Every now and then, there is a discussion in some blog or other about the correlation between hard work and (financial) success. Usually, the blogger declares that successful people work hard; the general assumption is that because "I worked hard, I am successful. And because I am successful, I deserve what I have." Then there is a flurry of objections by readers.
I myself think that the hardest working people are the working poor. I meet many of these people at Goodwill. Often, these women are wearing the badges of their place of employ: "First Name Only" followed by "Aide." I am lucky to have met these people; they are not shopping at Goodwill for sport as I am; and they remind me of the many gifts I have been given. Yes, I have worked hard, but--I venture to say--not as hard as they do.
So here is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal. Not exactly a liberal rag, the WSJ presents a picture of a member of the working--now non-working--poor. She is 3 years younger than I am.
As the economy has shed jobs, many working poor who in better times used plentiful jobs and overtime to raise their living standards are falling back into poverty. The increase in poverty last year—2.6 million people—was concentrated among working-age families, with the poverty rate among people between 18 and 64 growing to 11.7% from 10.9% a year ago. Among the hardest hit were children: The child poverty rate was 19% last year, up from 18%. Poverty is defined, for example, as earnings under $22,000 for a family of four.
Colette Banks, 52 years old, this month exhausted her unemployment benefits after losing her $10-an-hour job as a hospital housekeeper in 2007. She has applied to several jobs but had no luck; recently Ms. Banks applied for four positions at the Prudential Center arena in Newark, N.J.—security, housekeeping, ushering and kitchen help—but hasn't heard back.
With a full work week and occasional overtime, Ms. Banks made about $21,000 a year when she had her job—just above the poverty line. She recently applied for food stamps, rental assistance and Medicaid to support herself and her 15-year-old granddaughter. Free television has become the lone form of entertainment in their household, and dinner often consists of rice and beans. "You have to pay a little bit here pay a bit there, just to stay above water," she says.