UnderCover Waitress: January 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Criminal Behavior or Control Freak?

Waiter Dan and I have had an interesting conversation via the comments on my last post, "Against Federal Law." Here are the details of Dan's situation: 
  • Restaurant holds ten percent of his tips as busser tip outs. Dan does not hand the money directly to the bussers. 
  • Bussers are paid the full minimum wage, $7.25 per hour. 
  • When Dan asked what the ten percent was for, he was told it was to help pay the bussers. 
Is it wage theft? Maybe, and the answer lies in the bussers' pay checks. 

Control Freak

Let's say there are two bussers, and the restaurant prints out pay checks on weekly basis. Let's say Dan makes $200 in tips one week. Ten percent of $200 = $20. So, each busser should receive $10 via Dan's tips. 

If the bussers' pay checks equal $7.25 per hour plus $10 in tip out, then no law is being broken. The owner is choosing to oversee and control the distribution of tip out monies. (If he is skimming off the top, for example, giving each busser $9 and pocketing $2, then he is breaking the law.) 

Wage Theft

The other possibility is that each busser is paid $7.25 per hour and nothing more. If the ten percent of Dan's tips are being used to "offset" the cost of paying bussers, then the owner is committing wage theft. Here is why: 

The Department of Labor's clearly explains in its Fact Sheet #15: Tipped Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) what an employer must do in order to pay a tipped employee less than minimum wage. If the employer is using Dan's tips to "offset" the cost of paying bussers, then he is, essentially, taking a tip credit on the bussers' pay. 

In order to take a tip credit toward the pay of any tipped employee, the employer must communicate to the employee: 
1) the amount of cash wage the employer is paying a tipped employee, which must be at least $2.13 per hour;
2) the additional amount claimed by the employer as a tip credit, which cannot exceed $5.12 (the difference between the minimum required cash wage of $2.13 and the current minimum wage of $7.25);
3) that the tip credit claimed by the employer cannot exceed the amount of tips actually received by the tipped employee;
4) that all tips received by the tipped employee are to be retained by the employee except for a valid tip pooling arrangement limited to employees who customarily and regularly receive tips; and
5) that the tip credit will not apply to any tipped employee unless the employee has been informed of these tip credit provisions.
The emphases are mine. 

The employer has not clarified with the bussers any tip credit amount. So, one week each busser's pay may be "offset" with Dan's tips $10. Another week, Dan makes more money and the employer keeps $50 from Dan's tips. Instead of paying the bussers an extra $25 each, the employer pocket's Dan's tips to "help him pay the bussers." He hasn't clarified a tip credit because it changes based upon how much money Dan makes. And that is against the law. 

There is no difference between what the employer is doing and keeping Dan's tips to "help him pay his car payment" or "help him buy a new pair of shoes." Dan's tips are not for the employer to "offset" the cost of anything. Dan's tips belong to Dan. In a valid tip pooling arrangement, bussers may be paid tip outs in addition to their hourly wage. The employer may not "offset" the bussers' pay checks with Dan's money. 

Another scenario would be the employer paying each busser $5 per hour and taking a $2.25 tip credit. If tip outs received by the bussers did not bring them up to at least $7.25 per hour, the employer would have to make up the difference. On the other hand, if the tip outs caused the bussers to earn an average of $10 per hour, they get to keep the money. 

Dan's tips are not for the employer to use to "offset" the cost of anything. The laws regarding tip pools, tip credits and tipped employee wages are specific in order to avoid this type of abuse. 

Pennsylvania

There are three different offices listed in PA's Wage and Hour Division: 

They are a good first stop to discuss wage theft in a business in PA. 


Friday, January 25, 2013

Against Federal Law

Ask the Waitress!

My annoyance is with restaurant owners, not my readers who write in the... same... damn... question... 

Is it legal to be required to tip out the back of the house? 

NNNOOOOOOOO! 

And the fact that so many servers keep writing with their stories of having to share tips with BOH tells me a lot of owners are bloody ignorant, criminals, or both. Remember: ignorance is never an excuse for breaking the law. People are required to educate themselves about the law. For example, if you don't know what a "yield" sign means, and you don't yield, you get a ticket. If you own a restaurant, and you don't know how to create a legal tip pool, you are responsible when you break the law.

The Department of Labor's Fact Sheet #15: Tipped Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) spells it out plain and simple; the emphases are mine:

Tipped employees are those who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips. 
Tips are the property of the employee. 
Tip Pool: The requirement that an employee must retain all tips does not preclude a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, such as waiters, waitresses, bellhops, counter personnel (who serve customers), bussers, and service bartenders. 
A valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly received tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and janitors.
And, my favorite: 
Where a tipped employee is required to contribute to a tip pool that includes employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, the employee is owed all tips he or she contributed to the pool and the full $7.25 minimum wage.
Did you get that? Employers who get caught owe you all of the tips plus full minimum wage.


Specific Questions

Let's talk about some specifics that people have written to me about:
I work as a server... We are required to tip out10% of our tips to the back of the house. The cooks and dishwashers each get an equal part of that %10. Is that legal? 
Okay, class, who wants to answer this one? Raise your hand.
Also...when the assistant manager bartends and acts as manager on the same night, she requires a tip out on our liquor sales. Is that legal?
This one is sticky. The Utah Administrative Code does not preclude management from participating in a tip pool, only clarifies that tip sharing must happen among employees that customarily receive tips, such as bartenders. In some states, management may not take tip outs, in others, this is legal. Therefore, I think it is legal, but you may check with a Utah lawyer to make sure. (I'm just the stupid waitress.) ;-)

Along the same lines:
Is it ok for the owner, her son,(mgr) and his fiance(mgr) to share evenly in the tip pool? even if they only work behing the bar?
Eww. It is grossly unprofessional and inappropriate for the owner of a business to take tips. This is because the owner has the power to set prices, salaries and wages. But the question has to do with legality, not ethics.

1) Depending upon the state, managers may participate in tip pools when they work as bartenders or hostess or other FOH duties. (See above.) 

2) There is no federal limit to what percentage of the tip pool a bartender may take. Some restaurants limit tip outs to the bartender based upon liquor sales, but this is not required. So, a bartender sharing evenly in the tip pool is legal under federal law. 

3) An owner taking tips...??? Gah. If you are working in a state that allows a manager to participate in the tip pool (when working FOH duties) then I suspect it is also legal for the owner. 
I work at a sushi and hibatchi grill and I am required to tip out 40% to sushi chefs, bar, host , dishwasher, and cooks in back of house, I want to know if it is legal for the owner to take a percent of our tips and pay back of house their salary with these tips.
This is also sticky. Are the chefs interacting with the customers in the front of the house? Or are they just preparing food? If the chefs are on the floor putting on show for the diners, then it may be legal -- I don't know, and an expert should research this one. 

Tips going to the dishwashers and cooks in the back of the house = illegal, plain and simple. 

Just because a restaurant has an open kitchen, meaning the diners can see the chefs, does not make them tipped employees. Also, the federal wording is specific about chefs not being in tip pools... If the sushi chefs are at a bar serving customers (like a bartender) then I am not sure. This is an excellent question but I am stumped; you should talk to an expert in your state. 

A Word of Caution About Complaining

If you complain directly to your manager about an illegal tip pool arrangement, you may be fired and have no recourse. 

If you are required to pay into an illegal tip pooling arrangement, please contact your state's Attorney General or speak to a lawyer. Or write to me and tell me which state you are working in. 

Thanks for asking the waitress! 



 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Who Pays the Tax, Anyway?

Ask the Waitress!

These important issues keep popping up. Excerpts from two recent additions to my inbox are as follows: 
Hi, I'm a server, and we pay 3 percent of our total sales into a tip share that pays the bartenders and host/bussers. Last night my total sales were around 1000.00 and I had to pay 30 dollars in tip share. At the end of the night when they ask what I'm claiming as tips, do I have to claim that 3 percent I pay out to bartenders and hosts/bussers? 
Hi Undercover Waitress! I've recently gotten my first job as a waitress. My boss collects 20% of my tips each day in a tip pool in order to pay the bussers and the hostess. I have no problem with this. However, my boss collects that 20% everyday, and the bussers and hostess only work on the weekends. That means on days during which I am bussing, hosting, and serving, I am still tipping out the weekend employees. I feel like this is not right, and I have told my boss my concerns but my concerns were dismissed. I do not think she is doing it to be malicious, but I feel like it is my money and I shouldn't have to give it up. Do my complaints have any grounds? I need to understand where I stand legally on this issue before I am willing to fight for my rights. 
Fasten your seat belts, here we go:

Income: According to the Online Merriam-Webster, income is "a gain or recurrent benefit usually measured in money that derives from capital or labor; also : the amount of such gain received in a period of time ." 

That doesn't tell us much; however, your tip income is the money you get to keep. And, yes, you claim your income for tax purposes.

Restaurant owners and manager require servers to give a portion of their tips to other employees. It is built into everybody's compensation package; in other words, the owner gets to pay the hostess less and make up for it with waitress tips.

So, let's say I work a shift and make $100. I pay $10 to the busser, $5 to the hostess and $5 to the bartender. That leaves me with $80 in tip income for the shift. I claim $80. The busser claims $10 in tip income. The hostess claims $5, and the bartender claims $5.

If the busser lies and does not claim his income, this is not the server's problem. I actually worked in a restaurant whose POS system was set up so servers would tell the computer how much money they gave to other employees. For this, the restaurant deserves a gold star. Most establishments, in my experience, have the sloppiest bookkeeping when it comes to tips imaginable. This is just one reason why I recommend servers keep a small notebook of their tips and tip outs.

In general, claim your income. Do not claim the income that others get to take home.

The second question above is a bit stickier. Many food servers recognize that a tip out is a way of thanking other front of house staff for helping keep customers happy and turning tables. Human nature being what it is, a busser working for strait hourly pay will not work as hard as a busser who knows if he gets the tables turned quickly, the waitress will make more money, which means he will also make more money. Incentive works wonders.

However, in the second scenario above, the waitress is paying twenty percent of her tips into a tip pool to pay employees who are not working. This completely defeats the incentive arrangement, while allows the owner to pay the bussers and hostess less, thereby keeping more profit for himself. This is a good example of the rich getting rich on the backs of the poor.

The United States Department of Labor spells out the rules for tip income and tip pooling.
Tip Pooling: As noted above, the requirement that an employee must retain all tips does not preclude a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips. The FLSA does not impose a maximum contribution amount or percentage on valid mandatory tip pools. The employer, however, must notify tipped employees of any required tip pool contribution amount, may only take a tip credit for the amount of tips each tipped employee ultimately receives, and may not retain any of the employees' tips for any other purpose. [Emphasis mine.]
It sounds unfair, but at this point in time I do not think it is illegal. However, as I'm just a stupid waitress, a lawyer in your state may be able to tell you otherwise. ;-)

Thanks for asking the waitress!






 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Guest Post: Life Lessons in Restaurants

Today I treat you to a guest post by Hannah Vergara. Words of wisdom from the trenches, enjoy!

Life Lessons in Restaurants 

Have you ever come across a friend that you’ve watched coast through life?  Maybe finding a job here or there, but never committing for longer than a month.  High school and college pass by while your pal repeats the same behaviors, and now you’ve graduated.  Yeah, it may have taken your buddy a couple extra years to finish school (and a couple extra thousand dollars), but he moves back to Mom and Dad’s and wonders why nobody will hire him.  Well, parents don’t blame the economy for the lack of opportunity; instead, teach your children some values and make them work.  

Throughout my adolescence I have worked many different jobs, and I must attribute some of my growth to the lessons learned working in restaurants.  I have had the privilege of being bossed around, yelled at, spilled on, sexually harassed, and under-tipped all with a smile on my face and aching feet.  Who wouldn’t want to be a waitress, right? Kidding. In all honesty, working in restaurants has given me the chance to develop social skills in learning the right way to respect and treat others.  Here are a few vital lessons that have stayed with me while building my career…

Lesson 1: The Customer is Always Right

My grandpa taught me this when I was very young and I always reference back to it no matter what the predicament; it has yet to fail!

My last restaurant gig was at a brewery.  I helped open the place and got really integrated into the “family.”  This spot was hoppin’ every single night, with a waiting list that never seemed to end.  New restaurant in the city plus tons of people yearning to be a part of the buzz plus craft beer equals a jam-packed pub peppered with an angry customer here and there.  You just can’t please everyone.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that a middle-aged man would execute a verbal attack on a 20-year old over hunger pains and impatience, but it happens much more than you’d think.  As the man was busy telling me how important he was, I was busy observing what an embarrassment he caused for his wife and innocent by-standers.  The greatest of faults is to act superior to others.  This man probably had a low self-esteem and lacked any character, but it is times like these that make me realize it is always the secure who are most humble.  Do not let people like this interrupt your jive.  Just take everything with a grain of salt, and enjoy the show!

Lesson 2: Keep to YOURSELF

The restaurant atmosphere can be laid back and quiet, so in many cases you’ll find servers passing time with gossip and more gossip.  If you are wise you can spot the genuine, honest people that are true friends.  I still have relationships with old co-workers that I value to this day.

On the contrary, try to avoid those gossip queens that cry once month, and sleep with every guy in the kitchen.  Keep to yourself.  It’s that simple. With this method you protect your image, and don’t have to hear gossip nor be a part of the gossip.  I prefer to avoid the toxic people at all costs.  Just put on a pretty smile and agree with everything that comes out of their mouth, for you will come across this problem in more places than restaurants.  It is best to begin your practice of good business ethics sooner than later.

Lesson 3: You Don’t Always Get What You Want

Yes, we all know you order the same dish every single Sunday, so it is unacceptable the kitchen ran out of walleye.  Hate to break it to you, but no matter how much you plan in life it will never be exactly how you want it to be…so get used to it.  And more importantly, don’t kill the messenger.  Try living on the edge and order the duck.  Just roll with the punches, keep a positive attitude, expect problems and eat them for dinner.  With this outlook, you’ll never be disappointed.   Appreciate the little things, like the pleasant conversion you’ll have with dinner companions.  Isn’t that why we typically go out to dinner anyway?  Just remember to live in the moment and apply that to life - something good may come out of it.

These are just a few of the lessons I have taken from working in the service industry.  I couldn’t possibly fit them all into one post, so I am calling all servers, bartenders, cooks, bussers and hosts: what lessons have you learned from working in the restaurant business?

Hannah Vergara, writer, yogi, nature enthusiast and animal lover.  This post was written on behalf of EZ Corporate Clothing, helping restaurants with custom embroidery.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Call Bull Sheet: Biggest Schmuck Cannot Afford Tip

This image from Gawker, The Biggest Schmuck on Earth Left This as a Tip, may go viral.



I call bullshit, let me count the ways:

The first, and most obvious, is that people who claim they can afford to eat out can afford to tip. If they can do enough math to figure out that if they pay higher taxes, they will have less spending money, then they can figure out $X of food bought in the grocery store lasts much longer than $X of food bought in a restaurant.

And don't start in on the "no time to cook" crap. Microwavable meals from the frozen food section cost less than dining out, even if you steal the service by not tipping. So does the McDonald's drive-thru, for that matter.

All of that pales in comparison to why I am laughing at this despicable tip note. Let's take it slow:

1) Obama is a Democrat. Therefore, his progressive policies to give all citizens access to health care cause conservative Republicans to scream "tax and spend! tax and spend!" Conservatives like George W. Bush don't tax, they just spend. And spend. And spend, on unnecessary and unending wars. Hence, a large portion of our current deficit.

2) When conservative Republicans preach austerity, they don't want to ask millionaires to practice austerity. No, they only require that poor people practice more austerity than they already do. So:

  • Grandma can freeze in the winter because her social security payment went down and she can't afford to heat her apartment. 
  • Or, children who get subsidized breakfast at school can now start the school day hungry. 
  • Or, residents of New Jersey can take the loss caused by Hurricane Sandy, never rebuild their homes and neighborhoods. 
  • Or, non-managerial employees of restaurants can have their hours cut so the boss doesn't have to pay for health care. 
  • Or, waitresses can go without tips because after feeding their greedy faces, the well-to-do are too "austere" to tip. 
If your taxes are going up, you are doing extremely well. That means you can still afford to tip. And you have no business whatsoever punishing the poor, working class by making them poorer. The rich may not hold the poor hostage: "make me support society's infrastructure by paying my fair share of taxes, and I'll make sure the waitress can't eat!" >burp<

It is truly infantile and stiffing a waitress does not change a thing -- except ensure that he will receive bad service if he ever sets foot in that restaurant again.

I am sorry that some food server had to clean up after this non-tipping slob, but I must admit that I am loving how succinctly and poetically this schmuck displayed the hypocrisy, selfishness and lack of maturity of the conservative wrong. 

  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Behind the Kitchen Door

Restaurant Opportunities Center, ROC United's long awaited book "Behind the Kitchen Door" is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

Publication date is February 12, 2013. Amazon gives you a low price guarantee so that if you pre-order at, for example, $15, and the price goes down to $12 before the publication date, they will give it to you for $12. I have pre-ordered books from Amazon and been given refunds via the low price guarantee, so it is for real.



This quote is from the website:

"Sustainability is about contributing to a society that everybody benefits from, not just going organic because you don't want to die from cancer or have a difficult pregnancy. What is a sustainable restaurant? It's one in which as the restaurant grows, the people grow with it."-from Behind the Kitchen Door
How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America? And how do poor working conditions-discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens-affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? Saru Jayaraman, who launched the national restaurant workers' organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, sets out to answer these questions by following the lives of restaurant workers in New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Detroit, and New Orleans.
 Blending personal narrative and investigative journalism, Jayaraman shows us that the quality of the food that arrives at our restaurant tables depends not only on the sourcing of the ingredients. Our meals benefit from the attention and skill of the people who chop, grill, sauté, and serve. Behind the Kitchen Door is a groundbreaking exploration of the political, economic, and moral implications of dining out. Jayaraman focuses on the stories of individuals, like Daniel, who grew up on a farm in Ecuador and sought to improve the conditions for employees at Del Posto; the treatment of workers behind the scenes belied the high-toned Slow Food ethic on display in the front of the house.
Increasingly, Americans are choosing to dine at restaurants that offer organic, fair-trade, and free-range ingredients for reasons of both health and ethics. Yet few of these diners are aware of the working conditions at the restaurants themselves. But whether you eat haute cuisine or fast food, the well-being of restaurant workers is a pressing concern, affecting our health and safety, local economies, and the life of our communities. Highlighting the roles of the 10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring their passion, tenacity, and vision to the American dining experience, Jayaraman sets out a bold agenda to raise the living standards of the nation's second-largest private sector workforce-and ensure that dining out is a positive experience on both sides of the kitchen door.

Order yours today!!! :-)


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Utah Tip Laws

Ask the Waitress!

Received a question from a waitress working in Utah. The details include: 
We are required to tip out10% of our tips to the back of the house. The cooks and dishwashers each get an equal part of that %10. Is that legal? Also...when the assistant manager bartends and acts as manager on the same night, she requires a tip out on our liquor sales. Is that legal?
Reading the above carefully, it sounds as if there is additional tip out to the front of the house, and so food servers are tipping out more than ten percent on any given shift. 

The short answer to the first question is, No, this it is illegal for cooks and dishwashers to participate in tip pools in Utah. 

Here is the long answer:

Tipped Wages in Utah

The Department of Labor sets the tipped minimum wage at $2.13 per hour. The state of Utah considers this sufficient; therefore, Utah waitresses as of January 1, 2013 make a base wage of $2.13 per hour plus tips.

A tipped employee in Utah must make at least $30 per month in tips to be considered a tipped employee. Otherwise, the employer is required to pay the full minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

If on any given shift, the tipped employee does not make enough in tips to bring home full minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference.




Tip pools are legal in Utah. That means that tipped employees may be required to share tips with other employees. According to the Utah Administrative Code,

D. All tips shall be retained by the employee receiving the tips. However, this requirement does not preclude tip pooling or sharing arrangements where an employer mandates that tips be pooled and divided or shared among those employees who customarily and regularly receive tips.
1. A bona fide tip pooling or sharing arrangement may include employees who customarily and regularly receive tips from customers directly or via a tip pooling or sharing arrangement.
2. Dishwashers, chefs, cooks, and janitors are not tipped employees and do not qualify for a tip credit nor are they eligible to participate in an employer mandated tip pooling or sharing arrangement.  [Emphasis mine.]
Bingo, it is illegal for back of house employees to get a tip out, and it is illegal for the employer in Utah to require waitresses to pony up ten percent of their tips to back of house employees.

Manager as Bartender

In the second question posed to me, we have an employee playing a dual role. Bartenders customarily receive tips, so they may legally participate in tip pooling arrangements.

The bad news is that in the state of Utah, I see no prohibition for managers receiving tip outs. Therefore, it seems that a manager who plays the role of bartender may require a tip out paid to her. This would also hold true if the manager played any other front of house role, such as hostess.

On a side note, I love the double-speak "tip pool." As anybody who "participates in tip pooling." The wording makes it sound like all tipped employees share. Nothing could be further from the truth. "Participating" in tip pooling means waitresses pay other front of house employees. I'm not saying it would be better to make everybody pool everything and divide equally, but I am saying the wording makes it sound as if that is what is happening. Waitresses pay other FOH employees. Say it.


Whistle Blowing

I recommend against complaining to a manager or owner about this arrangement. Internal whistle-blowing is when you complain to your boss. Guess what? You can be fired after internal whistle-blowing and be unable to claim retaliation, because your boss can fire you for any or no reason.

External whistle-blowing is when you complain to a government agency. Generally, I believe you are protected from retaliation if you complain to a government agency. If you wish to complain about the illegal tip pooling arrangement, you might consider contacting the Utah Department of Administrative Services. 

A. The Division may enforce compliance with the state minimum wage in the same manner as outlined in R610-3.
B. When more than one employee is affected by noncompliance of minimum wage requirements, the Division shall treat this alleged infraction of noncompliance as a class action.

You may have a class action lawsuit, as all of the waitresses and waiters are illegally required to pay ten percent of their tips to the back of the house.

PLEASE REMEMBER: I am not a lawyer, I'm just a stupid waitress. I research questions for other waitresses and waiters. Any mistakes on this blog are mine and mine alone, please do not depend upon me for legal advice which I can not and do not give. If you need legal advice, chat with a lawyer. In Utah, try the Utah Lawyer Referral Service.  You may be able to find an affordable or even free session to chat.

*Whew!* That was a mouthful.

Thanks for asking the waitress, and best of luck to you!
  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, New Beginnings


A belated Happy New Year to you, my friends. New year, new thoughts, new beginnings... and another blog post of Under Cover Waitress' mish-mash of thoughts. 

Well, we avoided the fiscal cliff. Personally, I wasn't surprised. I really didn't think the House would be that infantile, but I must say I am rather blown away by Boehner's attempt to avoid spending any money (gasp!) on victims of Hurricane Sandy. Good for Gov. Christie and Congressman Peter King for speaking out. 

The Raw Story published "Peter King near tears, threatens to quit Republican Party for blocking Sandy relief." Wow, so I guess John Boehner and Demi Moore aren't the only people who can cry for the camera. 

King is quoted: 
“Boehner is the one,” the New York Republican explained. “He walked off the floor. He refused to tell us why. He refused to give us any indication or warning whatsoever… I’m just saying, these people have no problem finding New York — these Republicans — when they’re trying to raise money. They raise millions of dollars in New York City and New Jersey, they sent Gov. [Chris] Christie around the country raising millions of dollars for them. I’m saying, anyone from New York and New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined. I would not give one penny to these people based on what they did to us last night... 
When your people are literally freezing in the winter and they’re without food and they’re without shelter and they’re without clothing and my own party refuses to help them, then why should I help the Republican Party?”
As the die-hard liberal that I am, I want to say that, at last, some of these Republicans who sit in the lap of luxury on Capitol Hill and vote to cut grandma's social security payments may finally be getting it.

One difference is that the people who are "literally freezing in the winter and they're without food and they're without clothing..." got that way through a disaster that we all saw -- the natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy. They didn't get that way because they lost their job. They didn't get that way because their spouse died or they could never afford an education or their pension disappeared. They didn't get that way due to a horrible accident or extremely expensive (and probably not covered) illness. They didn't get that way because their family member came down with a horrible illness.

All of a sudden, we have extreme suffering in the dead of winter due to something completely unexpected and out of the victims' control. Sandy. Cancer. Accidents. Death. Outsourced. Lack of opportunity. Recession. Whatever.

It is odd to me that King and Christie would be surprised that Boehner and the Tea Party 'tards would behave differently toward anybody down on their luck. The same thing motivates them now as motivated them before Hurricane Sandy, and before the false threat of a fiscal cliff: the greed of wealthy donors lining their pockets and keeping in "public" service.

Not that it was my intention to craft a downer political post. Actually, I am hopeful. The new House gets sworn in soon, and it will still be a Republican majority. Then, in two more years, the American people can vote to keep them in or show them the door. It will be an interesting two years, to say the least.