Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Friday, January 23, 2015

THE REAL AMERICAN POOR



Poor people? I don’t know any poor people. A couple of guys come into our coffee hour at church and eat up the food and ask for money. I guess they are poor. Then I was forced to look at the young woman who served me coffee at the neighborhood Starbuck’s. She may make $10 per hour if she is lucky. If she works eight hours a day five days a week for 50 weeks, that is $20,000 a year. She will be docked if she is sick, has no insurance health or dental benefits. If she is going to school, she will work fewer hours and have even less money. If she is married and has a child, she will probably have another job to supplement her income. If she is working two jobs, caring for her child or children and commuting to work she is tired all the time. She probably is not in the best of health as she cannot take time from work to go to the dentist or a health care provider is she has one.

I read Hand to Mouth – Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Triado, Putnam, 2014. I am disturbed emotionally by the author’s straightforward description of how it is and feels to be poor in America. People have food and shelter, yes. Living with very little money has a huge emotional and physical affect on the daily lives of women, men and children. In adequate dental and health care is just a start. Physical exhaustion from working three jobs plus transportation limits one’s capacity to work efficiently at either of the jobs. Family and personal life is strained and brittle due to long minimum paid jobs. The brutality of low paying jobs in restaurants, manufacturing, janitorial and housekeeping jobs is described with humor and satire by the author who is just up from low-pay work. Abrupt scheduling changes, pay docking and jobs where no breaks are allowed make life a horror for working people. Look carefully at the next person who waits on you in a fast food restaurant, at your club or favorite restaurant. How much do they make, how many jobs do they have? Pray for them, at least.

Here is the author’s last piece of advice for rich people:

“As long as you keep me accountable for not making it when I was well under the national median income, I’ll hear no whining about how difficult it is to find good help.  (Pro tip on the help rich people” Treat us fairly, pay us decently, and make it clear that you give half a fuck whether we live or die. We’ll kill ourselves for you.”


I hope you choose Hand to Mouth for your next book club selection. The stories of poor working people in our country and in our churches will make you very uncomfortable, but will make you yearn for change.

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