Monday, December 20, 2010

Dignity For The Trashman

This, from yesterday’s fishwrap, really shows how disconnected people are from how city services are provided:
QUESTION: Becky Becker got a surprise a week ago when she brought up her trash cart. Tucked under the lid was an envelope with a holiday greeting from her trash collector that included his name and address.

Becker wonders if this was a hint to send him a holiday tip. She did not plan to send a check to someone whom she did not know — or even know whether he was really her trash collector.

More important, Becker questions whether to tip someone for doing a tax-supported job.

She wrote to me: "They are paid a salary by me and the other citizens of the city. It's not so much that I am a Grinch as I am just tired of everyone having their hand out for a tip, especially when they are already receiving a salary."

Oh my God. Yeah, you are Grinch. Get over yourself. If you don’t want to send a tip, then don’t. Jeebus. And here I thought I was the biggest Grinch in the county.

It’s the whole “These are MY TAX DOLLARS and how dare you not bow down and kiss my feet for every penny I begrudgingly pull out of my ass despite all the bitching and moaning I do at every opportunity.” Listen, Becky Becker (can you even believe that name is for real? I can’t): the reason you got a little Christmas card is because Metro has privatized its trash collection. It’s that whole “private companies can do everything better/cheaper/shinier/prettier” mindset that people like you espouse at every Tea Party rally and Ayn Rand reading group. So yeah, it’s a private company doing your trash collection, and that means you have to take it up with them. You ceded your right to bitch about this stuff when you decided you no longer liked the idea of public employees doing public services. I’ve got a steaming cup of STFU with Becky Becker’s name on it.

Or, as The Tennessean more politely put it:

ANSWER: Some Davidson County residents get trash collection that is paid for through property taxes. Private companies under contract with Metro handle some of those routes.

That is the case at Becker's residence.

I alerted Metro Public Works to the card that Becker received.

Her trash route is handled by Red River Service Corp. Metro Public Works spokeswoman Gwen Hopkins-Glascock said the manager at Red River would speak to employees about this sort of solicitation.

This is what happens when you contract out city services to private, for-profit companies. They pay their employees like shit, and people who have to do a sucky job like collecting your garbage every week look to other ways to make ends meet. Instead of being grateful that she doesn’t have to haul her stinking garbage to a landfill herself in the August heat (or January ice) she begrudges some guy his Christmas card. If you’re offended by a Christmas card and perceived request for a holiday tip (which you are under zero obligation to acknowledge), then imagine how offended you will be when some private company decides to hire illegal immigrants to save a buck. Hey, could happen.

The Beale household has been getting these Christmas cards every year, by the way. Here it is (Note the guy even said MERRY CHRISTMAS, not the offending “Happy Holidays.” There’s just no pleasing some people):

We also get these from the newspaper delivery guys. If I think of it, and I don’t always do so every year, I pop $10 or $20 in a Christmas card and send it back to them. I figure it’s the least I can do for someone who has a sucky job I would never want to do myself.

I hate to break it you, Becky Becker, but the real reason you got that Christmas card is that it's really, really hard for working people in this state. We've privatized everything to save a buck, we refuse to raise taxes on corporations or rich people here because ZOMFG that would kill our "robust" economy, we deny people the right to organize into unions so they can collectively bargain for fair wages, we scream and bitch and moan about the very idea of raising the minimum wage let alone providing people a living wage, we force people to accept crappy pay for crappy work and so yeah, it's no surprise they’re gonna have their hands out. It's not because they’re greedy grabbers, but because they’re trying to pay their bills and send their kids to school and basically attain the American Dream which is increasingly out of reach for working folks because the people who got there ahead of them are pulling the ladders up.

I can’t link to this Financial Times article from August often enough, especially this part:

Dubbed “median wage stagnation” by economists, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the ­multiple is above 300.

People are working two and three times harder to stay in the same place. A lot of people are falling behind. And I think it’s this inconvenient fact which has the Becky Beckers of the country upset. It’s like they’re offended at being reminded that a lot of people are struggling. They want to stick their head in a hole and sing their happy songs. “America is the greatest country in the world EVAH! Everything is awesome!”

It’s like those folks who get ticked off at the vendors selling copies of The Contributor all over town. You’ve seen them with their yellow placards: it’s the alternative to panhandling. The paper is produced by homeless and formerly homeless folks through the Downtown Presbyterian Church. Vendors sell the papers for $1. The paper is actually quite good, - it’s won several national awards - and Mr. Beale and I always buy one.

Yet people bitch and moan about the vendors selling these papers in front of their businesses and on street corners. I’m like, WTF do you people want? First you put up “Please Help, Don’t Give” signs in your store windows. Then a local church devises a way for people to earn some money -- all of that pulling-up-by-the-bootstraps stuff you’re always harping on about -- and you begrudge folks that. You like to shout “Get a job!" but when someone actually does get a job, you're like "Well, not that job!" Jesus.

What you guys really want is for these folks to just go away, am I right? You want them to be invisible. You don’t like to see the wages of our national sin out there on display for all to see. Well sorry, but it doesn't work that way. You espouse the creed of greed and this is the result.