Republicans and their followers love to tell everyone within ear shot that poor people are poor because they want to be that way. They say that there is something wrong with the poor, they’re lazy, they don’t want to get ahead. All they want to do is collect their government checks each month.
Anyone who believes those things has never met someone like Maria Fernandes, who was found dead in an SUV that was parked outside a New Jersey convenience store.
Maria Fernandes is the face of the poor that Republicans don’t want to confront; the face of the working poor in America. In 2012, 10.6 million people in the U.S. fit the definition of “working poor,” which is anyone who is in the labor force for at least 27 weeks, but still has an income below the poverty level. As corporate profits soar, the number of working poor has increased by over three million since 2007.
Fernandes was not that “lazy” poor person that Republicans love to ridicule. She held four jobs. That’s right, four jobs. The Newark, New Jersey Star Ledger reports the circumstances of her death:
Early Monday, the 32-year-old Newark woman pulled into a lot off Route 1 & 9 in Elizabeth for a nap. She apparently left the car running and was overcome by carbon monoxide mixed with fumes from the gas can that had overturned, police said. Fernandes was found dead in the car about eight hours later.
This was not a case of Fernandes being the exception to the rule, either. Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, says there are tens of thousands of people in New Jersey alone who are working more than one job. Van Horn tells the Star Ledger:
These are folks who would like to work full-time but they can’t find the jobs.They wind up in these circumstances in which they are exhausted. More commonly it creates just an enormous amount of stress.
Van Horn also says that on average, anyone who lost his or her job during the recession took a ten percent pay cut upon returning to the work force.
A failed GOP senate candidate named John Koster offered this comment about the poor in 2012, and it pretty much sums up what Republicans believe:
Under this administration it has become a system that punishes those who dare to dream, those who dare to invest, those who dare to work hard or succeed. It seems to reward the mediocrity — dare I say it, slothfulness and laziness — of those who choose not to do those things.
From all evidence, Maria Fernandes, was not “slothful,” or “lazy.” She was trying to get ahead, trying to reach that “American dream” that Republicans love to talk about, but whose policies always seem to manage to keep at arms length for many. Maria Fernandes was not lazy. She almost literally worked herself to death.
h/t: NBC 10 Philadelphia