So today we added the Fort Dix Six
to the lexicon, a band of terrorists so ruthless, so cunning, so methodical, so assured of success, that they taped themselves shooting guns in the woods and handed them over for dubbing to a retail store. Now, let's put aside the fact that this terrorist cell appears to be about as good at terrorism as the group in Miami who used to smoke pot and talk about waging a full ground war
against the US, but didn't have enough cash for boots. And let's put side that the US Attorney in the case, Chris Christie, has come under scrutiny
for politicizing his office to investigate Democrats. Let's put aside all skepticism about the timing of the announcement or the ability of the plotters to pull anything off or how the whole episode shows that effective law enforcement is the key to protecting America.
Let's talk about the unsung hero of this story. Let's talk about the clerks
We don't know a whole lot about the store clerk who tipped off the FBI that there was some supicious activity on a video received from a customer. I guess we know that it wasn't Kevin Smith. But other than that, little. I've seen him or her alternately described as a "shopkeeper" all the way to a "cashier." The name is being withheld, and it will probably remain that way. Here's a representative sample of the information that has been gleaned.
Weiss saluted the unidentified New Jersey store clerk who noticed the suspicious video as the "unsung hero" of the case. "That's why we're here today _ because of the courage and heroism of that individual," the FBI agent said.
So we can't talk with a great deal of specificity about this particular sales clerk, dubbed a hero by the FBI. What we can do is discuss the average store clerk in New Jersey, and how this economy is tilted against them, how they must struggle to keep up in the service sector jobs which in much of the country are the consolation prizes for globalization.
What do we know about how much a clerk in New Jersey makes? Well, consulting Payscale.com
, we learn that the median salary for that job is $37,280 dollars a year. Of course, that is weighted with union cashier/clerk jobs like grocery workers, for example. We know that nonunion workers in the service sector in New Jersey make roughly 60%
of their union counterparts. Most cashiers and clerks are nonunion. In addition, experience plays a major factor; those on the job 20 years or more make much more than the norm, which are those in the job between 1-4 years. So I'm more inclined to believe that the average wage for a store clerk in New Jersey is closer to what this Bureau of Labor Statistics
That would put our sales clerk right on the edge of the poverty line.
We know that the statewide average rent
in New Jersey is almost $1100/month, and 53% of all New Jerseyites couldn't afford the rent on a two-bedroom apartment, for example. So if this average sales clerk has a family, he's cramped, especially if he has children.
We know that 14% of the state's citizens don't have health insurance
, and that this number disproportionately affects those in the income bracket as our average store clerk. Even if the clerk does have insurance, the quality of care is among the nation's costliest while simultaneously being among the nation's poorest
. And without health care, it just gets that much more expensive
Getting sick anywhere can be an expensive proposition for those lacking health insurance, but nowhere is it more expensive than in New Jersey, a new study has found.
The state's hospitals, on average, charge uninsured patients or those who pay out of pocket more than four times what insurance companies and Medicare end up paying for the same care, according to the study published today in the journal Health Affairs.
For example, a patient without insurance would be billed $456 for the same services a New Jersey hospital charged insurance companies $100, according to the study by John Hopkins researchers, which used 2004 billing data.
That gap was the greatest of any state, and overwhelmingly affected the working poor and other low-income residents, the study concluded.
Just like our sales clerk!
And if he ever has a catastrophic medical event happen to him or his family, forget about declaring bankruptcy
Now, New Jersey is a fairly liberal state, but the problems I'm describing are systemic, and they result from the value placed on chasing jobs abroad instead of keeping them at home, from the value placed on free enterprise in health care rather than the moral imperative of ensuring all of our citizens can get well, from the value placed on tax breaks for businesses instead of providing everyone in this country with a living wage and the opportunity for their families to get ahead. I could have picked any state in the union. It just so happens that this unidentified sales clerk was called a "hero" by the FBI.
Is this how we treat heroes in America?
Labels: economy, Fort Dix Six, health care, New Jersey, poverty, sales clerks, terrorism, wages