Poverty As a Commodity

Living, or rather surviving, in the working-class, low-income side of Memphis is a struggle that is laced with hardship and stress. Many of the people who come from these areas work several jobs that pay far less than a living wage, so, even with all their effort, they are still unable to pay bills and take care of families.  The money that they are able to keep gets spent on necessities at other large companies that have the same fashion of a work force. Poor communities have a serious problem with divestment. The jobs created by large companies pay tiny wages that get sucked back into the company before the next pay period. Even worse, because of the PILOT program, these businesses, like FedEx, get huge tax breaks that seriously take away from the benefit of ever having the company in town in the first place. This allows companies to make a huge profit off the backs of economically disadvantaged people.

Sad thing is that the city government keeps letting large companies get tax breaks through the PILOT program making it far easier for the business to suck money out of the local economy. Once people spend money at Walmart, Home Depot, or any fast-food restaurant, that money is gone from the local economy to wherever that business stashes its money. None of it is invested in the local economy and job creation is a joke because they give people very little hours and pay far less than a living wage.  Without the tax money there is a lack of funds with which the government can create programs and institutions to fix problems that working class people face.

It could be use to fix the police pension problem or used to bolster education in the inner city. TCAP and EOC scores for students in the inner city are fare lower than those of kids in the municipalities, and more than 10 schools were closed last year. Poor educational programs lead to people, having a lack of skills, only being able to work low paying jobs, and they can never make enough to invest their money into something that will benefit the community. Lots of people in the working class work the same job all their lives, without a raise or promotion. Then their children come into the same cycle.

Many of the children of the people in the working-class have to live in a household run by stressed, and often single, parents. Having no programs in the community in which the kids can get involved leads them finding destructive ways to act out. By the time a lot of the young people of the community graduate from high school they have drug charges, theft or some violent crime charge. They are then rendered ineligible for employment. Those who didn’t commit crimes had better have great grades to go off to college or enroll in a trade school. If not they are hurled into the workforce with all of its atrocities.

Poor people are in this light a commodity for big business to use to build the dreams of its CEOs. The poverty is created by the money being funneled out of the community and dangling job opportunities in front of its members. They latch on because at least then they wont end up homeless, and they have an ounce of dignity purchased by the minimum wage.