I’ve been poor.
I’ve been paid a lot.
I’ve been on both sides of the equation.
I’ve been at the bargaining table needing a job. Any job. I was unemployed and broke. I was married and we had our first child. My mom would send us a bag of groceries and a little money to help with rent. We lived in a basement apartment on the south side of Madison. There were drugs. Cops were in our parking lot all the time breaking up fights. We were on WIC to help feed our son.
I was a loser.
Renee and I had little. But, I had an education. I had support. I had a fear of failure. We loved each other. I got a job parking cars (the best job I ever had) and started a long journey up.
I’ve also owned and run a profitable, large corporation. We employed hundreds. So, I’ve been on the other side of the table hiring those that need jobs. Giving people opportunities. I’ve worked side-by-side with very smart and educated people, managers, bankers, and venture capitalists.
I have seen first-hand the greed of capitalists that want to reduce health care expenses, wages, and leverage their investments with low-cost bank money - all so they can make more. Their simple plan, “We can make more if we take away from those with less.” You know what? It works. Profits soared.
I couldn’t do it anymore. I quit.
I’ve roamed around and worked with people in the Nanjng, China slums. Some were paid one dollar a day and lived 4 or 5 to a one room shack. One Chinese manager I knew and worked with was thrilled that he had one sport coat. One. He wore it every day.
I’ve seen the problems of hiring those that cannot read in Jacksonville, Florida. We had 3rd grade level spelling and math tests to qualify. (Jacksonville has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country.)
I’ve wandered through Chicago shooting pictures with my RX 100, stunned and saddened at the number of homeless and the amount of violence in different areas.
Of all these groups, some had hope. Some did not. It’s not right.
Everyone should have hope.
This I know. We have too much poverty. Too much violence. We have extreme income inequalities that stir discontent and racial tension.
I also know we can do something about it. We can raise wages. We can raise taxes in certain areas on the super wealthy, corporations, and financial transactions. We can reduce student debt and invest in education. We can stop building the war machine. The economy will boom!
Trust me. I’ve been on both sides.
The equation is unbalanced. Let’s blow it up!
Stick Vega is the American Gunpowder Artist and author of LESS KILLING. He creates explosive pop art and blogs from The Blast Factory in Madison, WI and Bucktown, Chicago, IL. Follow Stick on Facebook and/or Twitter.