The Shoestring Initiative

Advancing socioeconomic diversity in Canadian universities


What working-class and poor white people need to understand about rich white people by Jonna Ivin-Patton

Jonna Ivin-Patton

Aug 15, 2018

Rich people do not care about you.

No, I’m not talking about your cousin who drives a Mercedes, has his own insurance business, and always picks up the tab when you go out for beers. I’m talking about super-rich people: the Walton family, the Koch brothers and, yes, the Trumps. I’m talking about people who continue to make money off the backs of the poor while convincing those same people to remain loyal no matter what. But the truth is they are never going to share or trickle down their money to you — regardless of how white you are, how loyal you are, or how much you support their companies or their politicians.

When a family like the Waltons, worth over $50 billion — that’s billion with a “b” — are fine knowing their employees are collecting food stamps to survive and they do nothing about it, that speaks volumes. It says loud and clear: I don’t fucking care about you!

When Donald Trump was willing to close down and bankrupt multiple small businesses because he couldn’t be bothered to pay his bills, all while living in a gilded penthouse and flying around New York City in a helicopter, that screamed: I don’t fucking care about you!

Creating jobs isn’t a thing to be praised.

Creating well-paying jobs is. Billion-dollar corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s don’t create healthy economies. They create mass poverty. Anyone can create a job. I’ll pay you $1 an hour to clean my house, do lawn care and general maintenance Monday through Friday for eight hours a day. There, I created a job. Have I contributed anything to society? No. Have I boosted the economy? No. All I’ve done is put one person in poverty.

“Job-creation” is nothing more than a catchphrase that politicians use to get votes. It doesn’t mean anything. Let’s say there is a small town with 500 people and a factory opens and pays minimum wage. If the company hires everyone in the area, the result will not be a thriving community. It will be a community of 500 poor people. Yes, the factory technically created jobs, but it also spread poverty. Never forget they need us more than we need them. Without us working their low-paying jobs, they have nothing. Make them pay fairly for your labor. Make them create well-paying jobs.

Black and Brown people are not the reason you’re poor, rich white people are the reason you‘re poor.

Corporations siphon money from profits to share with stockholders, upper management, and CEOs, leaving everyone else, regardless of color, scrambling at the bottom for crappy pay. The owner of the factory is the reason you are poor, not the person of color working beside you for the same wage. Don’t be angry at the immigrant trying to make a better life. Be pissed off at the company who exploits both of you so they can pay lower wages and maximize profits.

There is NO such thing as a “Welfare Queen.”

There never was. Politicians made this up. It is propaganda designed to make you think people of color are lazy and want a free ride at your expense. If you resent them, you are more likely to vote to eliminate programs that benefit them but could also benefit your own family. Generations and generations of white people have been programmed to be racist even if it’s to their own detriment. By helping to keep people of color down, you keep yourself down — and that’s how politicians want it. Consider how the GIF below uses racist propaganda to persuade you to think negatively about people who need government assistance. (And no, one example of a person buying steaks with food stamps does not prove the entire welfare system is corrupt.)

The “War on Drugs” and “The War on Crime” are fake.

These programs target minority communities and keep the private prison system making billions. As collateral damage, poor whites sometimes get sucked into the system, but not enough that anyone cares. Poor people are funneled through the prison system with plea deals. Incarcerated people work for pennies a day in a modern-day slave trade, making products for billion-dollar corporations.

The rehabilitation system has almost no programs for actual rehabilitation because the system wants ex-convicts to fail. It’s how they keep the money pouring in. The propaganda of these fake wars tries to convince white people that black and brown people commit more crimes, that white people should fear them, and that prison is where they belong. If you allow yourself to be brainwashed by racism, the system will continue to prey on poor people of all colors. Rich people hire lawyers to get out of prison time. Poor people are scared and pressured into plea deals. And no one cares until it happens to them.

Stop listening to people who say you need to boot-strap your way up, especially if they have never had to boot-strap their way anywhere.

This is a myth wealthy people have been telling poor people for centuries. It’s a way to keep poor and working-class people grinding away at jobs that create more wealth for them, not you. It’s a way to pit working class people and poor people against each other. Instead of showing each other compassion and joining together, we look down on anyone we see as “not working hard enough” — even when that mentality keeps us down too. Working hard is admirable; being made to feel lazy or less than because you lack equal opportunity is manipulation.

Rich people don’t have some magical way of thinking that makes them rich. They aren’t better, smarter, or more creative than poor people. They have more money, and more money offers greater opportunities. That’s it.

I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t try to better their lives. Never give up. What I’m saying is stop beating yourself up because you face a longer, tougher road to succeed than someone who was born into wealth and privilege. And try to have compassion for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Beating people down who are already exhausted isn’t just unfair — it’s cruel.

Wealthy white people love to see poor people fighting among ourselves.

If we dislike each other over things like race, sexual orientation, and religion, then we aren’t paying attention to what the billionaires and politicians are doing. They want you to get riled up over wedding cakes, who uses what bathroom, and what to say at Christmas time. By pumping out media stories that make you think you are losing something, or that your lifestyle is in danger, they can keep you focused on stuff that really makes no difference in your life.

I’ll put it like this: if I offered you $5 more per hour at your job on the condition you do not insert yourself in matters that don’t concern you, like gay couples getting married, would you accept it? Here’s another way to look at it: would you rather have a $100 Christmas bonus, or a $1000 Holiday bonus? When we take a step back, get honest, and ask ourselves if we genuinely care how other people live, the answer is usually no. We get fired up over the onslaught of shocking headlines, and that’s exactly what people in power want.

Rich people have convinced working class people that unions are bad.

Workers are stuck in low-paying jobs without the power to walk out and negotiate for better wages and benefits. News outlets (owned by rich people) frame stories of union walkouts as if workers are lazy or greedy. They often show workers of color on picket lines to reinforce the notion that black and brown people want “something for nothing.” That is one way to minimize wages for workers and maximize payouts to stockholders and CEOs.

If a CEO makes $120 million a year, in one year he or she has enough so they never have to work again for the rest of their life. They never have to work another day, and neither do their grandkids or great-grandkids. The entire family is set. Do you think they care if the company goes belly up? Why would they when they’ve got theirs? If you lose your job are you set? Corporations spend a great deal of time peddling fear in workers that the most important thing is the “health” of the company above all else. That’s just a tricky way to convince workers to take less, so those at the top can take more. What’s the best way to achieve that? Split up unions and take away workers’ power. There is power in numbers, and they know it, and do everything they can to keep us from seeing it. Remember: without your labor, they have nothing!

When the show Friends became a runaway hit it came time for the actors to renegotiate their contracts. David Schwimmer, who played Ross, went to the rest of the cast and suggested that, instead of negotiating individually, which could lead to resentment if some were paid more than others, they should negotiate as a single group. The result was the entire cast was paid the same for the run of the show. It was equal and fair, and no one left the show because of hurt feelings or resentment. That’s a union.

There is a myth that raising the minimum wage would allow unskilled workers to make as much as skilled workers and that wouldn’t be fair.

Again, this is more spinning of tales so that wealthy CEOs can keep worker pay at an all-time low while they make billions. The truth is if minimum wage went up, skilled wages would go up too. How? Let’s say you are an EMT working for $15.00 an hour and the minimum wage goes up. Now everyone working in retail and fast food is making the same as you. Pretty insulting, right? Wrong. That’s what corporations want you to think so you will fight to keep other poor people down. If the minimum wage rose to $15, you could get a job anywhere for the same pay. That would give you leverage to negotiate a higher wage by saying, essentially, “There is now an abundance of jobs paying what I make. I can leave and take one of those jobs unless you pay me more for my added skills.” Your skills are now worth more. Instead of $15, you may get $20, but you’ll never get the $20 if you keep fighting to keep others down. Lifting others lifts you up too.

Continuing to support politicians who give tax breaks to the rich is never going to make your life better.

When a company gains billions in tax breaks, the people at the top get multi-million-dollar bonuses. Workers at the bottom may (if they are incredibly lucky) get $1000 after 20 years of service. That’s $50 a year! A one-time bonus of a $1000 will do nothing to change a working person’s life. At best, it will alleviate a bit of stress for one month. One month for 20 years! Meanwhile, CEOs and other top executives are wondering if they should buy a yacht or another vacation home. While poor people are cheering over being thrown slop, the rich are pigging out at the buffet table.

If poor and working-class people stop fighting each other and band together, we have the numbers to make real change. Rich people know this, and it terrifies them. If we suddenly start demanding better wages, they may have to give up a bit of profit. If we start demanding health care and quality education, they may have to pay a bit more in taxes. If we start treating each other with respect and equality, they can no longer use fear, homophobia, racism, and propaganda to distract us.

We have the power. Now we need to stop giving it away.

Jonna Ivin-Patton

Go to the profile of Eric A. Smith

Mike ScialesAug 26, 2018I’m not a rich guy, but I travel and visit regularly with some uber rich folks and Jonna Ivin absolutely nailed it. Well done.This also made me sign up for Medium. Very well done.Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Grieg Walking Bear

Grieg Walking BearAug 26, 2018This is a great article, and there’s another distinction to be made here.Wal-Mart doesn’t create jobs. In my book, “The Empire Has No Clothes: Observations on Life, Humanity, and America by someone who missed the announcement,” I argue that Wal-Mart actually destroys jobs:Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Brad Rose

Brad RoseAug 27, 2018This is a really fine article and explains in an accessible way many of the features of contemporary (American) capitalism. Bravo for your clear-headed analysis and spot-on disarming of many ideological myths. Sadly, too many Americans believe the hogwash nonsense fairy tales that you so elegantly and directly dismantle. Keep up the great work.Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Tom Lang

Tom LangAug 26, 2018We have to get the vote out to fix the rich from slinging bullshit at us. Like giving the super rich tax breaks and expecting it to reach the common citizenry. It’s nothing different than the Reagan administration did in the 80’s. It didn’t work then and it isn’t working now. It is the trickle down theory, but nothing trickled down to us. It DID…Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

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Bill KraemerAug 23, 2018Perfection.Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

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MyasaraAug 25, 2018All true and well put, but are the right people reading this?Conversation between Tim Gick and Jonna Ivin-Patton.

Go to the profile of Tim Gick

Tim GickAug 28, 2018Quick question — Have you started your own company before and employed more than 50 people?I think its relevant in the sense that you will find yourself figuring out how to make ends meet while keeping everyone happy and everyone employed at the same time.Jonna Ivin-PattonAug 28, 2018I admire your willingness to keep your business open even though you yourself are poor. Not too many people would give up their personal wealth and comfort and live a modest life in order to keep jobs available for others.Too often I see business owners crying broke, but then continuing to live in a grand lifestyle when…Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

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Alex DownsAug 24, 2018A good, solid article covering many points clearly and succinctly. A++Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

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karith whirtyAug 24, 2018Damn…I’m at a loss for words. Brava!!!Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

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Eric Panetta (eP)Aug 26, 2018Fucking spot on! more Trump supports need to read this maybe it will reverse their brainwashing!Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Eric Gorall

Eric GorallAug 25, 2018So many ideas nails hit squarely on the head… I’m with you on this. Love it. Important. Needs to be said.. to be shouted on the rooftops. So many things that can be fixed, needs be fixed.Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Paul Giammario

Paul GiammarioAug 22, 2018This reinforces what I have suspected for a long time. The meek will inherit the earth?Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)John HaldermanAug 26, 2018Yes, it is the Divide, Conquer, and Manipulate system is what We must eliminate.To do this, We must re-realize our inherent connection, so that we stop perceiving and acting as if we are Separate, disconnected from each other … which is why we allow ourselves to be subject to fear and manipulation.Conversation between Francesca Ponzini and Jonna Ivin-Patton.

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Francesca PonziniAug 29, 2018I do believe Occupy and its slogan ‘we are the 99%’ were addressing part of the issues you outlined here. However, I came to think that the basic concept ‘We have the power’ is not as simple and immediate as one might think (read circulation & control of information and media, dismantling of proper education and so on). Would be great to know your thoughts. thank you.Jonna Ivin-PattonAug 30, 2018I completely agree with you that it’s not that simple. Yes, in theory we have the power. If every single minimum wage worker up and walked out, what would the corporations do? Now, getting all those workers to actually do it is a whole other story. I see that.Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Garry Luttrell

Garry LuttrellAug 26, 2018Having just read this article, I would imagine you have a great number of persons who follow your writings. To the point and very true. If those who are ultra-rich would only realize that they could help the less fortunate just by being compassionate rather than greedy, what a wonderful world we would have! I guess that’s why I have not won the…Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of BC Shelby

BC ShelbyAug 30, 2018..I’ve been mentioning many of these points for a while now in blogs and social media. Trickle down is the “Big Lie” of the last 35 years. Wages for most workers flatlined in the 80s while costs and productivity demands continued to rise unfettered. Organised labour became the boogeyman of conservative Republicans, and their policies along with anti…Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of VJ Epstein

VJ EpsteinAug 30, 2018That was a good fuggin story and I’m a journalism lifer and a cranky mofo. Thank you for your service Jonna.Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Cher Willoccur

Cher WilloccurAug 24, 2018Perfectly worded!!!Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Tom Chiarella

Tom ChiarellaAug 29, 2018What a remarkable piece. I posted it on facebook and my friends went nuts for it. You are a force.Applause from Jonna Ivin-Patton (author)

Go to the profile of Oscar de la Guardia

Oscar de la GuardiaAug 30, 2018Damn but this is a good article — cogent, erudite and perceptive. I’’e quoted/posted it twice today on my Facebook page, and joined Medium just to send out a “way-to-go”. Brava, Jonna Ivin!

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