Sorry, Poor Americans, But You're on Your Own

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a man who looks like a deflating yoga ball, really, really doesn't want to talk about the minimum wage. He didn't want to do a thing about it last year when he vetoed a bill to raise the minimum wage, which the voters of New Jersey ended up hiking anyway by a landslide vote of 61% to 39%. He doesn't want to now.

This is not just an assumption. Here's what Christie said yesterday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.’ Is that what parents aspire to for our children? They aspire to a greater, growing America where their children have the ability to make much more money and have much greater success than they have and that’s not about a higher minimum wage."

Now, let's put aside how utterly and completely wrong Christie is about who is making the minimum wage. 50% of its earners are adults 25 or older, so chances are Dad, or, more likely, Mom is sitting at the table, explaining to the kids why rich people listen to other rich people talk about how tired they are of hearing about the minimum wage,

This is our nation, the great, wealthy country where everyone can be anything as long as they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Of course, it'd help if people had boots.

'Cause see, as splendiferous and magnificent as the United States is, we can't even assure that poor people will have water. As the poorest people in Detroit learned (and, by the way, that "poorest" is 38% of the population), you can live in the 21st-century and your water can be shut off if you don't pay, like it was for 27,000 people in the last year, and the United Nations can come in, like it's just another Third World hellhole, and report about how truly fucked up that is. That report, by the way, kicks the nation right in its withering balls: "We were deeply disturbed to observe the indignity people have faced and continue to live with in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and in a city that was a symbol of America’s prosperity."

While the city said it has now turned the water back on, we still have to wrestle with the fact that it happened. "[T]he sad situation in Detroit also raises serious questions about what a citizen of a developed country—a country that not only believes itself to be the ideal model for liberal democracies around the world, but also regularly exports its way of life via commerce, capital, and sometimes military might—can expect of its government," as David Graham puts it in The Atlantic.

"Who the fuck are we?" is a question we ought to constantly be asking. What is our responsibility to each other? At what point do we simply cease to be a nation and become just an archipelago of individuals floating in a miasma of our selfishness and greed?

Which brings us back to Chris Christie, still slowly deflating, and his disdain for any talk about the minimum wage. In January, the rate will go up 13 cents in New Jersey, to $8.38 an hour. That's because voters passed a constitutional amendment that said the minimum wage must be tied to the cost of living. Every year it will go up because that's just fucking humane (even if the wage is still too low).

In other words, the minimum wage should be hung around Christie's neck, a millstone that drags his presidential aspirations down to the ground. Christie pretty much said, "Yeah, fuck the poor." But, really, is it that different than what the nation as a whole is saying when you hear about the takers and free stuff and anything else that exists just to keep people alive?