Cross Posted From Article of Faith:
Anyone else shocked at the competing stories this morning in the Times about rich and poor in America?
Gilded Paychecks: “The opportunity to become abundantly rich is a recent phenomenon not only in medicine, but in a growing number of other professions and occupations. In each case, the great majority still earn fairly uniform six-figure incomes, usually less than $400,000 a year, government data show. But starting in the 1990s, a significant number began to earn much more, creating a two-tier income stratum within such occupations.”
They are referring to those in academia, lawyers, medical doctors, etc. And just when it’s easy to say “those bastards, I bet I could be pulling fifty times what I make right now if I just sold out my values for a buck”, comes this other snapshot of Americana:
Dreams in the Dark at a Drive-Through Window: Gloria Castillo, 22, works from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. at a Burger King in West Dallas, earning $252 a week before taxes. She and her husband, who have two boys ages 7 and 8, work different shifts. It is her third drive-through job. First it was Whataburger. Then McDonald’s. Now here. It is becoming a career.
“[Gloria Castillo] is working the lobster shift at the drive-through window. She is overweight and wears pink lipstick. The customers are rude tonight, drunk and bellicose. [She] is a woman with children and no health insurance, undereducated, a foot soldier in the army of the working poor. The fry cook sneezes on the meat patties. Cigarettes go half smoked. Cameras spy on the employees. Customers throw their fries and soft drinks sometimes because they think it’?s funny.”
It really is incredible, this “credential society” in which we live. We vaunt our MD’s, PhD’s, JD’s and others with letters after their names, paying them obscene amounts of money in exchange for credentialed “intellect” and the social prestige attached with said credentials. As Collins points out, the problem is that we are equating credential with merit, and failing to recognize that privilege is more often the determinant in who attains credential and who doesn’t. In other words, one must come from a certain amount of privilege to stay in graduate school for years on end and attain those letters, thereby equating privilege with personal merit.
This is evident in absurdist articles like the one on “gilded paychecks” above, where we have warnings of a “great divide” being created amongst the educated because the credentialed class is turning on itself, with some “selling out” for the super big bucks, and the rest merely toiling for chump-change, six figure paychecks. And as is wont for academia, we must navel gaze, beat our chests and wring our hands over this “crisis”. Woe is we.
Meanwhile, people like Gloria Castillo slave away at Whataburger (whatever that is), pulling $250 for a week’s work (before taxes), raising two kids, and “dreaming” of finishing a community college degree. That would allow her to make maybe $20 an hour and a lunch break. “I got dreams,” she says. “I’m a human being.”
She looks at the crummy little house across the parking lot with peeling paint. “That would be good too, a little house. I don’t want much.”
If only our credentialed society had such a degree of humility.