The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Whataburger

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.

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6 Responses to The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Whataburger

  1. battlebob says:

    Speaking about the rich…
    You won’t beleive this story about DumbYa’s presidential library….500 mil worth.

    Christ, there are only two books:
    An illustrated version of “My Pet Goat” and a coloring book that is so advanced he hasn’t finished it yet.

    Eager to begin refurbishing his tattered legacy, the President hopes to raise $500 million to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Bush lived in Dallas until he was elected governor of Texas in 1995.

  2. Ginny Cotts says:

    I found out this weekend during a family gathering that my 6 figure brother in law (married to my close to 6 figure sister) didn’t vote for the Colorado state increase in the minimum wage because he couldn’t figure out WHO makes minimum wage. There were a number of answers – including from his son and wife.

    Later he was joking about how the golf course he goes to is free. “The first round is $5400. Everything after that is free.”

    I had to bite my tongue on his golf fees being equal to six months pay (before taxes) at minimum wage.

  3. Whataburger is a 24 hour fast food joint. Like Burger King or McDonalds. I’ve seen most in Texas. Only a couple of them in Louisiana. I was suprised when I saw one here in Houma after they built a new WalMart on the other side of town. They of course put it in the WalMart parking lot.

  4. janet says:

    Hmmm. Interesting. I have a JD and my hubby has a PhD. We are comfortable, yes, but we don’t make obscene amounts of money. I admit that I was able to choose to stay home with children because his salary was adequate. We certainly did not come from privilege to get our educations. My Dad was a teacher and my husband’s Dad was a small business owner in Montana. Our mothers stayed home.

    Hubby is in academia and it has always bothered me that the football coach at his university makes over a million per year. My husband does more to save lives with his cancer research but yet he makes a mere fraction of the football coach’s salary.

    The people in my town who live in the mansions are in real estate, own a pizza chain, and own a party ice company and none of them have an MD, JD or PhD.

  5. Janet writes: “Hubby is in academia and it has always bothered me that the football coach at his university makes over a million per year. My husband does more to save lives with his cancer research but yet he makes a mere fraction of the football coach’s salary.”

    Exactly. Within academia alone, the “battle” between academics and athletics has always been a sore spot for those of us on the academic side. I’m not disparaging the credentialed as a group, as much as I am disparaging those who who “sell out” their profession strictly for money and then whine and moan about it to the New York Times. Many of us work for peanuts in comparison to what we could make in the private sector, but I love what I do. That’s priceless, as far as I’m concerned.

  6. Ginny Cotts says:

    I don’t dare go into the money we spend on competitive sports in education. The moderation cue would burst into flames.

    I do wish this country would recognize that not everyone’s goal is to have exotic wood cabinets in the kitchen and luxury cars in the garage. We get more out of the jobs we love than money can acount for. That doesn’t mean we don’t want fair salaries, health benefits and a decent retirement fund.

    The idea that government doesn’t work and the workers are over paid lazy bums seems most likely the argument of those who would like all government privatized so they can make more money. As for those of us in health care, we know who is making the money off our work. We still do it.