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Disrespecting the working class

12/13/2011, 9:37 a.m.
“It’s really convenient to have a mall right in the neighborhood.”

Disrespecting the working class

Americans disdain those who abuse or defame children. Newt Gingrich must have forgotten this with his recent pronouncements against the interests of children, especially poor children.

First he renounced laws prohibiting child labor as “really stupid.” He then suggested that poor children should be put to work in schools as junior janitors. He insisted that this policy would actually be helpful to them.

Gingrich asserted, “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.”

As might be expected, political commentators across the country were horrified by Gingrich’s remarks. Not only were his comments callous, but they were also factually untrue. A reported analysis of census data by a Queens College sociologist indicates that most poor children live in households where at least one parent works. Apparently Gingrich does not consider the jobs of the working poor worthy of note.

It is certainly not psychologically uplifting to poor children for the affluent to denigrate the work of their parents. However, as long as the attack is not directed at children, offensive remarks about the working poor can often escape criticism from the general public.

A recent article by a major Boston publication implied that most of the customers of the Washington Park Mall in Roxbury were layabouts who came to shop in great numbers primarily at the beginning of the month when they received their support payments from the government. Whether intentionally or inadvertently, this article created the distinct impression that Roxbury residents are shiftless and overly dependent on taxpayers’ largesse.

However, there is no gravy train that rolls into Roxbury at the beginning of each month. Food stamps payments are now made on the 10 work days during the first two weeks of the month. The funds are simply deposited in the recipient’s Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) account that is accessible with a device similar to a credit card. The last digit of the recipient’s Social Security number will determine the date of receipt.

So-called welfare payments from the Department of Transitional Assistance are distributed in a similar way, except that there are two payments each month. There is no longer a “Mother’s Day.” Funds for women with children are distributed throughout the month.

Even Social Security payments do not provide substantial funds at the beginning of the month. Those funds are paid on the second, the third and the fourth Wednesdays of the month. The only first of the month payments are from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These are for the blind, the impoverished elderly, and for those who are seriously injured and unable to work. However, the volume of SSI payments is inadequate to produce the economic rush reported in the article.

The increase in sales at the beginning of the month is undoubtedly because it is payday. According to Paychex Inc., a company that manages companies’ payrolls, half of their clients pay their employees every two weeks. Despite high unemployment among blacks, most people are working. Most of the customers at the Washington Park Mall are hard working people, and some are the working poor.

One wonders why such a reputable publication would print a story, based on fiction, that disparages the residents of Roxbury. It is probably just another example of class warfare — the rich vs. the poor.