Better wages, not government subsidies, are key to defeating poverty

Are the poor to blame for their conditions and struggles? Should government benefits subsidize the low wages of working class people at places like fast food restaurants or nursing homes? Should the middle class bear the financial burden of paying for these benefits or should the wealthy and corporations pay higher taxes?

Sherry Linkon, Contributor to Working Class Perspectives, joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss these issues. She also discussed a new Showtime series, American Rust, and the portrayal of the American Rustbelt in movies and television.

Could a higher minimum wage be the solution to poverty?

Linkon was inspired to write her blog, “Fighting Poverty with Classism,” after hearing a lecture by Robert Doar, President of the American Enterprise Institute, at the Chautauqua Institution.

Doar is a proponent of using government programs to address poverty and make up the difference between what people earn and what it takes to live, Linkon said. However, Linkon was disturbed by much of his lecture, as it reflected views of the working class that were not respectful. He did not understand the nature of working class culture.

There is an attitude the poor would no longer be poor if they simply embraced the values of the middle class and elite, Linkon said. It suggests that poor people do not know the value of hard work, when the reality is the exact opposite, she said.

Linkon argued that poor people need a living wage to lift them out of poverty — not government assistance to subsidize a sub-living wage. The country needs to reach a point where working people are no longer living in poverty.

Linkon spoke in favor of raising the minimum wage. She also argued in favor of raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy so the middle class does not bear more than its fair share of taxes.

Showtime’s series “American Rust” looks at midwest towns

Linkon also discussed a new Showtime series, American Rust. Her colleague, Carnegie Mellon Professor Kathy Newman, wrote a blog on the series for Working Class Perspectives.

The show inspects the collapse of working class towns in the American rust belt. Linkon said the series is worth watching in that it shows how these communities internalize loss and the breakdown of social structures.

Linkon wants to see Hollywood pick up other working class issues, such as the fight for a $15 minimum wage or unionization efforts for Instacart, HelloFresh or Amazon workers. She believes showcasing such stories would help expand audiences’ mindset of the working class and what it takes to survive in America.


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