The Washington Post hit back a few days ago at Iowa Senator Joni Ernst’s Republican response to Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Joni Ernst, who grew up in the small Iowa town of Red Oak, in her speech, remembered working a low wage job at Hardeeâ€™s to pay for college. Ernst was pointing to her own life experience as proof that opportunity is available to every American.
The WaPo feature is a sob story, intended to make the point that Joni Ernst’s youthful Hardee’s stint is just an irrelevant parable, but for various people described in WaPo’s story working at Hardee’s is real life.
Charlotte Allen read all this and summarized: “WaPo goes to Iowa Hardeeâ€™s, finds that unwed moms and meth addicts donâ€™t become senators.”
Nearly all these women have kidsâ€”but thereâ€™s not a father to be seen in their childrenâ€™s lives. Brandi has four children from past relationships, for example. Sheâ€™s the only one of the bunch with an actual husband: former Hardeeâ€™s employee Luke, with two kids of his own and no current job (Luke, apparently, would rather dream about the diet-supplement business he intends to start, with a $1,000 stake that will presumably come from Brandi).
Emily had been thinking about collegeâ€”but she never did enroll and now sheâ€™s got a baby. Trina has a history of meth problems, starting at age 15, when she was sent to a juvenile facility after a drug-fueled car-stealing spree. Her live-in boyfriend, Jeff, also a $7.50-an-hour Hardeeâ€™s employee, just blew $200 on a really cool tattoo. In fact, blowing money seems to be what itâ€™s all about for those two. Hereâ€™s Jeffâ€™s and Trinaâ€™s monthly budget:
â€œWorking part time at Hardeeâ€™s, they each earn between $140 and $170 a week. The plan is always to save money, and within five days the money is always gone. DVDs, cigarettes, HDMI cables, Reeseâ€™s Peanut Butter Cups, cherry Pepsi â€” Wal-Mart and Caseyâ€™s convenience store get most of their paycheck, while $250 goes for rent each month.â€
Soâ€“how are these Hardeeâ€™s employees on the biscuit line different from Joni Ernst?
Thereâ€™s, letâ€™s see, saving for college, for starters. Thereâ€™s also not having kids until after you get married. Thereâ€™s not getting into drugs when youâ€™re teen-ager. Thereâ€™s planning a future for yourself instead of drifting from job to jobâ€“and then working toward that goal. But in the world of the Washington Post, Joni Ernstâ€™s stint at Hardeeâ€™s as the first step on the road to the Senate was just a silly Republican â€œparable.â€