Saturday, November 1, 2014

Life's Little Injustices (Take III): "They Just Cut My Hours..."

It's one thing to read about the stark reality of Part-Time America in a news story, but quite another to confront its results face-to-face. President Obama's critics have hammered long and hard on this point, which isn't our focus here – because, quite frankly, all this” hectoring is lost on men and women who can't get full-time work, or struggle to string together part-time, temp or contract jobs for the privilege of getting by for another week or two.

The Squawker and I went on a grocery run tonight, though we both found the trip diminished by how this particular store is busily eliminating the healthier items we've enjoyed lately (such as a certain high-quality white meat turkey burger that Butterball produces).

Many conventional brand choices have narrowed drastically, as well – for example, when I went to grab a seven-inch Home Run pizza, I found only two choices (plain old cheese, or plain old sausage – look, ma, it's one from Column A, and another one from Column A)!

Of course, the prices have shot up dramatically, as well, which inspired a discussion at the checkout between the Squawker and myself.

“This is the last time that we can shop here,” the Squawker muttered, as the cash register ticked off $110 – beyond where we wanted to go, so we started taking items off the conveyer belt. “This food is getting way too expensive.”

Suddenly, the cashier jumped in: “I know what you mean – I have trouble affording the food here, too.”

“Don't you get a discount?” the Squawker asked.

“Oh, sure, 10 percent – but not on groceries.” The cashier wrinkled her face. “You'd think they'd put it on something that matters. I mean, it's been me and my son for 15 years now – he's 17 – and it's hard.”

We finished sorting out how many items were going back on the floor.  The cashier gestured for me to begin writing my check.

“I imagine it takes a fair amount of footwork to afford it all...” I ventured.

“They just cut my hours at work,” the cashier frowned.

“Well how many were you getting before?” I asked.

“Oh, it was usually between 30 and 37 hours...but last week, they cut us down to 25, so I had to borrow a couple weeks' rent from my dad.” She began running my check through the reader. “I felt bad, because he had to go into his 401(k) to get it...”

“Don't feel bad,” I interjected. “This is how so many people are living now – and yours isn't the first story of this sort that I've heard.”

With a couple customers fidgeting in line behind us, that's where we had to leave the story – which doesn't come attached to a particular party label, or philosophical bias. It's just one of many accounts getting drowned out by the braying of lobbyists, the carnival barking of the political class, the clanking of uber-connected insiders rattling their tin cups at the public trough, their eyes flashing a knowing wink as they grease the proper palms, endlessly grubbing for more...and so, the drain circles round, and round, and round, with no end in sight...and no cavalry coming over the horizon. --The Reckoner

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