I have grown weary of the lie that this
Is a society that values work.
We shame the ones who do or can not work,
And thunder moralistic speeches from
The floors of legislative chambers and
The pulpits of religious homes of prayer.
The ones who seek and can not find a job
In an economy they did not wreck
(Which others, who enjoy the benefits
Of wealth, demolished in their mad pursuit
Of gold), endure the condemnation of
The comfortable and the privileged.
I have a job, and though I’m praised for all
The effort I put into it, the truth
Is that I sit upon a chair and type,
For which I’m paid far more than those who bear
The burdens of delivering the stuff
I order on the Internet, or clean
The bathrooms of our building to preserve
Our health. The hardest workers in the world
Are farmers in a jungle or the edge
Of deserts: one who struggles to remove
The e’er-encroaching weeds; the other bears
From stream or well remote the water which
Will coax the crops to grow. And their reward
Does not approach the compensation I
Received, so many years ago, at school,
For shredding obsolescent documents.
And still we gravely claim to value work.
A quick and superficial glance at rates
For income tax reveals a startling truth:
That you will pay more tax for what you earn
By work than what you gain by sitting still.
In every bracket, gains in capital,
When what you own increases in its price,
Is taxed at lower rates than what you’re paid
To build, or think, or write, or do, or clean.
It’s cheaper to do nothing than to work.
We value work by blaming those whom we
Will not employ for what they can not change.
We value work by paying those who work
As little as we possibly can do
And still retain the services we need.
We value work by taxing what we earn
More highly than we tax what we do not.
Oh God, deliver those who work from our
Hypocrisy, for it is sadly clear
That we, as a society, will not.
May those who labor find the hidden joy
Which lies within their toil, at the least
To know that those who scorn to pay a just,
Befitting wage will stand before you on
A morning glorious, and face the son
Of an impoverished carpenter. Amen.