Whether we want to believe it or not, this nation is divided into the haves and the have-nots. There are other divisions, of course — by race, religion, sexuality, political preference, etc — but it’s the haves and the have nots I’m talking about today.
Never before has so much of this nation’s wealth been consolidated by so few people. And the rest of us, the so-called 99 percent, are fighting over the rest, arguing over who among us deserves the bigger crumb.
Earlier this week, a wage control board voted to endorse a plan that would allow fast-food workers in New York a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2021. This resulted in nearly everyone who doesn’t work in fast food to complain, often with the argument that “my job doesn’t pay $15 an hour, why should their's?”
Many arguments I’ve seen over the past few months have actually been related to military pay and suggesting that since being in the military is more difficult and life threatening, fast food workers should basically pay McDonald's for the privilege of working. (Undoubtedly unpopular side note: Military service is volunteer. Every single person serving currently chose to do so. If you don't want to risk your life for 72 cents an hour, Taco Bell is hiring.)
Some have legitimate economic concerns. They’re afraid of what that $15 an hour will do to inflation. Or they’re afraid that the more capable people will flee their non-fast-food jobs to go sling burgers, opting to make more money than they can in the industry they currently work in, decimating other businesses and leaving them with an unskilled workforce.
Then, of course, there is sheer classism. Not financial-based classism, mind you. Rather a perception of class based upon what people do for a career. Obviously, you’re better than so-and-so because they work at Burger King and you work for … whoever.
I’ve long spoke of a belief that everyone should work in fast food — or at least customer service — at some point in their lives. I’ve seen too many jerks yell at people in hats because they assumed that their job was easy … and that they were better than them. I’m not talking about the 1 percenters, either. I’m talking about the people with the larger crumbs.
Now these people with the larger crumbs are worried that the low-life slob fast-food workers might inch closer to them financially.
Meanwhile, while we’re fighting over the crumbs and arguing over whose job is harder and more deserving of paying a living wage, the real captains of privilege unload wheelbarrows of cash and gold onto their private yachts and float them off to island nations with no taxes, thumbing their noses at the rest of us along the way.
If this whole ordeal were a movie script, they’d be the ones who incite the riot then empty the bank of its contents while police are busy stopping looters from stealing color TVs. By the time we find out what really happened, it’s too late.
Of course, this isn't a movie. And it’s not yet too late. But it’s getting there. And we’re squabbling over crumbs.
In case no one ever told you this, your neighbor being poor doesn’t make you rich. A burger flipper struggling to pay his bills doesn’t pay your mortgage. And just because someone has a cookie doesn’t mean you can’t have a cookie too.
This is America, for Christ's sake. We can make more cookies. More burgers. More money. You don’t need to be envious of someone else’s.
That envy or anger or whatever it is you have against your fellow crumb eater has been manufactured by the people with the whole pie. They’re playing us. And we’re falling for it.
+Scott Leffler congratulates fast-food workers on their raise. He just asks that they spend that extra money they're going to have wisely. And more important, locally. Follow Scott's fast-food eating habit on Twitter @scottleffler.
This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.