Wage Crisis – The USA’s New Underclass
This eye-opening documentary from Journeyman Pictures, which recently aired on Australia’s ABC affiliate, delves deep into the economic hardships and frustrations being experienced by untold millions of people in the world’s biggest economy. For most Americans the Great Recession has never really ended, with the majority of people seeing their incomes stagnate or fall since 2008. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, the average median income for a male worker is lower today than it was 40 years ago.
All over the country the middle class is being squeezed to breaking point. Even worse, for those who now exist as part of the countries very large and ever-expanding underclass, political reluctance to raise the minimum wage is fierce. In addition to full-time working hours and food stamps being cut, the impending social consequences for large swaths of the country could be devastating. The narrator also points out the bitter irony of how it’s possible to work full-time in the world’s richest nation, yet still live in poverty.
The documentary shows the new face of the working poor in the United States, which actually comes from very diverse ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic upbringings. For example, Natasha Vukelic recently turned thirty and she works for tips in a bar. She is smart and has a university degree from a prestigious institution, yet she was earning less than $30,000 a year before taxes as a News Director (well above an entry-level position) in Orlando, and oddly enough makes more money with tips in her current position. Still, she’s completely reliant on generous tipping and a steady flow of customers, as her appalling base wages are only $2.13 per hour.
One of Natasha’s friends and colleagues, Mike Doyle, is actually a former “one percenter” who earned a great living while working with hedge funds on Wall Street. However, the global financial crisis decimated his industry and now he is working two jobs just to get by. It is a new reality which has been difficult to grasp, especially for those who used to “have it all” until only very recent times.
Meanwhile, Tayzia Treadwell is a young single mother who works as a security guard in Newark, which currently ranked as the most dangerous city in the United States. She is doing her best to raise her daughter in this violent corner of the country while also studying at a local college with the hopes of one day becoming a nurse. She exclaims that “I want the good life that everyone dreams when you’re in school and you draw the little house and the picket fence and a dog. I just want a happy ending.”
Across the nation in Los Angeles, the Becerra family takes economic adversity to a whole different level. Both parents and their three children must all share one cramped room in the San Gabriel Valley, as it’s all they can afford from Juan Becerra’s very low wages working for Walmart, while also eking out an existence from food stamps and other modest government benefits. After three years working for Walmart, Mr. Becerra’s wages have only just risen from $8.40 per hour to $9.20 per hour.
Does that sound like the wage potential of the ‘American Dream’ we hear so much about? Unfortunately for the good people featured in this documentary and for millions of others behind the scenes, the concept of the American Dream has become a total myth.
(Image Source: The Moderate Voice)
For more information visit Journeyman TV.