids. The cotton mills, the coal mines and other factories have shut down, cut back or moved the jobs to foreign countries where wages are even lower.
Education is more important than ever, and yet the dropout rate is … scandalous.
When I grew up in this town, I worked summers in a mill, in a bearings plant, for the state, and at a local grocery store. Most all those jobs are gone, and not just for summer employment.
Back in the 1990s, it was said that only the low-paying jobs would go abroad, and that America was ushering in an age of highly specialized, well-paying jobs. Education was the linchpin of paying for these jobs.
Yet our schools pale in comparison to other countries, and they’re getting squeezed even more.
People will always fall through the cracks. It used to be that those people could still wind up supporting a family, maintaining a modest, honest living by working at factories.
What happens to those people now? A good many of them work at Walmart. They’re coming over the drive-through speakers, suggesting that I should try the maple-sausage biscuit even though I’m determined to do what the coupon says. They’re pissing me off and getting hung up on when they try to complete their scripted spiel to get me to buy something that, like them, I can’t afford.
Some of them are cooking meth. It’s just another dead end. Worse, maybe. Illegal. For some, prison’s just another word for nothing left to lose. It’s the next generation of Kris Kristofferson’s definition for “freedom.”
Hah! Prison’s the new freedom.
Old people take kids’ jobs, and kids take old people’s jobs. The old guy gets forced out of a job he’s held for 25 years because the company knows it can hire a kid for one third his salary. Good job for the kid, but if nothing changes, he won’t go anywhere, no matter how good he is, because quality meant nothing for the guy before him.
It sucks. It can’t go but so long before people see through the propaganda and realize how they’re permanently screwed if they don’t do something about it. Right now we’re in the “pissed off with no idea what to do about it” stage.
But I’m an optimist, you see …


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