value: (n) the importance that someone assigns to some object, person, or idea; often expressed, in our culture, in monetary denomination, or as my father-in-law used to say, “Something is worth what someone is willing to pay you for it”
How much do we value life, and living?
Watching Congress debate the latest Covid19 legislation, we are down to around $200 per week per former wage earner. Of course, that is the federal response, which the GOP proponents of will clarify that this is on top of the state funded unemployment support, which averages around $375 per week (some state as low as $200 and others as high as $800 per week).
Get out those calculators… I think that we are up to $575 per week. Multiply that by four weeks and you are up to $2,300 per month. Assuming a two income household, you might be up to $4,600 (but you might deduct one of those who is now, more or less, doing full time childcare and homeschooling duties). Of course, that does not include any payroll deductions for, say, Social Security, Medicare, health insurance, dental, vision, or life insurance plans, or 401k plans, which might usually come out before someone has their pay deposited into their checking account. And, do not forget broadband internet service, which is essential, even if the unemployed person’s job is not.
Oh, silly me.
Most of those who have los their jobs because of Covid19 were not working positions that received benefits anyway. In fact, this is one reason that the GOP has been advocating for reducing the federal assistance, because they see people as lazy and happy to sit home, unemployed. They miscalculated when Congress set the initial federal payment at $600, using the median income as the basis. Most of those unemployed now did not make this ($600 + $375 = $975 per week) at their jobs.
Maybe, rather than dribbling over $200 versus $600, we should have been questioning why we expected people to live on such low wages to begin with. Many of them, when they could, held second jobs.
Oh, silly me.
Now I’m bringing up the living-wage debate. What value do we put on our American Dream? Housing? Food? Stylish clothes (certainly would not want to be pictured on social media in drab fashion)? Education? Entertainment?
From what I hear from folks I know who have valued Trump’s presidency, and happen to have been appointed to political positions because of loyalty during the 2016 election cycle, to hob-nob in the Trump hotel just down the street from the Whitehouse, a cocktail in the hotel lounge will cost you $36. Hmmm, how long will that $200 last in that valuation? You might be washing dishes, or cleaning up protest signs, by the end of the evening.
But, this issue is not new. As much as we claim to value life, you know, Pro-Life, Jesus Loves All People, the Death Penalty for murders, etc., we have along history of not valuing life.
Obviously, our slave-owning origins defies the concept of valuing life.
Oh, silly me.
Those black folks were property not full people, or at least only 3/5 of a person for calculating House of Representative seats. Well, we treated white indentured servants only a little better… they could at least eventually pay off their Atlantic transit expense, housing, food, expense, etc. Then they could become share-croppers or minors. Of course, the Irish really accelerated the demise of slaves and indentured servants (who by the way even Frederick Douglas pittied and referred to as “white trash” back in 1855). All those Irish, escaping the potato famines of the early-mid 1800’s, could be hired for $1 per day, without needing to house, clothe, or feed them. And, when they fell it, what the heck, let them die on their own. In reading a rather dry Congressional testimony in the mid-1930’s of the Hawk’s Next Tunnel silicosis disaster, a small factor caught my attention: wages for African American miners started at 40 cents per hour in 1930; by 1932, because Union Carbide had advertise heavily in African American regions of southern states, the surplus of miners (even as they died off rapidly) was such that they had to pay only 25 cents per hour. Don’t think that this was something we outgrew a hundred years ago. We have been doing this with eastern European and Central American immigrants, documented and undocumented, up to… today.
Surplus people. Expendable people. At least, that seem to be the attitude of some in our society.
But, broaden the concept of value. Certainly look at where you allocate your money. Then consider other resources you have: time, energy, attention, affection, interest. How do you distribute these resources? What does this say about how you value them?