Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Missing ATM Card, Another Jean Valjean Moment

She first noticed that her ATM card was missing when she saw an item on her bank statement for a $6 purchase at the Punjab Convenience Mart, a store she’d never even seen much less shopped at. A quick look in her purse revealed that her wallet was missing. Days later, $200 more of purchases that she had never made appeared on her statement. Then she received the wallet in the mail in an unmarked envelope. Everything was returned except for the ATM card and whatever cash had been in her wallet. The identity of the thief will never be known.

In related/unrelated news, the workers from the East Coast to the Midwest at McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and about two dozen other fast food restaurants, organized by the Service Employees International Union, have been holding one-day strikes to demand a living wage of $15 per hour. Presently, the median wage for a fast food worker is $9.05 per hour. Many earn as little as $7.40 per hour and must choose between paying the rent or eating. While $15 an hour may be arguable, surely a wealthy company like McDonald’s can afford to do better for its workers. In 2001, in Nickled And Dimed,On Not Getting By In America, Barbara Ehrenreich describes in a very eloquent way the plight of low wage workers in America. The theme of the book is that it is impossible to live on a minimum wage job without government assistance in the form of subsidized housing, Food Stamps, and/or medical care. Years later, this situation has become, if anything, more acute.

During this summer, the House and Senate continue to stall on passing a bill that would continue the SNAP (Food Stamp) program. The House’s version would eliminate five million people from the rolls. As it is, countless people in America are increasingly turning to private charities to supplement their food supply taxing these charities' abilities to address the growing need. The House bill threatens to make this situation much worse.

To return to the stolen ATM Card: who but a desperate person who couldn’t feed his or her family would steal an ATM Card to buy $6 worth of merchandise at a convenience mart? Was it for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk? Will more incidents such as this occur in the future? An elderly woman loses an ATM card and with it, her feeling of security. A person in desperate straits loses her ability to feed herself. The Tea Party and other Conservatives clamor for social programs to be gutted. Until they are stopped, we all lose.

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