Working Poor

I figure you don’t clean other people’s houses for eight hours a day if you have easier ways to make a living. Cleaning is hard work, with lots of bending, lifting, hands in hot soapy water, and chemicals. Then, I assume, in your time off you have to clean your own house. And it doesn’t pay all that well, since the cleaners have to share the take with their employer or the online site where they get the work.

Ben Carson, our regrettable new HUD Secretary, thinks being poor is a state of mind. The equally regrettable Freedom Caucus, whose spokesperson is new Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, thinks that if you make being poor harder, people will man up and start climbing the ladder into economic self-sufficiency.

This week I was at Matt and Amy’s while their cleaner came to work. Her own child care had fallen apart for the day, and she had to bring her 21 month old. She strapped the little girl into a stroller, gave her a few toys, and started in. I said I wouldn’t mind if the child was out and left to play, but the woman said no, she couldn’t work and watch the child at the same time. I was at home the next day, expecting my cleaning service, when the owner called and said the ladies had a flat tire and would be at least an hour late, maybe more. Those of us who have new-ish cars and can afford to pay a cleaning service — middle class people on up — usually have something like AAA if we get a flat. I have no idea what the deal was with the ladies, but they were substantially late and flustered when they got here. Bad start to their day.

I don’t think being poor is a state of mind, and I know firsthand that these ladies — all of them — work very hard and diligently. As I’ve known for a long time, one slip in their fragile personal ecosystem — like a flat tire or sick relative who can’t take the little one that day — can be devastating, and there is often no backup option.

Why don’t Carson and Mulvaney know that?

2 thoughts on “Working Poor

  1. This sounds like a story from “Nickled and Dimed,” a book about low income people who just get by on very minimum wage jobs. Unexpected auto or other expenses can be a total setback. Carson and Mulvaney……how off-reality can you be? Have been watching Morning Joe today and Joe is really railing about Mulvaney’s outright lies over the budget, especially on health care. Then saw a GOP ad about a family who “had a terrible time with Obamacare” and now with the wonderful Republican plan they will have much better coverage at lower prices. What a crock!

  2. for Phyllis: I read that book and found it very insightful. Hard to rise up the economic ladder when things like a flat tire could have meant the loss of that day’s work, if I couldn’t have waited for the ladies to finally arrive. Really hard. And that ad: I saw a lot of ads like that in Minnesota. “A crock” is just the right phrase.

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