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Put Up or Shut Up – Minimum Wage

So, the social justice cause of the month appears to be another round of “people deserve a raise”.  Basically, it’s been deemed to be unfair that people are having to work part-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.  Government statistics from 2013 indicate that a huge percentage of minimum-wage earners are young (under 25), and that you are much more likely to work minimum wage if you have not graduated high school.  Minimum wage jobs are overwhelmingly in the “hospitality” or “service” industries, meaning mostly restaurant work and menial labor.

In other words, if you are low-skilled and just starting out in the job force, you’re more than likely to be making minimum wage, at least for a while.  I did it when I was a teenager.  Of course, I only made minimum wage for about six months before I got a raise, but that’s probably white privilege at work right there.  Yep, all the white privilege at work in North Dakota got me that extra $.25 an hour in 1986.  Just another example of the Scandihoovian Mafia looking out for one of its own.

Yesterday, several highly publicized protests occurred, in which the organizers were demanding higher wages for fast-food workers.  I’m guessing that the job market for fry cooks, dishwashers, and order-takers is about what it was when I was a teenager, and fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King have a high concentration of minimum-wage earners.  In some places, they were demanding $15.00 an hour for the workers, which is more than double current rates.

Of course, in a lot of places, the state or local minimum wage is over the federal minimum, with Seattle recently raising it to the vaunted amount of $15.00.  To be honest, I prefer that state and local government figure out what they want their minimum wage to be and set it accordingly to the federal government setting a nation-wide floor on wages.  If I were king, and you can all enjoy that shudder of fear that I just induced in you, there would be no federal minimum wage in the states.  Let Alabama, California, and Vermont figure out what workers should get, and let the federal government worry about the District of Columbia, the territories, and military reservations.

Depressing the income of minimum-wage earners is the current practice of severely curtailing hours for part-time employees in order to evade medical benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act.  If you were working 35 hours a week at $7.25 an hour and trying to either live or raise a family on that, and your boss cuts you back to 25 hours a week, then you’re going to feel the pinch.  The answer, according to the President Emeritus and his supporters, is to force employers to pay more.  So, employers are damned if they do, or damned if they don’t when it comes to employee hours.  They can either pay more per hour or give more hours and then pay for insurance.

Is it any wonder that employers are saying that if they are forced into this, they will be firing people in order to afford it?  Unemployment benefits are cheaper in just about any way you look at it.

Here’s where I say put up or shut up on minimum wage:  If you are currently working for the minimum wage, either the federal $7.25 an hour or a higher local minimum, leave your job until the hourly rate is raised to what you consider a more equitable rate.  Seriously, quit your job and picket.  Have at it.  I’m sure that they won’t be able to find someone to fluff pillows or brown pre-cooked french fries while you’re out there.

But stop with the whining, OK?  If you’re trying to raise kids, and you’re looking at working minimum wage as a permanent solution, then shame on you.  If  you were born here, and the best you can hope for in life is to flip burgers for $7.25 an hour, then it’s on you.  No matter how shitty your neighborhood or upbringing was, I bet I can find someone from the same background who took advantage of public education, got off their ass, and is making at least double that, even assuming they didn’t go to college or trade school.  Shut your piehole and get to work.  If you show up on time, don’t steal from your employer in money, supplies, or time spent goofing off on the clock, and keep your nose clean for a few months, you’ll be surprised what opportunities await you.

If you live in a place where flipping burgers or picking up cigarette butts is the best job available, no matter how smart and motivated you are, the word you should have in your mind is “relocation”.  Yeah, it sucks to leave the plot of dirt that your daddy, and his daddy, and his daddy before him lived just above the starvation line, but if nostalgia is what’s keeping you in poverty, then it’s your own fault.  I’d say “Go West, Young Man!”, but I wouldn’t tell my worst enemy to go to California.  Texas is nice in the springtime, and there is a lot of austere beauty in North Dakota snowfields.  I hear that both are good places to find a job if you’re willing to actually work.

Of course, if you got a degree in underwater basket weaving, women’s studies, use of the semi-colon in early Elizabethan bathroom graffiti, or any other similarly useless degree and the best you can do is cleaning toilets, well, you’ve proven that education doesn’t fix stupid.  Want to get paid for your knowledge?  Well,then, maybe you should get a degree that comes with a skill others will pay for.

If you’re bitching about not getting as many hours as you used to on minimum wage, you can thank Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi for that.  They’re the ones that gave employers the choice of either going out of business, firing people, or lowering their employees hours, not me.  You elected them, you reelected them, and now you can suck on the exhaust pipe of the bus they threw you under.

But, DB, you say, it’s not fair that the franchise owner of a McDonald’s makes so much more than his employees!  And it’s horrendously unfair that the CEO of McDonald’s makes millions while his employees make slave wages and have to go on food stamps to feed their children!  Multi-billion dollar corporations can spend some of their profits on their people!

You’re right, those with more training, education, experience, drive, and intelligence tend to make more money in our society.  Is it fair?  I don’t know, but I do know that nowhere on the contract for life did it say that it would be fair.  You want to make $5 million a year as the CEO of a multi-national?  OK, then put in years of hard work, get your ignorant ass a useful education, and earn that $5 million a year.

Oh, and by the way, companies do not work for their employees.  That seems to be a common misconception these days.  They work for their owners, usually their stockholders.  Their job is to make money for those people so that those people will continue to invest money in the company, after which the company can either employ more people or find new ways to make more money of the same number of people’s work.  Don’t like it?  OK, then start your own company, and if you do, I truly wish you luck. Entrepreneurs are one of the few ways to truly create wealth in this country.

My point is that the company doesn’t exist as a jobs program.  It’s there to make as much profit as possible and then distribute it to its owners, not to its employees.  To paraphrase Jack Welch, once you cash the paycheck, you are square with your employer.  It doesn’t matter how much you made them, because they’ve paid you the amount you agreed to when you hired on.  If you don’t like it, then please remember that indentured servitude and slavery was abolished over a century and a half ago, so you’re free to find employment elsewhere.

And as for people having to go on welfare while working at minimum wage in order to feed their kids, well, I think this is a tragedy.  But it’s not a national shame that you can work part-time at a wage that was designed for low-skill workers and not be able to feed your family.  It’s a shame that parents continue to look at part-time, low-skill, minimum-wage jobs as a permanent solution and doom their children to living off the largesse of the state.  Seriously, what did people in low-skill, low-wage jobs do before food stamps and WIC?  Oh, that’s right, they got off their asses, worked two and three jobs, fed their kids, and looked for a better job.  Maybe y’all should try that?  Oh, and while you’re at it, quit having babies until you can afford to feed them without taking food out of the mouths of my children, OK?

Now, none of this pertains to someone who is temporarily down on their luck.  If you’ve lost your job or are just out of school and are looking for work, and you use part-time, minimum-wage employment as a crutch until something better comes along, then you’re not part of the problem.  Trust me, I’ve been there, and I understand.  It’s the people who use a McJob as their life-long employment plan, then expect the rest of us to either support their children for them or pay $8 for a dollar’s worth of meat, cheese, and bread who catch in my craw.

So, in closing, to my low-skilled, low-wage brethren: put up or shut up.  Refuse to work for what you consider slave wages, and eventually the evil businessmen will raise their offer a bit. If you’re not ready to do that, shut up.  And while you’re at it, fries are up and the bathroom needs mopping.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

The ‘Super Committee’ is reporting that they won’t be able to agree on which Chinese buffet to hit for lunch, much less how to cut $1.2 billion out of the budget over the next decade, and now Congress is scrambling to find a way to not enact the across the board cuts that were the stick meant to get the Committee to actually do something other than posture.

Please excuse me if I don’t rend my clothes and rage at the gods in disbelief on this one.

When the Republicans blinked this summer and kept the government running so that this collection of thieves could get together for a few months to fiddle while Rome burns, I knew we were boned.  The truth is this:  Our spending, including the military and entitlement programs, is going to be cut.  We can either cut it voluntarily and in a way that softens the blow, or we can let the bond market dry up and then fight over the scraps.  Either way is going to suck, but the path of inaction chosen by Congress pretty much amounts to people on the side of a volcano going out to watch the fireworks as the lava flows inexorably closer. 

So what do I expect to happen?

For one, the stock and bond markets are going to start swinging wildly, but with a general downward curve for the near term.  The prices of real things, like gold, are going to restart their steady climb upwards.  Look for our national credit rating to take another hit.  In order to get suckers, I mean buyers, to purchase government bonds to continue to pay for the bread and circuses, the government is going to have to offer higher and higher interest rates, which will drive up the cost of credit for everyone.

In the long run, I see a general slump in the economy as raising prices drive most of us out of the non-essential markets, meaning nothing other than food, clothing, energy, and housing.  Hardest hit will be what’s left of our manufacturing industries.  It’s cheaper to repair an old car than it is to buy a new one when you’re worried about whether or not you’ll be able to afford groceries this week.  I see unemployment going nowhere fast, and a lot of people will drop off of the unemployment tracking as they just give up. 

Doom and gloom?  Yep.  Accurate?  I hope not, but then again, hope isn’t a plan.

It’s past time we accepted that we can’t cash all the checks we’ve written in this country since 1934.  We have to cut back, way back.  $1.2 billion over a decade wasn’t going to adequate, but at least would have been a good start.  Now we get to make popcorn and watch the thriving economy our grandparents created grind itself into the dust.

Signs, Portents, and Triggers

Over at Free Thinker, Gay_Cynic talks about the fact that no economy, even one as vast as California’s, is immune from collapse if it actively tries to destroy its underpinnings.  One could extrapolate his point to include entire countries, including our own.  One phrase that stood out to me was:

The lights will probably stay on. But I wouldn’t give odds against the inner cities burning again as the benefit checks start bouncing, particularly if it’s about the time that Officer Friendly’s check begins bouncing.

President Roosevelt’s New Deal and President Johnson’s Great Society programs were put in place to put a hard floor on how low Americans could be forced to live.  Problem is, some looked at that hard floor as a pretty comfortable place, maybe not luxurious, but not too shabby.  Since the inception of these programs, they have been sitting on their butts while the rest of us shovel more and more money in their direction.  I’m not talking about the honest person or family that’s run into hard times and is trying to survive until things get better.  I’m talking about the people who have always been on public assistance of one form or another, and have no motivation to do anything that will make that assistance unnecessary.

  • Don’t want to pay for your own housing?  There’s a program for that.
  • Want to spend your grocery money on cigarettes and booze, but still have your kids fed?  There’s a program for that.
  • Don’t want to get a job, no matter how hard or dirty, to keep food on the table?  There’s a program for that.
  • Don’t want to be responsible for your own health care costs, and want to have the taxpayer pay for them?  There’s a program for that.
  • Don’t feel like earning an honest living, especially if you’ve been injured or sick enough to not do the work you want to do?  There’s a program for that.

Again, this isn’t directed at people who want to provide for themselves but for some reason can’t for a limited amount of time.  It also doesn’t apply to those who are truly disabled to the point that they cannot provide some parts of their own upkeep.  This is for the grasshoppers who want to go fishing and take naps while the rest of us ants toil away.

If you’ve read Huxley’s “Brave New World“, you’ve heard of the drug Soma.  This was a government mandated sedative/mood enhancer that citizens were given to keep them and society as a whole on an even keel and under government control.  I’ve really come to believe that the programs instituted by these two presidents, however good-hearted their intentions were at the time, have become the Soma the government uses to keep a lid on the lower classes of our country.  You won’t get lower class people asking the hard questions and making the hard decisions if you keep that IV drip of money going at a steady pace.

GC hits on the head when he posits that our cities will burn when the welfare checks and food stamps stop coming.   When faced with the reality that free money isn’t going to keep rolling in, and that they’ll have to take whatever employment they can find to keep a roof over their head and food in their mouths, I honestly expect that a majority of the people who have become wholly dependent on the rest of us to provide for them will lose all semblance of self-control.

A few years ago, we had a major wind storm come though Louisville.  It knocked out power to most of the city for a few days.  I was listening to the local AM news station on day 2 when they had a call-in show to see how people were handling the heat and the blackout.  My rough guess is that about half of the callers complained about how they couldn’t get access to their welfare benefits and how they were considering coming across town to ‘get what was coming to them’ from the more affluent sections of town.  There were, in fact, a couple of instances where several stores were robbed, either at gunpoint or while closed due to not having power, by people who turned out to have driven the 20 or 30 miles to get to them from their homes.  Interestingly, these crimes did not seem to include stealing the necessities of life, such as food, diapers, or medicine, but the taking of money, electronics, alcohol, or tobacco. 

Now imagine if instead of a 4 to 7 day power outage, these people were faced with two or three weeks without their economic Soma, with no end in sight.  Their case workers can’t help them because there’s no money.  Non-governmental charities are tapped out because of the massive demand for their services.  What are they going to do?

Over at the Survival Blog, JWR has discussed on several occasions his expectations that such circumstances will cause the creation of what he calls a “Golden Horde”.  Basically, a large mass of people who believe that society owes them a living, will become an army of looters when that living does not materialized or is withdrawn.  I believe that when the government stops sending the checks, first the inner cities will burn, then the suburbs will be swamped with people looking for whatever they can grab. 

I look at the economic news, mainly about the government’s debt and the current economic conditions, and I worry.  I worry because I am an ant who is responsible for where the next meal comes from.  I worry because even through I live in a small, middle-class neighborhood, I’m right next to the high-end neighborhoods the grasshoppers will be coming to loot.  But mostly I worry that my children will have to witness the unraveling of a once great country because their forebears didn’t have the guts to tell grasshoppers that those who do not work do not eat.

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