Sunday, January 14, 2007

"High Achievers" or "Losers"?

Tonight I was listening to talk radio, where the host, Neal Boortz, was talking about his Fair Tax plan, lamenting that the richest Americans presently pay too much income tax, in his opinion. I've not read his book about the Fair Tax proposal, so I'll not comment on its merits or lack thereof.

What he did say that I'll comment on was his view that rich people are rich because they are "high achievers"; that they earned it. He also said in relation to his opposition to the Minimum Wage increase that those people who work in such jobs are "losers".

Where to begin?

While it is no doubt true that many rich people did indeed earn their money through their own achievements, we must not forget those who inherited their money, those who earned megabucks through criminal activity such as drug dealers and corporate sharks who made their bucks on the backs of people far down the ladder, and those whose jobs have insanely inflated salaries in relation to the actual worth of what they do for a living -- professional athletes, movie stars, and the like. While I am in no way impugning all rich people -- there are many honest, decent wealthy people who truly earn and deserve their wealth -- I heartily disagree with Boortz' implication that all wealthy people are deserving simply because they are rich.

Nor would I have been so hard on him about this if he'd not painted all poor working people with the same brush as "losers". He implied that people who work for low wages have those jobs because they are lazy, stupid, have no ambition, and thus deserve no better.

Of course, there are lazy, shiftless poor people, but most people who work in low wage, menial jobs work very hard for the pittance they are paid. Many of these same people work 2 or 3 of these jobs to meet basic living expenses, and get to see very little of their families while awake. Some people work these thankless jobs while attending college, if they are lucky.

Boortz implies that anyone who is willing to work hard enough can get one of these high paying jobs and anyone who can't or chooses not to is nothing but a loser. I have two major problems with this view.

Some people eschew a high paid corporate job in order to pursue jobs they find more meaningful, despite their relatively low pay: teachers, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, and the like. I dare anyone to call these people low achieving losers because they don't rake in the big bucks.

Secondly, there are a lot more low wage jobs available than positions in high-paying rewarding careers. If, by some miracle, every American earned a university degree, qualifying them for a high paying career, someone would still have to flip the burgers, carry the bags, wait the tables, drive the taxis, clean the public restrooms, and so on. The reality is that good jobs aren't available for every qualified person who wants one. And I dare say that America would be a much poorer nation if there was no one willing to do these low wage, unglamorous, but very necessary jobs.

A person's value isn't contained in the type of job they have or how much money they make. Everyone, rich and poor, deserves to be treated fairly, decently and not be taken advantage of.


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