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April 17, 2014 6:45 AM   Subscribe

The Minimum Wage Worker Strikes Back - She notes that her hourly wage of $7.50 is less than a Wendy’s combo meal: “I make less than the Baconator.”
posted by anastasiav (203 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 


The average life expectancy in North St. Louis is lower than that of Iraq.

Ridiculous.

A friend of mine posted a complaint to Facebook the other day that the minimum wage is going to go up in (I think Minnesota?) her state to 9.50 over the next two years, and she thought that was ridiculous because it was going to destroy the economy for everyone else.

....
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:59 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


It really seems like conservatives want to tell poor people to get jobs, want to give tax breaks to further establish companies who pay wages below living wages, want to strip funding from social services for people working these jobs who can't support themselves on the wages offered... and it all adds up to a public giveaway to these corporations. at the expense of the livelihoods and health of poor people.

Man, fuck so much about this system.
posted by entropone at 7:02 AM on April 17 [49 favorites]


Poverty is a punishment for the crime of living.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:03 AM on April 17 [12 favorites]


“You pick up something easy to get stable,” he says. “And on your quest to get stable, you end up getting stuck. You either fall or you stay where you are. Or you fall staying where you are.”

The fact that so many jobs are like this at all wage levels is something that really makes a guaranteed minimum income seem like the only option that will fix things in a serious way. Giving people the ability to live and function independent of their jobs would fix the problem of people getting trapped in jobs, careers, and industries they want to get out of. It's not going to happen, but I think of it every time I read an article like this.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:05 AM on April 17 [43 favorites]


"They like the idea, but they’re also like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this, I got bills to pay…’ And I’m like, ‘How much worse can it get?’"

Wow, yeah, I think this quote (from Patrick) is really saying something; you worry about hanging on to the little bit you have because you feel like you're getting by, but you're only sort of getting by and it's no kind of a life. I think we're hitting that point where, for many people, there's just not enough to lose to worry about risking it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:06 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


When people warn that a higher minimum wage will ruin the economy, I like to ask them if they are making more than minimum wage, and if they think they are ruining the economy.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:13 AM on April 17 [187 favorites]


It really seems like conservatives want to tell poor people to get jobs...

I think conservatives like the idea of food stamps, because they let businesses pay much lower wages (and reap much higher profits) than if they paid a living wage. Then they also get to look down on the poor for needing food stamps ("hey, I earned those tax breaks; totally different"), and threaten every so often to cut the aid in order to keep the fear ratcheted up. It's like a devilish machine.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:13 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


If I was a St Louis business owner I'd hire Patrick tomorrow for a much better job. He sounds like he has more of a clue than many college graduates I know.
posted by COD at 7:19 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


I think what underlies a lot of conservative rhetoric is an intrinsic belief that poor people are poor because they deserve to be poor, usually because of bad choices they've made. And if they would only start doing things differently -- making better choices, getting an education, going to church, working harder -- then they would no longer be poor. From that perspective, any attempt to help the poor through direct government action like subsidies or indirect action like an increase in the minimum wage is both unfair (because they don't deserve the help) and counterproductive (because it doesn't fix the "real" problem of being undeserving).
posted by Slothrup at 7:28 AM on April 17 [53 favorites]


I agree completely, Slothrup. And further, direct government action to alleviate poverty is simply Democrats getting people "addicted" to "big government." The outcome, of course, is irrelevant.
posted by Bromius at 7:32 AM on April 17


I'm not sure about a rise in minimum wage hurting the economy, it may make it tougher for franchisees to start new businesses, but we have this exact same debate every time it is about to be raised (last time was under bush in 2007...I think)

A prominent economics theory is that raising wages increases unemployment: Higher wage means it's more attractive, so a larger pool of people will seek out the jobs. As there are finite jobs, a larger pool of job seekers means a higher unemployment rate. Of course, the new job seekers were previously unemployed (not seeking work), so the rate rise is kind of meaningless, it just sounds bad.

I read a fair amount of conservative editorials, the main argument is minimum wage is low because it entry level for low skilled workers. Enough to get some money in your pocket, but not enough to keep you from gaining skills or seeking higher paying jobs. Its a starting point, not a life choice. (This conflicts with reality).

I'm in favor of raising the minimum wage yearly along with inflation, rather than having these big fights every 7 years..but that's not likely to happen.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:34 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


a bus pass in my dumb home town of Kalamazoo MI costs $60 per month
posted by rebent at 7:34 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


People who are against raising the minimum wage tend to argue both that it will ruin the economy and that doing so wouldn't affect that many people anyway, so why bother. Pick one, guys.
posted by rtha at 7:36 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


a bus pass in my dumb home town of Kalamazoo MI costs $60 per month

More than $130 in Toronto.
posted by dobbs at 7:37 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Oh, also, it's not just fast food, that's the most visible story. US manufacturing is struggling, another argument is raising the wage will increase labor costs, making factories more expensive to run, which raises the costs of goods, making them less competitive against foreign imports, making it more risky to start a new factory, which raises our trade deficit, which hurts our GDP and on and on.

So there is the potential to hurt our economy, but it's not at the fast food level, is one argument (that I more or less agree with).
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:40 AM on April 17


a bus pass in my dumb home town of Kalamazoo MI costs $60 per month

An unlimited subway/bus pass in NYC is $112 these days, with an extra $1 tacked on if you lose or throw out your card and have to buy a new one. And that's if you're lucky not to need an Express card.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:44 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Even here where I live--Sherbrooke, Quebec--a monthly bus pass will run you from $60 to $81 dollars and the bus routes are just awful for anyone who has to get around that way around here.
posted by Kitteh at 7:45 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


BlerpityBloop: "I'm not sure about a rise in minimum wage hurting the economy, it may make it tougher for franchisees to start new businesses, but we have this exact same debate every time it is about to be raised (last time was under bush in 2007...I think)"

It's complete bullshit is what it is. In the town I grew up in, there were no minimum wage jobs between somewhere around 1990 and 2008. They simply didn't exist, except for work more transient than even fast food. Back when the minimum wage was $5.15 even McDonald's and Wal-Mart were paying a minimum of $5.75 to start.

Somehow, the local economy failed to implode. In fact, it was one of the fastest growing areas in the entire country, and no, there was no shortage of fast food. Plenty of whining, yet somehow the fast food franchisees managed to make enough money to keep opening stores, the grocery stores managed to remain stocked, and gas stations remained attended. Go figure.

I'm sure there is a level at which the minimum wage could be set that would be high enough to cause a significant amount of economic disruption (probably by driving excessive inflation), but we're not anywhere near that point now. In fact, while the "real" economy remains sluggish is a fine time to keep hiking the minimum wage. We should keep doing it until we manage to get back to the Fed's inflation target.
posted by wierdo at 7:45 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


$65 bucks for a monthly pass. $1.50 ride otherwise here in Albany, NY.
posted by mikelieman at 7:50 AM on April 17


I really appreciate that the focus of this article is on St. Louis -- a city that is one of the most affordable in the country -- because it just serves to bring down the point that this is completely unsustainable, even in the cheapest of American cities.

Also, this sample budget linked in the article is a stark example.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:50 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


Couple weeks ago we heard about how Chipotle was revolutionizing fast food. I was skeptical. Surprise, according to Patrick,
“Each place I worked at is unique,” he says. “But they are no different in terms of pay.”

Patrick still works at Chipotle. After three years, he has gotten a raise of 80 cents. He now makes $8.80 per hour, the most money he has made in his life. He is allowed to work up to 35 hours per week, but is usually assigned fewer, and he is never assigned enough to live on. If a worker gets 40 hours per week, he tells me, the manager could lose his bonus. Patrick feels sorry for the managers, some of whom sympathize with his plight. They are often not paid more than the workers and load up on hours to compensate.
link
So all Chipotle is doing is making tastier food and giving a few "superstars" the ability to "rise to the top." Everyone else? Fuck 'em.

Yay capitalism!
posted by wuwei at 7:53 AM on April 17 [10 favorites]


"I'm sure there is a level at which the minimum wage could be set that would be high enough to cause a significant amount of economic disruption (probably by driving excessive inflation), but we're not anywhere near that point now. In fact, while the "real" economy remains sluggish is a fine time to keep hiking the minimum wage. We should keep doing it until we manage to get back to the Fed's inflation target."

I don't disagree. Just want to be clear here that I am in favor of raising the minimum wage, though gradually each year, rather than a (relative) large jump every x amount of years.

Most manufacturers build their labor costs in to the price of goods, which must remain competitive to not create a trade deficit. If employers can anticipate costs year to year, it makes investment and production less risky. Our current system doesn't do that, a 20% wage hike is on the horizon, maybe. Maybe it's 15%. or 30%. This creates uncertainty, and economies hate uncertainty.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:55 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


When people warn that a higher minimum wage will ruin the economy, I like to ask them if they are making more than minimum wage, and if they think they are ruining the economy.

Here's the thing. Those people's wages - high, but negotiable - do not broadly affect the economy overall nearly so much as the minimum wage does - because minimum wage means it's not just not useful, but illegal, to hire anyone cheaper. That forces the price up overall.

This also means that fewer people can be hired. Yes, the argument is "if they had more wages they would spend them more", but that is not always the case for the people who are trying to hire them. The people who need cheap labor may not be the people who are profiting off those laborer's wages. The minimum-wage Chipotle worker, for example, is not buying Chipotle burritos. And if the minimum wage is raised, so will the cost of said Chipotle burritos, so that owners aren't losing money - along with everything else. That is inflation. And those workers will still not be buying Chipotle raised-price burritos, but since the dollar is worth less overall, everyone with savings is getting fucked. And that doesn't just mean this stereotypical billionaire pausing to twirl his moustache in between tying young women to the railroad tracks. That's Ma and Pa Smith, who saved their pennies for their retirement and are now finding it won't buy what they need it to. Because when you cause inflation, you screw people whose income is not rising to meet the cost of living. It's not just "little guy vs the man."
posted by corb at 8:06 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


The minimum-wage Chipotle worker, for example, is not buying Chipotle burritos

But there is a pretty good chance of them spitting in them, however.
posted by mikelieman at 8:08 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


When people warn that a higher minimum wage will ruin the economy, I like to ask them if they are making more than minimum wage, and if they think they are ruining the economy.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:13 AM on April 17 [26 favorites +] [!]


Do you then ask them if they are in the same job they started during high school? The minimum wage is a great thing for entry level jobs. Entry level jobs are not (should not) be a career.
By increasing the minimum wage 20% an employer has three options. 1. Pay it and make less profit. 2. Pay it, and raise the price of goods and services, which is self defeating, because: inflation. 3. Pay it and reduce staff to maintain profit levels without increasing prices, because: competition. Most will choose 3 if at all possible. results: fewer jobs.
posted by Gungho at 8:12 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Every time a raise in the minimum wage is proposed, conservatives scream that the sky is falling. And every time the minimum wage is increased the sky remains firmly above our heads. I choose not to believe that conservatives are so stupid that they never noticed this, so I choose to believe that they simply think the average American's standard of living is too high and that it should be lower than it is.

It's exactly as Slothrup says, conservatives believe the poor are poor because they are flawed, and they need to be punished.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:13 AM on April 17 [18 favorites]


But inflation is generally too low right now, and studies show pretty consistently that there is either no or negligible additional unemployment created by raising the minimum wage.
posted by Corinth at 8:14 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


How about you Pay it, and cut executive salaries to offset it? Zero change in hr costs?
posted by mikelieman at 8:15 AM on April 17 [13 favorites]


I think what underlies a lot of conservative rhetoric is an intrinsic belief that poor people are poor because they deserve to be poor, usually because of bad choices they've made.

I'm not sure how you are using the word "intrinsic" here, because in any sense of that word as I understand it, I don't see how such a belief could possibly be intrinsic. I also don't believe it's any kind of a belief of most of those spouting conservative rhetoric about poor people; it's an assertion, one made in bad faith by people who know that it isn't true.

One reason that it's an assertion that appeals to people who should naturally be allies of the poor--people who are just-that-close to being poor themselves--is that it offers the false hope that those people can avoid poverty if they work hard enough and make the right choices. Those people don't really believe it either, but even false hopes can make the reality of living paycheck-to-paycheck less stressful.
posted by layceepee at 8:15 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


So all Chipotle is doing is making tastier food and giving a few "superstars" the ability to "rise to the top." Everyone else? Fuck 'em.

Yay capitalism!
posted by wuwei at 10:53 AM on April 17 [+] [!]


And yet they are the darling of the burrito loving hipster.
posted by Gungho at 8:16 AM on April 17


I think we need two minimum wages: full time, and part time. Part time minimum wage is required to be at least 1.25xFT.
posted by fings at 8:16 AM on April 17 [46 favorites]


conservatives believe the poor are poor because they are flawed, and they need to be punished.

"Economic Calvinists". Either your prayers are wrong, or you're not praying hard enough....
posted by mikelieman at 8:16 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


Also, they charge to take the GED now? That's..disturbing at best. Going on 20 years ago, the public school system in the city where I lived at the time provided remedial courses and the test at no charge, even for adults. I got bored with high school so I dropped out and took the GED early in my junior year instead. Despite being a snotty kid, I felt awful at how much easier it was for me than the adults I saw there at the adult education building, but now knowing that they also have to pay more than a day's earnings to take the test they might well not pass their first time around? Christ, we are such assholes.

On preview: Oh, look, the punishing savers meme has reared its ugly head! Maybe folks hadn't noticed, but we are a nation of debtors, not a nation of savers. And yet, experience in other countries strongly indicates that even in a nation of savers more than de minimis inflation is necessary to prevent economic stagnation. Such is the inevitable fate of a (notionally) free market capitalist economy. Funny how we have a hard time accepting our economic system for what it is.

People go on and on about the free market and competition and price equilibria and whatever, but as soon as you talk about raising the minimum wage all that goes out the window faster than you can say boo. Apparently competitive pricing ceases to exist when the minimum wage is raised. If that is the case, when is the normal pricing mechanism in the free market restored?
posted by wierdo at 8:17 AM on April 17 [10 favorites]


when is the normal pricing mechanism in the free market restored?

Obviously when 'labor costs' == 0.
posted by mikelieman at 8:19 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


And yet they are the darling of the burrito loving hipster.

No, not in places with real burritos and real hipsters.

Anyway, so-called "conservatives" are often ignorant of actual economics. Raising the minimum wage through the roof would be bad (like $25 would be a mess) but small incremental increases to ensure workers can make enough to live on are a net positive for the economy.

The economy improves when more money flows. Having a lot of poorly paid people and a few wealthy ones is not a healthy economy.
posted by GuyZero at 8:19 AM on April 17 [12 favorites]


By increasing the minimum wage 20% an employer has three options. 1. Pay it and make less profit. 2. Pay it, and raise the price of goods and services, which is self defeating, because: inflation. 3. Pay it and reduce staff to maintain profit levels without increasing prices, because: competition. Most will choose 3 if at all possible. results: fewer jobs.

In the sectors most reliant on minimum wage workers, option 1 is the only one available.

2. isn't feasible if your competition doesn't follow suit.
3. is impossible as payrolls are barely sufficient as it is (notice the lines and bare shelves in WalMart?)

But, there is a LOT of slack in corporate budgets at casual dining chains and retail chains comprised of dividends and executive wage.
posted by ocschwar at 8:19 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


And if the minimum wage is raised, so will the cost of said Chipotle burritos, so that owners aren't losing money - along with everything else. That is inflation. And those workers will still not be buying Chipotle raised-price burritos, but since the dollar is worth less overall, everyone with savings is getting fucked.

That was a pretty spectacular set of extrapolations and broad, unsubstantiated guesswork about what would happen if the minimum wage was raised. Do you really believe that if a Chipotle minimum-wage employee's wage went from $7.50 to $15, Chipotle burrito prices would double, as though those employees are the only line item in the Chipotle spreadsheet, disregarding all management, infrastructure, food, materials, rent, transport, marketing, legal, medical and other costs?

Because if you don't think that, then there is every possibility that the income-enhanced Chipotle worker would buy Chipotle burritos.

I'm not an economist, but it doesn't take an economist to see that you're taking a very Chicken Little approach to the vague concept of inflation, but that in fact most people "with savings" would not, in fact, be "fucked". Reallocating money from the offshore accounts of 1% shareholders into local economies would provide far more tangible benefits to everyone across the board than the pants-dampening terror of "inflation" might cause the average person to lose.
posted by Shepherd at 8:20 AM on April 17 [23 favorites]




I live in Santa Fe, NM where there is a "living wage" just raised to $10.66/hr.

Buying products here seems to be more expensive than in other places I've lived (e.g. New York City) and it's expensive to go out to eat. Chains, like Buffalo Wild Wings, have higher prices compared to the same items sold in chains in Albuquerque. Some businesses have closed, for example the Village Inn (like a knock-off Denny's) closed and partly blamed the high wages and a poor employment pool (LOL!).

This article from the ABQ Journal lays out the issues fairly well.

There are plenty of businesses in Santa Fe that seem to be doing well paying a living wage, but the costs (and benefits) of paying that wage are also present throughout the community.
posted by backwords at 8:23 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Because when you cause inflation, you screw people whose income is not rising to meet the cost of living. It's not just "little guy vs the man."

You can think of a minimum wage increase as a COLA for workers in the vein of what Ma and Pa get from their pension or Social Security. What we're doing now is screwing people whose incomes are not rising with the cost of living.
posted by Corinth at 8:23 AM on April 17 [11 favorites]


This also means that fewer people can be hired.

Yes. They hire extra people out of the goodness of their hearts. Industries like fast food that are absolutely fanatical about labor costs are already operating on the bare minimum already and would most likely be unable to function if they had to lay off yet another worker. If they were laying off people they'd be trimming muscle not fat. That's not going to happen.
posted by Talez at 8:23 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


Gungho: If you read the article it becomes apparent that these minimum wage fast food jobs are not entry level positions for the people currently engaged in them. They are turning into career positions with no real increase in wages.

One of the featured workers has had one 80 cent raise over the last 8 years.

It's not like back in the day when high school kids worked these jobs and them moved on to better as they got older. There is no better for the bottom of the employment heap and no way to crawl out of the bottom in an economy that rewards only those with the talent, luck or money to get through high school and some post secondary education.

What used to work doesn't really work anymore. Time to rethink how we are going to support a middle class and provide a pathway to the middle class for the poor.
posted by mygoditsbob at 8:24 AM on April 17 [15 favorites]


The chicken little approach from the right balances the "take it from the offshore accounts of the 1%/raise it to $15" approach from the left.

There is a middle ground....somewhere.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 8:26 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


What we need along with a minimum-wage law for the bottom tier jobs is a maximum-wage law for the top tier. Capping compensation in the executive suite will free up all sorts of money, so the company can hire all those entry level workers and still make a profit. Inflation will stay in check. Everybody wins. Of course, when it comes to pushing down their own compensation, most execs suddenly can't quite see the overall economic benefit.

In fact, the United States used to have something along those lines when the top federal income tax bracket was 90 percent.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:27 AM on April 17 [28 favorites]


For everyone saying "There's a lot of slack in executive wage": if you're saying this while saying there will be no negative impact to the economy, you're being disingenuous. What you mean is that you would like no negative impact to the section of the economy you care about, while hoping for a negative impact to the people that you don't like.

And unless you're also dreaming up laws prohibiting it, then yes, the people who are making those decisions are going to alter what's going on beneath them to ensure their own wages/profit stay the same or get higher, because that's how business works.

And if you're dreaming up laws prohibiting it, then your problem sounds less the plight of the minimum wage workers, and more your personal issues with high-wage-earners.

You can think of a minimum wage increase as a COLA for workers in the vein of what Ma and Pa get from their pension or Social Security.

Except that with inflation, those COLA increases really don't cut it even as it stands, far less with rapidly rising inflation beyond what has been predicted for.
posted by corb at 8:30 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I'm really uncomfortable with trying to find a middle ground with the current US right, because that middle ground wouldn't be anywhere near the middle. When you hear Republicans talking about the minimum wage they're more likely to want to abolish it. The middle of $0/hr and $10.50/hr is less than what we already have, and what we have now is not exactly a "compromise achieved!" kind of triumph.
posted by Corinth at 8:31 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


Corb, you seem to be saying that keeping low-tier wages down is good for the economy, but keeping executive wages down is bad for the economy. How's that work, exactly?
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:33 AM on April 17 [33 favorites]


corb, the right is the side that wants to reduce safety net increases by using a less generous chained CPI. If you're saying that Social Security should be increased more aggressively I agree. I'm all for COLAs for everybody!
posted by Corinth at 8:34 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Corinth - the right and the left, in general - the left just focuses their reductions to COLA on things like military retirees. Let me be clear - I'm not saying there are any good guys here.
posted by corb at 8:36 AM on April 17


For everyone saying "There's a lot of slack in executive wage": if you're saying this while saying there will be no negative impact to the economy, you're being disingenuous.

The CEO of Yum Brands making a mere $20 million per year instead of $30 million barely qualifies as a negative impact on him, much less the economy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:37 AM on April 17 [39 favorites]



For everyone saying "There's a lot of slack in executive wage": if you're saying this while saying there will be no negative impact to the economy, you're being disingenuous. What you mean is that you would like no negative impact to the section of the economy you care about, while hoping for a negative impact to the people that you don't like.


So it's "economic damage" if money is diverted from the Darden Restaurants dividend and allocated to worker wages?
posted by ocschwar at 8:38 AM on April 17 [11 favorites]


Corb, I'm getting the following things from you:

1. Raising the minimum wage will hurt the US economy more than it will help.
2. Raising the minimum wage will reduce employment so much that the positive benefits of increased wages will be more than offset.
3. Raising the minimum wage slightly will "fuck" people with savings and lead to inflation more than it will help those at the bottom and more than it will lead to increased wages overall.

I'd really like to read analysis by economists of past minimum wage increases, here and in other countries, that bear that perspective out. I'd also like to read projections of how much any given proposed minimum wage hike will increase inflation, and what the effects will be on invested money (401K plans) versus saved money--including the scope of the effects, given what people actually have in their 401Ks and in their savings accounts.

Because it seems more like you're arguing from vague first principals (if you apply pressure here by increasing minimum wages, the economy will respond there in such a way to cancel it out completely or make it a net loss) rather than from actual, you know, evidence.

Yes, every change has winners and losers, positive and negative effects. But what are those effects? Who is the winner and the loser? You can't do a cost/benefit analysis by waving your hands in the air and bellowing about the costs and ignoring the benefits.
posted by jsturgill at 8:47 AM on April 17 [15 favorites]


corb: "For everyone saying "There's a lot of slack in executive wage": if you're saying this while saying there will be no negative impact to the economy, you're being disingenuous. What you mean is that you would like no negative impact to the section of the economy you care about, while hoping for a negative impact to the people that you don't like."

Please explain what the negative impacts on the overall economy would be if we were to mandate that executive pay not be greater than 40 times the average wage of all employees at a given firm? Personally, I think it would would actually help deflate some of the asset bubbles that have been created due to there being more money at the top than what those at the top know what to do with at the moment, and thus help the broader economy, not hurt it.

Or do you think execs will all go Galt and just quit? That would definitely cause more than a little economic disruption, at least for a while. If so, what drove the people who helmed our major corporations before the explosive rise in executive compensation began in the early 80s? Why did they not go Galt?
posted by wierdo at 8:50 AM on April 17 [12 favorites]


corb: the left just focuses their reductions to COLA on things like military retirees.

You have argued this before, but it is demonstrably false.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:50 AM on April 17 [31 favorites]


The most recent attempt to reduce veterans benefits was Republican Paul Ryan's "responsible" budgeting. So that's not really the left focusing their reductions on military retirees. I think, in this area at least, the positions of the 2.5 main parties are fairly defined and consistent.
posted by Corinth at 8:50 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


What you mean is that you would like no negative impact to the section of the economy you care about, while hoping for a negative impact to the people that you don't like.

Isn't the status quo this already, just in the reverse direction? Is class warfare necessarily worse than class massacre?
posted by LionIndex at 8:52 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


More on the most liberal member of the Senate doing work to increase benefits for veterans.

The idea that the left would prefer to cut veterans' benefits over others' is ludicrous.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:52 AM on April 17 [12 favorites]


Aizkolari: "The idea that the left would prefer to cut veterans' benefits over others' is ludicrous."

The idea that the left wants to cut anyone's "benefits" (at least insofar as they are earned retirement benefits or part of the social safety net) is ludicrous.
posted by wierdo at 8:57 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


From the article:

Patrick is dismissive of the idea that raising the minimum wage would hurt business growth. “They say, ‘The wages go up, the cost of living goes up’. But that’s already happened. The cost of living has gone way, way up. The only thing that stayed the same was the wages. They really need to come up with another line.”

And please don't forget wage theft is real and pervasive.
posted by gorbweaver at 8:57 AM on April 17 [16 favorites]


One last comment on the veterans thing: Bob Filner is an asshole and a general embarrassment to San Diegans, Californians, and indeed humans beings everywhere, but he is another rabidly liberal politician who fought hard for increased benefits to current and former members of the military when in Congress.

Note the list of opponents to the Post-9/11 BI bill.

My apologies for the derail.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:58 AM on April 17


jsturgill, I am more arguing that this is not the Pareto improvement some people seem to think this is.

In terms of veterans' and servicemember benefits, the Obama administration has shown itself very willing to cut them or increase the costs of using them. (Tricare benefits, lower pay increases for soldiers, retirement benefits, etc). Now, whether they want to cut them through moustache-twirling veteran-hate, or they simply think the benefits are too generous is hard to say, but I don't know what's in their hearts, and can only judge them on their actions.
posted by corb at 8:59 AM on April 17


Just FYI on the Chipotle stuff: Chipotle says it could afford a minimum-wage hike as it signals possible price rise.
Moran replied that actually, average wages at Chipotle are already $9. A move to $10 would have an effect “but not too significant.” The numbers back that up — restaurant-level margins in the fourth quarter were a healthy 25.6%.
There's also this Forbes piece
Chipotle is renowned for quickly moving workers from starting pay levels into higher paying management jobs. Starting pay for “crew,” the people who make the burritos, averages about $10.50 an hour ($21,000 a year) with benefits, according to some reports; $8.50 an hour by others. The company says 98% of its managers, some of whom earn six-digits, start as crew. It’s not unheard of to find a 20-something who was on the line five years ago to be working as a Chipotle “restaurateur,” a position with an average annual pay of about $99,000.
So I think the example of Chipotle has a lot to say about the minimum wage debate, but maybe not what some people imagine.
posted by Humanzee at 8:59 AM on April 17


The poor are poor because they're flawed; or rather, black.

Let's be very clear that this is just a subtly-coded race issue. Which is how white poor folks justify it to themselves. Even if they're not overtly racist, they're complicit and emotionally invested in a class/caste system that punishes the less-fortunate because it's really designed to punish the inferior (read: darker).
posted by Eideteker at 9:03 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


What you mean is that you would like no negative impact to the section of the economy you care about, while hoping for a negative impact to the people that you don't like.

Yeah, dude, I'm actually completely comfortable cutting executive pay if it means a single mother in St. Louis can keep the heat on and eventually make a stab at nursing school. The idea that the "negative impact" in those two scenarios is even remotely comparable enough to be mentioned in the same sentence is ludicrous.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:08 AM on April 17 [60 favorites]




Wall Street Makes More in Bonuses Than Every American Combined Working on Minimum Wage

Pinning minimum wage increases to inflation is a nice start, but they'll just find ways to depress inflation figures.
posted by Eideteker at 9:08 AM on April 17 [21 favorites]


Who on earth cares if it's a Pareto improvement? I think most people simply want improvement: the help to outweigh the hurt, in a utilitarian manner.

I can't even see how a forced wage hike could ever be a Pareto improvement, by definition. The higher business expense is a "harm" to one actor, a boon to another. (I think it's also a boon to a third vested interest, the larger system that contains and shelters both actors, but still: not a Pareto improvement.)

The relevant question for most people here is, how much will the higher wage help? Not, will a higher minimum wage possibly hurt even one actor ever in the history of time, because if it does, man, better not try to fix the problem?
posted by jsturgill at 9:12 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


this is not the Pareto improvement some people seem to think this is.

Pareto-optimality isn't the correct gauge for most real-world economic policies.

But frankly, who cares if someone who makes $30 million has to take a $10 million pay cut in order to pay for an increase in the minimum wage (or, as I personally favor, increased taxes to pay for an increase in the earned income credit)? What does it matter if that $10 million is just a pure wealth transfer: $10 million goes to the poor but the overall economy stays the same or even shrinks? Is there no utility in helping other people? Is there no utility in not being an overpaid, greedy, selfish person who got where they are primarily through accidents of birth and history rather than merit? Is there no utility in not exerting an out-sized influence on society just because you can buy a bigger megaphone rather than because you have better ideas? Is there no utility in living in a more equal society?

I say that all of those things have tremendous utility, and they make redistributionist policies "worth it" irrespective of whether they would improve the monetary economy overall (which, as it happens, I think they would, but we should implement them even if they didn't).
posted by jedicus at 9:14 AM on April 17 [18 favorites]


corb: " (Tricare benefits, lower pay increases for soldiers, retirement benefits, etc)."

"TRICARE premiums for beneficiaries have not kept up with inflation and the overall increase in health care costs during the past two decades. Congress agreed to raise TRICARE Prime annual enrollment fees for retirees in 2011 -- the first time the fees have gone up since 1995. Right now, TRICARE Prime retirees pay $273.84 annually for individual coverage and $547.68 per year for family coverage through Sept. 30, 2014. Under Obama’s plan, for example, family coverage for that group would rise to a minimum of $558 annually to a maximum of $900 in fiscal 2015, depending on a beneficiary’s income level."

So we're talking about an increase of a whopping ~$10 per year for low income families?
This doesn't even rise to the level of a mild breeze in a tea cup.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:15 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


What you mean is that you would like no negative impact to the section of the economy you care about, while hoping for a negative impact to the people that you don't like.

Speaking for myself, I demand a positive impact on the section of the economy I care about (those who have less than they need, which itself is a level lower than what they should be able to reasonably expect from such an advanced economy). I am indifferent to the impact on the the people who have significantly more than they need (and who I also dislike, for their greed and blithe inhumanity given the imbalanced state of the economy they parasitize).

The idea that a living wage that keeps pace with inflation and economic growth is an economy-killer is nothing but the loud lie of the selfish, repeated by the gullible. In fact, there's a strong argument to be made that the opposite is true.
posted by Drexen at 9:19 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precariat

which includes Freeters, permatemps and permalancers (like me!), and other underemployed/benefitless jobholders whose chances at getting a job with the "traditional" salary + benefits are vanishing; as well as hard-working folks like Patrick.

It's a growing class. And wage/food insecurity leads to political instability. I think the current (shortsighted*) leadership is hoping/thinking we'll turn on each other before we turn on them. Or maybe their money will just insulate them.

* there is virtually no incentive to think beyond the fiscal year or next election cycle; shortsightedness is baked into the system.
posted by Eideteker at 9:20 AM on April 17 [20 favorites]


Q: How do you win a game of Monopoly™?
A: Bankrupt all the other players.

This is how our economy is currently being run, how capitalism works; like a game of Monopoly. Except: even in Monopoly, everyone gets the same guaranteed* salary. Sheesh.
posted by Eideteker at 9:23 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Patrick is part of an industry in which working like a “legit slave” is an aspiration. A 70-hour work week means you make enough to survive.

A few years ago, when I was 33, due to a long series of Unfortunate Events, I found myself working full-time at Panera Bread, which amounted to 35 hours: 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, at 7.75 / hour.

I made enough money to pay my bills, but not enough for gas to get to work and do errands.

So... after struggling through for a few weeks, I picked up another 35 hours: 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, at an evening gig delivering pizzas / counter work at $7.00 / hour plus tips at a mom and pop Italian joint.

I worked 6 AM to 2 PM at Panera (with the mandatory unpaid lunch hour), drove to the Pizzeria, parked, and stared glassily at nothing in particular for about an hour. I worked at the Pizzeria doing counter work and deliveries from 4 to 9 PM. On my two days off from Panera, I worked 4-9 PM at the Pizzeria.

The tips I got from delivering pizzas would usually cover the gas I used to get them, so the paycheck was my bonus for showing up.

I "stole" food daily at Panera, opting out of their 50% employee discount. I stuffed paninis which had passed their "consumable" time in the warmer in my apron, and would eat them in the bathroom stall or the walk-in box. When these weren't available, I would sneak make sandwiches on the line, or grab bites of meat and cheese when no one was looking.

The mom and pop Italian joint provided a free meal when the boss wasn't around, and the chefs always made sure to offer any overcooked or cancelled order food to the workers, so that covered my dinner 90% of the time.

I worked. I slept. I ate. I drank. I jerked off, and I shat and pissed. That is literally all I did the for the entire 6 months I did this.

My meals were covered through petit theft and graciousness, so I purchased no food.
My bills were easily paid... rent in the ghetto, no TV, no phone, car insurance. Whatever was left over I was too tired to spend. I didn't care. Life wasn't meant for fun, it was meant to be lived working or sleeping. Enjoyment was only found in release from consciousness.

I personally found it amusing, however, that I was able to save more money living in this abject misery than when I had been making over $45,000 / yr on salary at my old corporate job. Near the end of these 6 months, I had managed to save a couple thousand dollars.

Luckily for me (in hindsight), I am an alcoholic, and the months of relentless, numbing, doldrums caught up to me and I picked up a drink.

There's not too much room for the antics of a chronic late stage alcoholic at minimum wage jobs, so I was completely unemployed, fired from from both, within a few short weeks. This of course, started a whole other series of Unfortunate Events culminating in homelessness and a slew of other wonderful things.

I am grateful for the experience though. I know what it feels like, I know what life feels like living in that relentless grind. Either not having enough money to survive, or getting another job and working so many hours, there's nothing left but getting sleep and getting up for the next shift.

I'm back in the corporate world again now, but that life of just a few years ago still hovers and flickers in the background. For I know how precarious my grip on the material things in life still is. The cars, the house, the "stuff." It's amazing how quickly they can go, and how much time and effort, financial and emotional, they require to maintain.

My mother, recently pressuring me to work for the family business with a promise to triple my income, asked me the other day what I want in life. I said "Happiness. Satisfaction. Peace. Nothing more."

Think back to your happiest memory.

I know mine: As a child, sitting just off the bases with a good friend watching my dad play softball. The warm sunshine, the cool breeze. Long before I knew anything of war, death, illness, taxes, my father's own alcoholism, divorce, the death of a first love... Only Happiness. Satisfaction. Peace.
posted by Debaser626 at 9:25 AM on April 17 [103 favorites]


Corporations need to accept accountability and responsibility for the consequences of their actions. The IRS already knows employer/employee relationships and salary info. Add the requirement to include the number of hours worked for hourly employees as well, and for companies who fail to pay their full-time or nearly full-time (allow employees to challenge this classification via an independent classification board) employees a living wage, their employers should be held liable for a percentage of the money required to make up the difference with public benefits. Tie this percentage to the number of employees below the threshold vs. the entire employee base and large employers like Wal Mart can no longer systematically rely on the government to pick up their slack and drive their profit margins even higher.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:25 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


In fact, the United States used to have something along those lines when the top federal income tax bracket was 90 percent.

And it came with the bonus of fucking our health insurance system by linking it to employment, which we still haven't fixed. How about not.

I'm all for raising the minimum wage, but wage caps are silly. For any number of reasons, mostly that suddenly devoting a significant amount of brainpower in the global economy to coming up with clever non-cash compensation strategies isn't very productive and would probably break things (cf. health insurance), but moreover because it's a leftie revenge fantasy that has no place in a world where we're there is actual argument over increasing the minimum wage. Ain't. gonna. happen.

The best all-around solution would probably involve indexing the Federal Minimum to the same COLAs used by Social Security; every time SS goes up, the Fed Minimum kicks up in lockstep.

It would be better if the increases were predictable over a fairly long horizon, so the uncertainty in labor-centric industries was less, but that's hard to accomplish politically.

The competitiveness vs. outsourcing / imports is a serious problem, though I don't think it's a good argument against wage increases. (And I question what percentage of manufacturing really relies on minimum-wage workers anyway.) The long-term solution is really just trade tariffs against countries with cheap labor, to level the playing field. Anything else is an inevitable race to the bottom. The realization of that may slowly be dawning on our corporate overlords, so there might actually be some hope of progress there. I think there is finally starting to be an understanding that you can't just outsource or offshore your production and sell it for ridiculous profits to morons here in the States; eventually somebody is going to manufacture it in the same Chinese sweatshop but not stamp your logo on it, and sell it for less, and cut you out. (Haier refrigerators, for example.) When foreign competition starts to threaten business and not just mere jobs, suddenly it may start to not seem like such an intrinsically Good Idea.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:28 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


We tried tariffs on Japanese cars in the 80s, didn't work out so well. Free trade is a good thing.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:31 AM on April 17


Or: "totalitarian dystopian future lit is like “what if the government got so powerful that all the bad stuff that’s already happening ALSO HAPPENED TO WHITE PEOPLE?”"
posted by Eideteker at 9:37 AM on April 17 [26 favorites]


Every dollar added to the salary of a minimum wage employee is circulated right back into the economy.

It's not like folks at that level of the economy can realistically expect to save much.

Those of you that think raising the minimum wage will hurt the economy need to take into account the added velocity of the dollars at the low end of the economy. It is likely that allowing the Wendy's employees to actually afford what they are making will actually help the economy.

Think Henry Ford and the $5 workday. It was the start of the industrial middle class when Ford workers could actually buy the Model Ts they were making.
posted by mygoditsbob at 9:37 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


"We tried tariffs on Japanese cars in the 80s, didn't work out so well. Free trade is a good thing."

Wait, the economy collapsed in the 80s? Harder than it has now?
posted by Eideteker at 9:38 AM on April 17


BlerpityBloop: "We tried tariffs on Japanese cars in the 80s, didn't work out so well. Free trade is a good thing."

It isn't free trade if the playing field isn't level with regard to things like environmental laws and standards of living, within broad categories, anyway.
posted by wierdo at 9:40 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


dirigibleman: "Every time a raise in the minimum wage is proposed, conservatives scream that the sky is falling. And every time the minimum wage is increased the sky remains firmly above our heads. I choose not to believe that conservatives are so stupid that they never noticed this, so I choose to believe that they simply think the average American's standard of living is too high and that it should be lower than it is."

Well, I suppose you're free to believe that, but the conservative economists I hear talking about the subject outline it like this:

1. Minimum wage affects very few people, and increasing it a little doesn't affect many more.
2. Employers who pay employees more than they bring in for the company go bankrupt and close down in due time.
3. When raising the minimum wage, therefore, anyone bringing in less per hour in profits than the new higher wage will likely not have a job for long.
4. Having a job with a low wage is preferable to having no job at all.
5. Unemployment is much higher among the poor, so if your goal is to help the poor, raising wages may help a fraction of them a bit and harm another fraction a lot more.

Of course, I also listen to more liberal people, and their argument goes like this:
1. In an unregulated market, the huge supply of unskilled workers will drive wages to basic subsistence levels.
2. Cost increases can't be shifted to customers unless all market competitors increase costs.
3. Minimum wage workers tend to have low savings rates; either because they're teens working for spare cash, or because they're adults struggling to make rent and bills.
4. For every dollar of income, low savers put more money directly back into the economy.
4. Therefore, minimum wage increases are effective at relieving poverty and improving the overall economic health of the nation.

I read these threads primarily because it's an interesting to figure out which side is more right.
posted by pwnguin at 9:42 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


corb: "The people who need cheap labor may not be the people who are profiting off those laborer's wages."

Erm, I'm fairly certain they are in fact profiting from the cheap labor even if employees don't buy their own product because, well, because it's cheap labor. Just 2 examples from the 2012 Forbes list of America's Highest Paid Chief Executives.

Steve Ells (Chipotle): $22M
James Skinner (McDonalds): $14M

BlerpityBloop: "Most manufacturers build their labor costs in to the price of goods, which must remain competitive to not create a trade deficit."

As long as massive amounts of profit are diverted to investors and executives I find it hard to muster more than the world's tiniest violin's worth of compassion for those "struggling" to keep products competitive.
If a business can't pay a living wage then it probably shouldn't exist because it either (a) is badly run or (b) it is run by greedy bastards. Either way... the world would be better off without it.

wierdo: "Please explain what the negative impacts on the overall economy would be if we were to mandate that executive pay not be greater than 40 times the average wage of all employees at a given firm? "

This. Something like that almost happened in Switzerland thanks to the 12 to 1 initiative which was maybe a little too crass (top executive pay limited to 12 times the lowest paid employee's salary) and also because the "yes" campaign was outspent by the "no" campaign by orders of magnitude. But a slightly more reasonable proposal like wierdo's might work better. Though I would tie it to the median salary rather than the average one to prevent abuse of the system. There is not good reason to allow anybody to grab as big a slice of the pie as they can.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:44 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


In terms of veterans' and servicemember benefits, the Obama administration has shown itself very willing to cut them or increase the costs of using them. (Tricare benefits, lower pay increases for soldiers, retirement benefits, etc). Now, whether they want to cut them through moustache-twirling veteran-hate, or they simply think the benefits are too generous is hard to say, but I don't know what's in their hearts, and can only judge them on their actions.

RingTFA shows that the increases are to offset cost increases that would otherwise make Tricare considerably more expensive. Considering that Tricare is often much cheaper than private insurance, that seems less like "moustache-twirling veteran-hate" and more like "keeping one of military's best perks financially feasible."
posted by zombieflanders at 9:44 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


and also because the "yes" campaign was outspent by the "no" campaign by orders of magnitude

...or also because the "no" voters were at work, or also because the "no" voters were intimidated by new voting laws.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:45 AM on April 17


We tried tariffs on Japanese cars in the 80s, didn't work out so well. Free trade is a good thing.

The reasons for the demise of GM and to a lesser extent Ford and Chrysler are manifold and mostly tied up in refusing to make a product people want to buy, regardless of price. However that tariff thing did make a huge impact on pickups (look up "chicken tax") which are a cash cow for US auto makers and probably the only reason they are still US auto makers. It also motivated the Japanese auto makers to open up US plants (and now Mexican plants as well) that have greatly benefited both countries, to the point that some 'Japanese' cars are only made in the US (I believe for a while that every Honda Accord sold anywhere in the world was actually assembled in Ohio). The other side of that is that the tariff's also allowed US auto makers to have a sense of complacency and arrogance that also stifled innovation and change (and the UAW had a hand in that attitude as well).


The big thing that a lot of people on metafilter doesn't seem to get (and to be fair a LOT of people don't get) is that the economy has changed greatly since the 1970's and the 1980's. For both of these decades the big constraint on growth was supply-there was more demand in the system than supply so you got inflation and a search for more production capacity overseas.

Then this changed in the late 1980's and the 1990's you got a balance between supply and demand and new technology (that internet thing I keep hearing about and more broadly computing and automation) and with that you got real growth in the economy and wages and general wealth.

Another shift occured 00's demand started to slip with the overall aging in US (and the world in general and in some cases the outright shrinkage or at least ZPG in population such as Japan and Europe) and smaller families you now have a demand problem and inflation isn't really going to be an issue. This can be seen in places like Japan very accutely were, despite doing everything that is supposed to cause inflation, is having deflation problems because of the demographics i mentioned earlier.

So raising the minimum wage, in a slow and consistent manner, will probably help balance the system's problem right now, but so many people are still stuck in the 1970's stagflation problem (which was real and bad and very connected to some of the problems of today) where raising wages would've just worsened problems relevant to that world.
posted by bartonlong at 10:03 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


2. Employers who pay employees more than they bring in for the company go bankrupt and close down in due time.
3. When raising the minimum wage, therefore, anyone bringing in less per hour in profits than the new higher wage will likely not have a job for long.


That's really, really not how wages work. Companies try to keep costs down and keep revenue up, but each individual line item in the budget does not have to directly offset itself with a proportional amount of revenue for the overall company to make a profit. Claiming that a rise in worker wages must result in worker layoffs would be like saying if the cost of rent went up by 30%, businesses that rent property would have no choice but to shutter a subset of their least profitable rented locations rather than address the cost increase in other ways (such as by raising prices). The reason for the cost increases don't matter in terms of what options a company has to deal with the cost increases, and there's not any real difference between a rise in worker pay versus a rise in some other fluctuating commodity cost.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:06 AM on April 17 [13 favorites]


Reading the article, I see people's resources are being strained taking care of familiy members, friends, and children. I also notice that (of course) no one gets a full-time job with benefits, and transportation is a major problem.

I like the idea of working for sideways improvements that help out people who struggle with these issues, which really do go pretty far up the food chain. Maybe a few benefits can sneak through while everyone's still arguing over minimum wage laws.

Affordable, safe, cheap, subsidized national daycare, for example, that actually reached into poor communities as well as rich communities, could solve a lot of problems for everyone.

Good, swift, cheap public transportation would help a lot. Light rail should be built up much more in every decently-sized city.

Bike infrastructure needs to get better and link communities to work centers. A 10-mile bike ride to work or the store is absolutely doable for physically capable adults (not so much for people with physical disabilities), and not strenuous at all with a few gears. Shitty in midwest winters, but still another option that should be available.

Perhaps a voucher system where your usage of public transportation is tracked. Once you hit the cost of a monthly pass, you can trade in your vouchers for the monthly pass you've paid for even though you couldn't save for it. Or perhaps people who work minimum wage jobs can demonstrate the bus route they take to and from work, and those trips should be entirely free of cost.

Decent national healthcare would make sure that young people's lives aren't ruinously detoured by their relatives' health problems.

Free community tutoring for GREs would be a boon, as would be cheap or free community college courses that provided free textbooks and tutoring to students. Highly available associate degrees and technical training would do wonders for people trying to lift themselves out of poverty. This would have to be coupled with the subsidized childcare mentioned above, of course, or no one would be able to make it in to the classes.

It also seems like every business mentioned plays fast and loose with employee schedules. The employees cannot plan their lives out more than a week in advance, which is of course untennable, unconscionable, and inhumane. On top of that, hours are extremely limited. Perhaps employers who do not schedule at least three weeks in advance should be punished with an extra tax, much like they are burdening their employees with an uncompensated uncertainty tax. And perhaps employers who have over a certain number of employees (10? 20? Whatever.) should be fined if at least 51% of those employees are part-time rather than full-time, since the rest of society is bearing the cost of this "efficiency."

Entertainment is likely a problem as well. Nationally subsidized community centers in poor neighborhoods should provide arts training, screen movies, and tutor children. Parks could have live music performances, plays, and bands for the public, free of charge. Community members could be the heart of these performances, bringing everyone closer together and allowing for positive ways to express individuality, gain respect, and feel heard by people you care about.

Nutrition suffers in these environments. People wind up working for purveyors of crap food, and then they wind up subsisting on that crap food themselves. No one has the time or energy to make dinner after working two part-time jobs for over 60 hours each week. Perhaps those same parks could provide daily healthy dinners. Soups made with vegetables donated from local grocery stores, for example, that were about to be tossed out, plus healthy whole grains such as steel cut oats and brown rice and barley and whatever else is cheap this week.

When there aren't enough free vegetables and grains, the dinners could be subsidized by national funds so that in every city with over 10,000 people in it in America, you know that you will be able to eat at no cost if you need it. This would keep workers strong and healthy, so that they perform better on the job. Low-wage workers and their children would get better nutrition, too, combatting obesity and many lifelong healthcare problems that cost a lot more than a few cheap meals.

Once we have this sort of infrastructure set up, I think we probably wouldn't need to raise the minimum wage that much. A dollar or two should do it, at least for a few years.

We could implement all of these ideas pretty easily. All it would take would be for everyone coming together as human beings who respected each other and wanted to solve the major problems that cause so much pain to our neighbors and fellow citizens, each of whom is as worthy of respect and care as the next. Probably a slight tax increase to--

Nah, forget it. If people really want to eat, take care of their children, express themselves through the arts, have healthcare, be educated, and work steady jobs, then market forces would find a way to get it to them.
posted by jsturgill at 10:09 AM on April 17 [23 favorites]


1. Minimum wage affects very few people, and increasing it a little doesn't affect many more.

Improving the lives of the 3.9 million people in the US making minimum wage or less by spending very little money seems pretty desirable to me.
posted by Hoopo at 10:20 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


jsturgill, while I'm all in favor of the programs and forms of assistance you describe they can't negate the need to address wages and income inequality in a meaningful way. If people can't earn a living wage and are kept alive and functional mainly through "sideways assistance" while at the same time a massive share of business profits is funneled upwards to a select few then you're effectively heavily subsidizing the income of the 1% with tax money and donations paid by all. Might as well mail the traditional tenth of your paycheck to your boss/liege lord directly.

This has of course already been happening for some time.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:33 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Oklahoma bans local minimum wage increases.
The new law also bars localities from requiring that employees receive a certain number of sick or vacation days, either paid or unpaid.
posted by landis at 10:37 AM on April 17


Chipotle plans first price hike in 3 years
The Mexican food chain said Thursday that it would raise prices for the first time in three years as its popularity continues to soar....Steve Ells, Chipotle's co-CEO, said during a conference call with analysts that price is not the main reason customers visit its restaurants anyway. "Most of the value comes from the experience,"...and if needed, he said Chipotle still had the leeway to further raise prices without scaring off customers...The decision comes as higher costs for beef, avocados and cheese have pressured profit margins for the chain, with net income for the first quarter coming in below Wall Street expectations.
posted by cjelli at 10:37 AM on April 17


We tried tariffs on Japanese cars in the 80s, didn't work out so well. Free trade is a good thing.

Yeah, sorry, not buying it. There are whole cities in US that look like they've been neutron bombed, all in the name of "free trade." And for what — so we can get $20 DVD players at Walmart? I think the Free Trade experiment has been run, and the results are shitty.

All the little Econ 101 arguments about trade creating GNP surpluses leave out the distribution of that increase. When you sell out workers in favor of offshore manufacturing, the net economic benefit of that offshoring "efficiency" rarely accrues back to those workers. Instead, it goes to others — many fewer others, as it turns out in reality. Which means that you either end up with a massive redistributivist welfare state, taking from the winners and giving to the losers, or you don't do that and you get a two-tiered oligarchy, where some people do very well because they can muscle their way in to the Free Trade trough, and everyone else ends up fighting for "service economy" jobs that haven't been offshored yet. The latter, of course, is what we ended up with, although I'm not sure that the former is really all that ideal either (it seems to lead to a sort of trade-based Dutch Disease, wherein your make your entire society dependent on the dividends produced by hollowing-out the manufacturing base, which can't last forever and won't end well).

Most of the manufacturing industries left in the US are here because of trade barriers in one form or another. Tens of thousands of people are employed in the auto industry simply because we don't allow (or rather, we intentionally disadvantage through tariffs) imports of light trucks. The shipbuilding industry exists mostly because of defense production and the Jones Act. Etc. Keep in mind, of course, that subsidies are just tariffs in reverse as well. There are certainly exceptions, of course, where industries are naturally competitive on something approaching an idealized level playing field, but they're just that — exceptions. And other countries do the same thing.

And of course this is related to the issue of minimum wages. Before the demise of large-scale US manufacturing, there was a reasonable ladder for an unskilled or semi-skilled worker that would allow them a way out of a minimum-wage job; very few people remained in minimum wage positions for very long, and they were rightly thought of as "starter jobs" for youth and those needing temporary stopgap employment. But since we've sawed out all the middle rungs on the ladder, the guy flipping burgers at McD's has nowhere to go, and may go most of his career at minimum wage, plus some paltry increases here and there.

The cunning part about the Church of Free Trade is that it builds on that core belief in America, that anyone can be a millionaire (or heck, billionaire) if they just try hard enough. Pay no attention to all the lost jobs, the slack labor market, the gutting of the unions, the rusting factories — you could be rich! You could be one of the winners! Just think of all the cheap shit you're going to be able to buy (provided you still have a job, a small voice whispers, but is quickly silenced) once you stop paying those obnoxious First World salaries!
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:02 AM on April 17 [13 favorites]


On the same page as the Oklahoma bans local minimum wage increases story, "Ousted Yahoo exec gets $58 million golden parachute"

Man, some days I wish I could afford a pitchfork...
posted by mikelieman at 11:02 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


One bright light to come out of that article (aside from being proud that we are still making Great Americans like Patrick) is learning about Thelonius Kryptonite.
posted by Eideteker at 11:06 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


"Most of the value comes from the experience"

The... experience of standing in a line and watching a kid splat ingredients into a tortilla?
posted by retrograde at 11:08 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


The experience of being actually able to eat in your 45 minute lunch break.
posted by corb at 11:15 AM on April 17


A 10-mile bike ride to work or the store is absolutely doable for physically capable adults (not so much for people with physical disabilities), and not strenuous at all with a few gears. Shitty in midwest winters, but still another option that should be available.

Whoa there, Nellie! It just so happens that I have a 13-mile round trip ride to work (not the twenty that you're talking about). If I also had a 13 mile round trip to the store....

1. "Shitty" during Midwestern winters does not describe it. I normally bike year round. It's hard. It requires extra equipment and raises bike maintenance costs a lot. The polar vortex kicked my ass this year and I missed two months of riding. Riding ten miles in extreme cold or a rainstorm is tiring unless you are young and strong and in robust health. Many people are; many people aren't.

2. I'm rising forty. I'm starting to feel it. I'm confident that I can keep doing my current commute for...well, for a long time if I don't develop any significant medical problem. But I know plenty of people who do develop chronic medical conditions as they age.

3. I work a desk job. I'm not riding a 20 mile round trip plus being on my feet for eight hours. I actually used to have a teaching job where I was on my feet for about four hours a day. At that time, I rode my bike every day - probably about ten to twelve miles on an average day with one or two twenty mile rides a week. It was physically tiring, and I wasn't on my feet for a full eight hours, set large parts of my own schedule and made good money, plus I didn't have kids and effectively did not need to cook. In many ways it was an awesome life, but it sure wasn't "I'm going to bike ten miles to flip burgers for eight hours then come home and care for my kids".

4. At best, I do twelve miles an hour; realistically, it's more like 10 - 11. I think that average bike commuters aren't going to be going TOO much faster. So you're talking about a two hour round trip commute outside in all weathers.

What about daycare? Anyone with a kid is going to need to cover a lot of distance hauling that kid. What about the dead of winter with a tiny baby? What about a rainstorm and a small child? What about a small child and the need to pick up groceries on this ten mile ride?

Time and chance happen on bike rides. If I get a flat, it's no problem because I very rarely have to arrive exactly on time. But that's not how retail, for example, works. I can pull over during the worst of a storm and wait for it to pass, too.

Work clothes. I ride in my work clothes, because I wear khakis and a button-front and boots or loafers, and I ride at the aforementioned gentle pace and don't sweat too much. (Plus I'm not a very sweaty person, plus I'm vegan and my sweat is less pungent.) But if I were doing ten miles each way in all weathers, I think I'd need to have bike gear and change at work - but that itself is a problem, because work clothes can get really crumply when you carry them in a bag over a long ride. And you're sweatier, especially in hot weather or in the dead of winter when you're super bundled up.

I actually used to know someone who had an urban commute of about fifteen miles each way each day, back when I lived in Shanghai. It was a huge hardship for him - and this was a tiny wiry old dude who had been biking all his life and was very fit, plus he lived in a climate where the daytime temperature was never below freezing.

I'm not saying that people can't do a twenty mile round trip to work, but I think that it would be very difficult for most people and thus not a really great policy solution.
posted by Frowner at 11:26 AM on April 17 [30 favorites]


The experience of being actually able to eat in your 45 minute lunch break.

I can avoid that stuff, and eat lunch in time, yesterday, I ate at a little local place called The Flying Chicken. 2 piece and a biscuit.

Today I ate at a little local place called "Deli and Brew". Some special with pastrami, corned beef, russian and coleslaw. I went out of my way to thank them for making me that sandwich on my way out of the place after eating.

And I think after this topic, I'm going to go out of my way to "shop local". If only because the exploitation isn't so systemic in that environment. People seem happier, so that's where I'm going to be going.
posted by mikelieman at 11:43 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that people can't do a twenty mile round trip to work, but I think that it would be very difficult for most people and thus not a really great policy solution.

Yes, particularly in regions with real winters or frequent rainfall, it would be a huge pain at any distance and it is not a silver-bullet solution. However, every state in the US would benefit from greatly increased bike infrastructure in their major urban centers.

Ten miles every day would be a bear. Ten miles occasionally when the car breaks down, when bus service isn't available for some reason, to the store once a week on a cargo bike, are all absolutely possible. Particularly if it frees you from the great expense of owning a car, or owning a second car, or filling up the gas tank.

It's also incorrect to think of bike-only trips as the baseline. A better ideal would be to encourage multi-modal transportation. One might, for example, bike two miles to the light rail station or the bus stop. You're dropped off a mile from work, and you bike the rest of the way in. Repeat in reverse for the commute home.

Bicycles are the most efficient and practical mode of transportation ever invented for able-bodied people on paved surfaces. I'd really like to see infrastructure for it to improve drastically and quickly.

This study considers cycling distance to work to be < 8 km. The average bicycle commuting distance in the Netherlands (according to it) is 4.3 km. That's 5 miles and 2.7 miles respectively. Either number is respectable and fair in many states and environments. Having better bicycle infrastructure, and better public transportation infrastructure in general (allowing for multi-modal travel), would be a huge benefit for poor people. Bicycling should be practical more often, for more people.

Kind of a derail, but it's a passion so there you go.
posted by jsturgill at 11:55 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Here's the part about the minimum wage and low skill workers that people are not thinking about. Currently, just to get by, many people who earn minimum wage are working 2 (or more) "part-time" jobs. IF the minimum wage were raised enough that that one worker could make ends meet on only ONE job, you now have an opening for the very large population of low skill UNEMPLOYED workers. This does not mean that we will have full employment, however, it does mean that the labor pool will actually be much BETTER for the employers, because their workers will not be exhausted from working 2 jobs (or more). Insert reference to In Living Color skit about immigrants working 10 jobs, etc, etc.

If you really want to get down to the hard facts, just the presence of multi-job holding low skill workers is a net negative for the economy as a whole, not just for those workers, but for the unemployed workers that are displaced by those jobs already being filled. Those unemployed are unable to spend money in the economy, and are thus a drain on the whole system. If they were gainfully employed, even at the new minimum wage (which, again, HAS to be a livable wage for the region that the work is performed), the companies in both that region AND the entire country benefit in several ways. More taxes are collected, as more people are earning wages, more services and consumables are purchased, pushing up demand, and more people can now afford to pay for things they would never have been able to pay for in the past (due to time constraints, as pointed out by Debaser626's comment about working 2 part-time jobs). There is no downside to this solution. In fact, if anything, it reduces the downward pressure of labor costs because there will be fewer applicants for the low skill, low wage jobs.
posted by daq at 11:57 AM on April 17 [16 favorites]


I don't really understand the arguments that prices will be raised and jobs will be lost if the minimum wage is raised.

1. If Jack's Taco Shack can raise the price of tacos and still be competitive, why isn't he doing that now, before the minimum wage is raised? Then Jack would make more profit.

2. If Jack could lay off workers and still be competitive, why isn't he doing that now, before the minimum wage is raised? Then Jack would make more profit.

3. If the minimum wage is raised, it has the same effect on all taco places. If Jack can't stay competitive, wouldn't the free market dictate that he should go out of business? Why would a conservative person suggest essentially subsidizing Jack's business by keeping his labor costs artificially low?
posted by desjardins at 12:14 PM on April 17 [23 favorites]


>Longtime Listener

Ehh... that's a nice little piece of rhetoric, but entirely misses the point. A minimum wage is a price floor. So if a job is out there that could only exist for a labor cost of $0-10/hour, and the minimum wage is >$10, then that job won't exist.

So raising the minimum wage will necessarily eliminate a subset of jobs. This is a cost, but on its own it might very well be a small cost with a much greater benefit.

But if someone is paid higher than the minimum wage, you can infer it is the market clearing price, because they are not being held up by a price floor or down by a price ceiling.

If you have read this comment as my arguing against a minimum wage, you have missed the point. Because I haven't taken a stance or made a value statement one way or the other. I'm simply pointing out that your response is silly and nonsensical. If a person is paid more than minimum that's because they provide sufficient value to get paid more than minimum. They are creating more value than those at minimum. So the easy answer to your question would be:

"No I'm not destroying jobs, because my wage is at the market clearing price and not held up by a price floor, whereas we know a price floor eliminates the market from clearing."
posted by jjmoney at 12:14 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


They are creating more value than those at minimum.

I don't think I agree with that. In THEORY perhaps, but is there actual empirical evidence to support this hypothesis?
posted by mikelieman at 12:17 PM on April 17


" I think the Free Trade experiment has been run, and the results are shitty.All the little Econ 101 arguments..."

Thankfully macroeconomics 403 and Econometrics 301 were part of my later coursework. While Joe Six-Pack may agree with you, the rest of the global economy doesn't. Isolationist and protectionist policies only do short term local favors.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 12:17 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Hoopo: "Improving the lives of the 3.9 million people in the US making minimum wage or less by spending very little money seems pretty desirable to me."

Sure, I was mostly listing that as a commonly used answer for why increasing the minimum wage hasn't made things dramatically worse ("the sky hasn't fallen", to use in thread parlance).

There are of course, other ways to assist low wage earners. You might instead say it's not just Taco Bell's job to eliminate poverty; after all, pretty much anyone with a kitchen at home is a competitor in the market for cheap tacos. Rather, the burden is all of society's, and thus our government should write checks to everyone to ensure a basic living. We kind of have that in the EIC, but it functions poorly in a recession as unemployment rises.

Of course, there's like 300m people in the US, and if they all received 10k annually, that'd basically be the entire US budget. There's a bunch of political and fiscal realities that likely get in the way of this model, but it's an alternative method that I like to think about whenever I wish I could play Civ more often...
posted by pwnguin at 12:18 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


If Jack can't stay competitive, wouldn't the free market dictate that he should go out of business?

That's really the thing that I have trouble with. Given their Calvinist rhetoric, why would anyone CARE whether someone's business succeeds? If they do, good. If not, well the forest needs a fire to clear out the brush every so often, no?
posted by mikelieman at 12:19 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


corb: In terms of veterans' and servicemember benefits, the Obama administration has shown itself very willing to cut them or increase the costs of using them. (Tricare benefits, lower pay increases for soldiers, retirement benefits, etc). Now, whether they want to cut them through moustache-twirling veteran-hate, or they simply think the benefits are too generous is hard to say, but I don't know what's in their hearts, and can only judge them on their actions.

As noted above, this is false, and even if it were true, I think we should be able to talk about whether it's okay for the trajectories of this chart and this chart to look so different. The spoils from our nation's increases in productivity have been shared with our service members in far greater proportion than they've been shared with minimum wage earners. It's totally fine for service members to make more in absolute terms, but there's no good reason why they should be entitled to rising real wages while minimum wage earners should not.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:21 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


We tried tariffs on Japanese cars in the 80s, didn't work out so well. Free trade is a good thing.

Thankfully macroeconomics 403 and Econometrics 301 were part of my later coursework. While Joe Six-Pack may agree with you, the rest of the global economy doesn't. Isolationist and protectionist policies only do short term local favors.

Free trade didn't make the US the dominant economic force in the world, it didn't make Western Europe wealthy, and the free trade regime that's been slowly expanding since the late 80's is sure as shit not making poorer countries wealthier. Free trade is a scam- wealthy countries didn't discover its "benefits" until we were already wealthy, and now we're pulling the ladder up behind us.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:26 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


The spoils from our nation's increases in productivity have been shared with our service members in far greater proportion than they've been shared with minimum wage earners.

Leaving aside your false dichotomy, as many servicemembers earn less than minimum wage, is "Why do soldiers deserve their pay and benefits" really the road you want to go down? Or are you just trying to wave a perceived red flag in front of a perceived bull?
posted by corb at 12:29 PM on April 17


Adam Smith extolled the virtues of free trade back in 1776. It's hardly a scam and it's not exactly new since the 80's. It's not a panacea either, sure.
posted by GuyZero at 12:29 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


BlerpityBloop: "Thankfully macroeconomics 403 and Econometrics 301 were part of my later coursework"

Then you should be painfully aware how shitty economics is as a discipline insofar as it has thus far failed to produce a set of well defined and tested theories all giving similar solutions. In other words, economists themselves have yet to come to any real agreement on the overall impact of (reasonable) tariffs or anything else, for that matter.

They have come up with some theories that work in some situations, but they remain dreadfully inadequate. Economics today is akin to medicine before germ theory. It mostly exists to provide justification for policies which the powerful have already decided they prefer.
posted by wierdo at 12:29 PM on April 17 [8 favorites]


The minimum wage is kind of a crappy idea that also happens to be a politically viable idea with the intention of solving destitution. Which would be fine, except that at the minimum, it's always chasing a moving goalpost, and at worst, it eliminates opportunities at the low margins. Which is why we never get anywhere with our threadbare welfare state.

A better solution is realistic wage subsidy of some kind. EITC only hints in that direction, but full wage subsidy is such an alien concept, I think it's a terribly hard sell. In addition, I tend to think of those who do like the idea see incompatible visions: liberals like the idea as an addition to welfare policies; conservatives like it as a replacement for welfare policies. Shall the twain ever meet?

Free trade is a scam- wealthy countries didn't discover its "benefits" until we were already wealthy, and now we're pulling the ladder up behind us.

The US sourcing so many goods from places like China and emerging economies indicates that we're anything but pulling the ladder up behind us. In fact, it's allowing those economies to experience more economic prosperity than they ever have.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:33 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


pwnguin: "You might instead say it's not just Taco Bell's job to eliminate poverty; [...] Rather, the burden is all of society's, and thus our government should write checks to everyone to ensure a basic living."

To repeat myself from earlier: as long as most of the profits are funneled to the top this amounts to a tax subsidy for the richest few.

To me it comes down to defining a fair social contract and to make that the basis of a functional society: working one full time job or multiple part time jobs equaling one full time job must at minimum pay a living wage big enough to support a small family. And, yes, in addition society must take care of those who can't find jobs or are unable to work for whatever reasons. But the latter doesn't really work without the former because it allows employers to abuse these safety nets in order to bolster their profits.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:34 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


corb: Leaving aside your false dichotomy, as many servicemembers earn less than minimum wage

In the fantasy world where there's no such thing as a salaried worker, sure, but I'd prefer we focus on the world we're actually living in.

corb: "Why do soldiers deserve their pay and benefits" really the road you want to go down?

If that's what you're getting out of my comment, then please read it again. Service members deserved their pay and benefits in the 1970s, and they they deserve those same things now. My question is, do they, in aggregate, have some special right to a compensation increase well above the rate of inflation that minimum wage earners do not have a right to? If so, please explain what that is, because, while I agree that the productivity of the average service member has vastly increased with increases in technology and training, that same dynamic applies to minimum wage workers, who are doing more with less, working harder, and getting no such increases from their increased productivity.

Both the pay of service members and the federal minimum wage are set by the federal government, yet one group has gotten ever-increasing compensation, while another has not. I think it's totally okay to ask whether they deserve a positive increase year-over-year that beats inflation, while minimum wage earners do not. I want both groups to share in our economic growth, while you think only one group has a right to do so. I just want to know what special claim our service members have to these gains, keeping in mind that this is all a counterfactual, since the Obama administration and his Democratic allies in Congress did not actually try to reduce benefits as you claimed.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:37 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


The biggest problem is that our biggest trading partner, our biggest foreign creditor and our biggest trade imbalance is also fixing their currency to be artificially low against ours.

If free trade was working as was supposed to, rather than to benefit the Chinese government, the yuan would have appreciated. This would have resulted in the prices of Chinese goods not staying so stupidly low, wages in China going up by sheer PPP increases and the US becoming more competitive in manufacturing.

Instead we have sweatshops in abject slavery and a currency manipulated to steal any and all manufacturing from other countries.
posted by Talez at 12:40 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Bicycling should be practical more often, for more people.

It's not suitable as the only transportation policy solution, but bicycling's an important part of a broader transportation policy that makes getting around easier and more affordable in many places, for many people. Doesn't have to be everybody, any more than any other individual transportation option has to be for everybody.

As to whether bicycling's doable if you're working a physically intense job: check around the back of pretty much any fast food place in any of the states I've lived in, and you'll see at least one bike locked up to pipes or whatever's available. It's already a solution for plenty of people, and making it easier and safer is a real need, not a vanity project for people working desk jobs. I've bike commuted to standing-all-shift factory jobs and lived to tell the tale, and I wasn't in my 20s, either. Saving on gas, car maintenance, and insurance can be what makes the difference between eating well and not in a given month (even though your food costs do go up if you're biking, working manual labor, and not working a food service job where you can get some free or discounted food.)

Derail on bicycling aside, the immense cost of transportation keeps a lot of people poorer than they should be. We've got to look into every way we can to reduce those costs and let people do more with their wages than burn them just to get to work.

I love the idea of being able to trade in transit vouchers for a monthly pass once you hit a certain point of use -- I get vouchers rather than the (easier, more cost-effective for many rides) monthly passes because I don't always know how many days I'll be taking the bus and train, and if it's below a certain number, the vouchers are cheaper. Given the unpredictability of low-wage work, a lot of people are making similar choices even if they can front the $80 for a full-price monthly pass. And once you've got the monthly pass, you have a lot more freedom to make extra trips if you've got the time, which is great for getting more errands run while you're out and about, or doing something (whoa!) fun on any days off.

Unpredictable schedules for workers have so many horrible effects, and one of those is access to transportation. You can't carpool with your fellow workers in the same area if none of you have similar start and end times to your shifts, or any way to predict that you'll be on the same schedule the next week. We've got employers making it more difficult for their workers to save money on what, for most people, is a huge chunk of their income. That is not a good thing for anyone but those employers.
posted by asperity at 12:43 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Adam Smith extolled the virtues of free trade back in 1776. It's hardly a scam and it's not exactly new since the 80's. It's not a panacea either, sure.

No, he didn't. Adam Smith was not a free market advocate like Republicans and Libertarians would have you believe- he advocated for trade and business regulations in order to avoid precisely the kind of market failures and situations that we've been dealing with ever since governments started tearing down the structures that protect the rest of us from the predatory rich.


The US sourcing so many goods from places like China and emerging economies indicates that we're anything but pulling the ladder up behind us. In fact, it's allowing those economies to experience more economic prosperity than they ever have.

Prosperity which is overwhelmingly being experienced by the wealthy, connected business owner class and creating a relatively small middle class to act as managers and administrators for the wealthy, and producing sweatshops and poverty in the rest of the economy. If the best that free trade can do is create a small number of oligarchs and the kind of poverty for the masses seen in those "emerging economies" you cite, while enriching wealthy first-world business owners even further with the sweat and blood of the working class of less developed nations, I'd call that a pretty shitty deal for everybody who isn't a part of the business owner class.


If that's what you're getting out of my comment, then please read it again. Service members deserved their pay and benefits in the 1970s, and they they deserve those same things now.

This whole military pay thing is people who should know better falling for an irrelevant and false bad-faith ad hominem attack, and all you're doing is taking the bait and distracting from the real issue.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:46 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the entire economy of India disagrees with you, Pope Guilty.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 12:53 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I just want to know what special claim our service members have to these gains

Attempting to keep it as neutral as I can, the argument is that the servicemembers actually contribute to the Nation - rather directly - by signing their lives and their freedoms over to it, entering into voluntary serfdom for a period of time, to keep the nation safe, and thus have earned these benefits for services rendered, rather than being granted them as an anti-poverty tool.

That said, I'll note that I'd be interested in seeing the breakdown on your military benefits chart. When I was in the service, we would receive a breakdown of how much our salary was actually supposed to be worth, and a lot of it included things like healthcare or housing - which is misleading, because for the military, providing preventative care is part of the job as medical problems prevent you from deploying or bring you home from the warzone early, and the housing is for their convenience more than yours. It was generally ridiculed.
posted by corb at 12:57 PM on April 17


the argument is that the servicemembers actually contribute to the Nation - rather directly

Good thing we have a nation founded on Equal Protection of the Law, and there is no de-jure "Entitled" class.
posted by mikelieman at 1:01 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the entire economy of India disagrees with you, Pope Guilty.

Looking at a situation where partial liberalization produced economic gains and concluding that therefore total liberalization is the best course of action is like noticing that the car goes slower when you aren't pushing the brake pedal or in a low gear and concluding that therefore removing the brakes and the transmission is the best way to build a car.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:02 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


corb: Attempting to keep it as neutral as I can, the argument is that the servicemembers actually contribute to the Nation - rather directly - by signing their lives and their freedoms over to it, entering into voluntary serfdom for a period of time, to keep the nation safe, and thus have earned these benefits for services rendered, rather than being granted them as an anti-poverty tool.

Yes, but they did all of these things in the 1970s too, and their real wages have increased. I'm not asking for your argument about their specific level of compensation, but for the increase in that compensation over time that's not been present for a lot of workers in the economy at large.

corb: That said, I'll note that I'd be interested in seeing the breakdown on your military benefits chart.

The title of the chart notes that it's "cash and deferred cash compensation."
posted by tonycpsu at 1:02 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I am not taking a position on whether servicemembers should have a higher COLA than minimum wage workers, but do the numbers take into account any discounts and benefits received by servicemembers and veterans that other wage earners are not eligible for? For example, housing loans administered by the Veterans Administration. Even as the spouse of a veteran I'm eligible for things that the lowly cashiers at Jack's Taco Shack are not. Why?
posted by desjardins at 1:03 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


providing preventative care is part of the job as medical problems prevent you from deploying or bring you home from the warzone early

The stakes are certainly higher in the military, but it's not like civilian employers don't benefit from having workers who are well enough to show up and do their jobs. They just offload a lot more of the cost of that requirement to the workers themselves.

I think it's a good thing when servicemembers are compensated well for their work. I think it's a good thing for everyone to be compensated well for their work.
posted by asperity at 1:05 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Come on, folks, the only reason we're discussing military compensation is because corb brought it up as an ad hominem attack to distract from the conversation we were having. It's off-topic and it's only in this thread because a particular poster wanted to distract from the topic. It's a classic example of advocates for inequality and poverty trying to turn the working class against itself to prevent the working class from discussing and understanding the real causes of inequality and poverty. It's sleight of hand intended to keep your eye on your fellow working people so that you won't notice the bosses' hands in your pocket.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:07 PM on April 17 [21 favorites]


Pedantic note: these salary increases aren't well-described as COLAs, as they're not indexed to any particular inflation or cost of living metric. They're set by Congress, based on the funding available, the recruitment/staffing needed to carry out the mission, etc. I'm sure there's a COLA component, but the shape of the increase from the Clinton years on looks like it exceeds the rise in cost of living over that time.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:08 PM on April 17


Pope Guilty: It's a classic example of advocates for inequality and poverty trying to turn the working class against itself to prevent the working class from discussing and understanding the real causes of inequality and poverty.

That may be the case, but I think there's value in assuming arguendo that there actually is a zero-sum game being played between veterans and minimum wage workers. I've said several times that that is a false statement, but I also think that talking about the counterfactual can be productive, because ultimately, we have two populations with their wage floors set by the government, one of whom has gotten consistent increases in recent years (contra corb's debunked statement about Tricare cuts) and one who's been left to fend for themselves in the free market.

Also when we're talking about a federal law that sets a wage floor, the distinction between the public and private sector is pretty much irrelevant. It's the same government that pays the service member who also ties the hands of private employers in a way that they cannot pay lower than the minimum wage. That government can increase living standards for service members, for minimum wage earners, for both, or for neither. The status quo is that service members have gotten real increases over and above inflation, and others have not. We can talk about whether this is an acceptable state of affairs without accepting the falsehood that we must rob one to give to the other.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:17 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


When Patrick was twelve years old, he came home from school and found the car packed up. His mother was standing outside their home in Kansas City, telling them they had to go. She was leaving his stepfather and they were moving to St. Louis. Patrick left “a nice neighborhood where kids could play outside” and woke up the next day “in the hood”. That day was September 11, 2001. The world was crashing in around him.

Crap, talk about bad timing. Good luck to him. I hope he ends up a labor hero with a statue in St. Louis.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:33 PM on April 17


desjardins: "I don't really understand the arguments that prices will be raised and jobs will be lost if the minimum wage is raised.

...

3. If the minimum wage is raised, it has the same effect on all taco places. If Jack can't stay competitive, wouldn't the free market dictate that he should go out of business? Why would a conservative person suggest essentially subsidizing Jack's business by keeping his labor costs artificially low?
"

Actually, it doesn't have the same effect on all taco places, because everyone with a small working kitchen at home is a competitor in the taco trade, and domestic work is not subject to minimum wage laws. If you raise the price of tacos too high, it starts looking more profitable to just cook up a batch at home. /r/frugal has plenty of examples.

And maybe I'm misunderstanding, but I'm not clear on how minimum wages keep labor costs artificially low. There's some observational evidence that maybe published minimum wages function as an anchor point that serves to lower prices from where they otherwise would be, but under that theory, one would expect many wages to rise if the minimum wage was abolished. Still, I think the general consensus among economists, labor reps, and voters is that minimum wages serve to artificially raise wages, and removing that artificial support would lower them.
posted by pwnguin at 1:50 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


what worries me about hiking the minimum wage and the fast food industry is that i've been hearing about replacing workers with robots in that industry - and the higher the wages, the more economical that kind of thing will be

it's scary as hell - just what are people going to do in that situation?

i'm not against raising the minimum wage at all, but it's a sobering thought that i don't have an answer for
posted by pyramid termite at 1:54 PM on April 17


desjardins: Even as the spouse of a veteran I'm eligible for things that the lowly cashiers at Jack's Taco Shack are not. Why?

I tried to make a similar point in this comment several months back. It's a long comment, so I'll quote the parts that are most relevant to this conversation:
There are historical factors for why the military compensation mix skews toward the non-cash side, but from a normative standpoint, should it be so? Well, we know that putting a large number of people in front of enemy fire is going to make providing healthcare for them more expensive, and this problem only gets worse as we've gotten better at turning fallen warriors into wounded warriors. I think everyone realizes that letting service members sink or swim in the public health insurance market is not in the best interests of anyone involved, so it makes sense to have the taxpayers on the hook to care for active duty service members, veterans, etc. for all medical care resulting from their service to the country. If you're out there serving us, you should never want for medical care pertaining to that service.

This should, in my opinion be non-negotiable, and permanent -- never something that can be taken or traded away in exchange for other kinds of compensation, though I'm sure some of the libertarian persuasion would disagree, on the basis that someone who can get what they think is a better deal should be free to do so, and not be restricted by the government's monopoly ownership of the armed forces. Nonetheless, I suspect there's pretty wide (perhaps unanimous?) agreement around the table here that this level of benefits -- which I will refer to as "Level 1" benefits here -- is a good thing, and that veterans earned these benefits by doing dangerous and difficult jobs. So let's take that as a given.

Beyond care for injuries directly related to the performance of the job, we taxpayers also provide a generous lifetime subsidy for the veteran's healthcare, above and beyond that required to care for medical conditions resulting from their dangerous line of work. There are many obvious reasons why this extra level of subsidy (which I'll call "Level 2" benefits) makes sense from a macro perspective, starting with the fact that the judgement of what falls under "work-related" isn't always rendered properly, sometimes due to stinginess on the part of the guarantor, sometimes due to the inherently fuzzy nature of finding the root causes of medical conditions, and sometimes because of "fog of war" circumstances where someone may not be able to prove that they were exposed to harm (e.g. agent orange, Gulf War Syndrome, etc.) Probably a combination of all of these, really, and probably some other factors I'm not considering.

It's this second category where I think the benefits go from "non-negotiable basic responsibility of the taxpayers" to the kind of thing where we have to, through public policy, arrive at an agreement on the correct size and scope of that subsidy.
...
Instead, we're back to that employer/employee cost/benefit analysis, where the generous benefits (compared to those available at other jobs they might qualify for) were part of the employee's decision to join. Yes, the service member "earned" them in the sense that they accepted them in lieu of cash, but so to do many other public and private sector workers, and those benefits are rarely considered sacrosanct in the way that some are trying to characterize this same type of subsidy to service members.
It's sometimes hard to make these kind of nuanced points about how all people, including members of our military, get some specific benefits that others don't, without being accused of insensitivity toward people who put their life on the line to defend the country, but it's a discussion worth having, and given that I work closely with active military members in my day job where I collect a paycheck funded largely out of DoD dollars, I'll take the chance that someone will try to paint me as being anti-military.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:00 PM on April 17


I've been avoiding this thread all day because I suspected the usual suspects would flock to it and plaster it with concern-troll about all the damage that would be done to the economy if we weren't able to relentlessly exploit desperate workers to maximize shareholder profits.

The simple truth that just about any economist will admit to when pressed is that the fundamental tenets of free-market economics are wonderful at generating wealth but absolutely shit at distributing wealth which is why just about anyone who isn't being completely intellectually dishonest knows that market failures of all sorts happen and that it's critical for the governmental systems to step in when those market failures occur.

Lack of equitable distribution of wealth is a primary flaw of capitalism and a key selling point behind redistributive economic policies (progressive taxation, social security, minimum wage, etc). Sometimes those policies are going to result in a less than pareto-optimal solution from a classical economic perspective but they can result in desirable policy outcomes for the majority of the population.

Yes it's entirely possible that some % of workers will see their hours reduced to reflect increased labor costs associated with increasing the minimum wage and there is some possibility that you will have negative impacts in some locales while still having a net positive impact but you know what that's okay because government policy shouldn't be about never negatively impacting a single business owner but instead benefiting the greatest number of people for the least societal cost.

Once we get past the idea that "job creators" and "shareholders" are automatically guaranteed profits at the net societal cost of exploiting workers we will probably have a more egalitarian and advanced society.
posted by vuron at 2:40 PM on April 17 [14 favorites]


Most reasonably intelligent people have at least an inkling: the "market" is a scam, and definitely not their friend.

A truly free market leads inexorably and definitively to ALL the wealth rising to the top.

A badly-regulated market (posing, of course, as a "free" market), spreads the wealth a bit more, but still flat-out exploits the powerless.

If it's not OK to have societal aims - because the market hates uncertainty or the invisible hand knows all or whatever other lie you choose to believe - then why do we even have a country? Seriously, what's the point?

If the decided-upon system relies on paying significant numbers of people less-than-liveable wages while others prosper beyond belief, I have but two words: Fuck that.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:23 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


It's as simple as this: If your business cannot afford to hire people at a living wage, you don't really have a business at all, you have a wealth-transfer scam where the public gives you money to award bonuses and golden parachutes to your executives and the rest of us just get fucked. Fuck you and fuck yours.

I am OK with their being no fast food if that's what that means, or that plastic geegaws might cost more than they do, if that means fellow workers get an opportunity to live like human beings.

This idea that there is a class of people so amazing that the rest of us have to make them rich at our expense is...I dunno. You'd have to have the empathy of a serial killer and the economic and social intelligence of a first-grader to believe.
posted by maxwelton at 3:24 PM on April 17 [24 favorites]


Why not do both?
$15 Minimum Wage and Sweet Benefits for veterans.

It's not like we can't afford it.
I say "we" but I really mean "them".

(Hint : there's not actually that many of them and even if they got private armies we could totally take all their stuff)
posted by fullerine at 3:29 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


I sincerely wish the left could have a conversation about macroeconomics that didn't rely on vilifying the wealthy and jokes about taking their stuff. The US (and global) economy is tremendously more complex than a handful of overpaid CEO's trying to fuck over the poor. A dollar raise in labor cost in the US has a considerable butterfly effect that eventually reaches a shopkeeper in Djibouti.

Free trade isn't a panacea, but neither is mandated wealth distribution, and to blame some nebulous "executives" and bonuses for global income disparity is absolutely asinine.

And it's a little ridiculous that the vast majority of people doing so are likely typing their comments on Chinese made MacBooks, wearing Vietnamese made clothing, sitting in offices made with Indian steal, drinking coffee beans sourced from Columbia and watching game of thrones (filmed in Croatia) on a tv made in japan. Comfortably.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 4:09 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Should the law and/or the public care about the survival of a business that doesn't create value to society, but benefits its owners?

Should the law and/or the public care about the survival of a business that actively harms society, but benefits its owners?

Is a job better than no job at all if it demeans the person who works it and traps them in a negative cycle that is designed to be inescapable?

Should people be allowed to survive and thrive if they are unskilled but law-abiding and willing to work? What does thrive mean in this context?

Are unwritten but very real constraints to freedom worth fighting to alleviate, or is it OK as long as it's not the government restricting people?

Is freedom to starve more important than freedom from hunger?

Why is slavery illegal, and does that have anything to say about migrant labor and minimum wage workers?

How much should the lowest paid workers receive, and why?

Is it coersion, or unethical, or relevant, that public schools are failing entire communities who have historically been underserved and denied public funds in an array of areas (utilities, roads, bus routes)?

Is it relevant that employers routinely require uncompensated labor and wrongfully classify workers in order to avoid paying overtime, and there is no recourse for most people, most of the time? Or is that simply market forces at work?

Is it a problem if median buying power increases, but the average declines? Is it a problem if median and average buying power increase, but the super wealthy are slightly less super wealthy?

What does competition look like? What are the rules of the competition today? What were they in the past? What could they look like in the future? How much influence does business have on the rules, and how much does the worker? Is that balance of power a good thing?

Is it a problem that wages are not currently set by value added, but by a mixture of competition (how hard are you to replace) and collusion (executives setting their own salaries higher than necessary, businesses fighting unions in order to present a united front to a disordered adversary, employers agreeing to not poach each others' employees and cap salaries)?

Does velocity of money matter? If rich people have diverse allocations of stocks that are 30% in foreign companies, and poor people spend close to 100% of their cash in their community on goods and services, which group benefits America more if they are given another million dollars to spend? Which benefits the state the most, and which the county? Which the downtown area?
posted by jsturgill at 4:13 PM on April 17 [11 favorites]


And it's a little ridiculous that the vast majority of people doing so are likely typing their comments on Chinese made MacBooks, wearing Vietnamese made clothing, sitting in offices made with Indian steal, drinking coffee beans sourced from Columbia and watching game of thrones (filmed in Croatia) on a tv made in japan. Comfortably.

And we only do that because the "job creators" sent most of those jobs to those places. MAJOR tautology.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:14 PM on April 17 [11 favorites]


what worries me about hiking the minimum wage and the fast food industry is that i've been hearing about replacing workers with robots in that industry

If you look at the frozen food aisle in a supermarket you'll see lots of products that are wholly or partially made by machines. What you don't see is the huge parallel business supplying similar products to restaurants - including what you would think of as being up-scale restaurants.

In a purely rational world these food items would be defrosted, warmed, and sold from vending machines. And yet, we prefer to buy food from people rather than in automats. We even employ people to press the buttons on soda machines rather than do it ourselves, despite the fact that we're happy to do it ourselves at convenience stores. In fact, fast food places always seem to have the employees on display, far more so than up-scale restaurants, where you can interact with waiters. It seems to me that fast food outlets and coffee shops and so forth only exist because we are social beings and we value the perceived chain of social interaction that they provide.

If these workers were paid a living wage then yes, it should shift the economic balance further in favor of frozen food and vending machines. But I don't think it would really make a difference: we're already paying for the pleasure of being part of a human society. In fact, making workers' lives better should increase the strength and warmth and social value we receive from our interactions, and make everybody's lives better.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:17 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


What am I worth?

Red herring — the question isn't what "you" are worth. It's what your labor is worth.

GOP Rep. To Fast Food Worker: Raising The Minimum Wage 'Not Right'

That's right, it hurts the poor. Raising the minimum wage is basically cutting off the lowest rungs on society's economic ladder, and saying: hey, won't it be great when you leap up to the higher rungs?! Well, yeah, for some people, that will be better. But others aren't yet capable of jumping up that high, and would be better off taking smaller steps. I'd much rather have a zero minimum wage (of course, the true minimum wage is always zero), granted that some worthy people will be making less. They could be doing no job instead, which is much, much worse than not making quite enough.
posted by John Cohen at 4:28 PM on April 17


They could be doing no job instead, which is much, much worse than not making quite enough.

Jesus.
posted by maxwelton at 4:46 PM on April 17 [8 favorites]


So, we help the poor by making it easier to be even poorer? Huh.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:46 PM on April 17


Hint: Ten people making a dollar each is not the solution to one person making ten and nine making nothing. Start at a reasonable level, though, and your logic is sound.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:54 PM on April 17


Red herring — the question isn't what "you" are worth. It's what your labor is worth.

That's also incorrect. A better single-question distillation is, "How much does it cost to replace you?" That is the point that matters, and businesses are very interested in making the answer as close to "nothing" as possible. The more disposable people become, the more negotiating power the business has.

Raising the minimum wage changes the answer to that question. So does abolishing the minimum wage, and so do unions, health codes, all sorts of things.

The question of how much money the employee brings in or generates--the wealth generated by the labor, the "worth" of the labor itself--is generally immaterial and often a nonsensical question.
posted by jsturgill at 4:55 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Relevant: Politifact on whether Oregon's high minimum wage hurt restaurant jobs.

Takeaway? It's not a simple question to ask. But the answer is no, it didn't. Not so's you'd notice. Many other forces worked to shape the job landscape. The states with the most and least fast food workers per capita both have the same minimum wage.

Many natural systems have actual limits, beyond which certain things do not happen. For example, there are band gaps within which electrons will simply refuse to exist. Perhaps human beings could, potentially, become as smart as electrons and recognize certain pay ranges within which we, too, refuse to exist.
posted by jsturgill at 5:16 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


Red herring — the question isn't what "you" are worth. It's what your labor is worth.

Yep. The real question here is who decides the value.

Right now, the folks cutting the cake are taking the biggest piece for themselves. That will continue until they regain the fundamental understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats. A truism, but appropriate here.

Or, things will change when the townsfolk arrive at the gates with pitchforks and torches in the night.

Either way, things will change. They always have.

Oh, and for those who think that I am inciting class warfare with this comment, I have news: Class warfare has been going on for the last 30 years and the rich are winning.
posted by mygoditsbob at 5:20 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


If the Government of Ontario were considered an employer for the purpose of providing assistance to the disabled...

$1086 / 160 hours (f/t work) = $6.79

The provincial minimum wage is $10.25.

And welfare recipients get half that.

I understand--though mostly don't agree with--paying welfare recipients the bare minimum to live (except what they're paying isn't); it provides an incentive.

For those with disabilities, however... what incentive are you trying to give? Stop being in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy? Stop having severe mental conditions that impair your ability to work? WTF.

I dunno, our provincial minimum wage is going up by $0.50 or something in June. That's a good thing, because the people making minimum wage aren't saving shit, they're buying and renting and so on.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that a guaranteed minimum income is the only ethical way to run a progressive society. Peg the number to cost of living on the state/provincial level (it's cheaper to live in Regina than in Toronto, for example), but fucking guarantee that every single person in the country over the age of 16 will have a guaranteed income, for life, no matter what. In one stroke you eliminate all public assistance programs (minus extra costs for disability recipients--wheelchairs, medications, diet enhancements, etc), and you ensure that more money is going to slosh around the economy because people will have money to spend instead of working 2-3 minimum wage jobs just to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

Obviously the payments stop once you reach a monthly salary of x times the Mincome... but you know if you lose your job, you're not losing your home, because the Mincome will kick right back in. Kills the boondoggles that are EI (Employment Insurance) and CPP as well. In Canada, anyway.

In the States, how about Congress doesn't force the military to buy 400+ tanks they didn't need and didn't want and would have bought 139 million school lunches for hungry kids?

I'd vote #1 quidnunc kid but seriously, the Western world needs a truly progressive-socialist dictator who will just make shit happen that needs to happen so the rest of the world will learn that it is possible to treat people with compassion and dignity and improve the country by doing so.

I'm--maybe derailing--also of the opinion that university/college tuition should be free to anybody who gets in. The price? 1% of your pre-tax income, for the rest of your life.

Sorry in the past year poverty has become a very real and visceral thing for me to deal with and Opinions, I Haz Them.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:03 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Or, y'know, just let Scnadinavia as a whole take over this whole World Government thing and we should be fine within 20 years.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:05 PM on April 17


"Indian steal"

hilarious typo
posted by Eideteker at 7:41 PM on April 17


Someone earning $7.50 per hour for 35 hours per week would require 74 years to earn a million dollars. Paying CEO's tens of millions per year amounts to many lifetimes of theft from the majority.

A hundred years ago children had to work and women mostly had to work unpaid. Suggesting limits on CEO wages will never happen is taking an extremely short term view of human culture. That a european nation actually got a vote on the issue certainly shows such solutions are perfectly feasible.
posted by bigZLiLk at 1:54 AM on April 18 [9 favorites]


Anyone putting forward the argument that raising the minimum wage will necessarily "damage" the economy in some way must surely, therefore, believe that reducing the minimum wage will improve the economy, no?

So what minimum wage do those people want to see? $4 an hour? $2? 50c? $0?

What's the supposed optimum, exactly? Come on, you fucking cowards, put a value on it - what do you think the minimum wage should be reduced to in order to improve the economy?

And what evidence do you have, at all, that such economic improvement would only be found by reducing the minimum wage, and not by reducing executive salaries?
posted by Jimbob at 2:51 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I sincerely wish the left could have a conversation about macroeconomics that didn't rely on vilifying the wealthy and jokes about taking their stuff.
You know what I sincerely wish?

I sincerely wish the counter argument to redistribution of wealth wasn't predicated on the myth that the laws of economics behave like the laws of physics.

We. Chose. This. Way.
And we can choose to do it another way.
In fact we used to do it another way.

A wealth tax or salary cap is not the equivalent of outlawing gravity.
posted by fullerine at 3:34 AM on April 18 [10 favorites]


BlerpityBloop: I sincerely wish the left could have a conversation about macroeconomics that didn't rely on vilifying the wealthy and jokes about taking their stuff. The US (and global) economy is tremendously more complex than a handful of overpaid CEO's trying to fuck over the poor. A dollar raise in labor cost in the US has a considerable butterfly effect that eventually reaches a shopkeeper in Djibouti.

Half of the McDonalds CEOs wage would pay for 2000 staff to have a $10per hour wage increase and he would still be earning more each year than they will earn in their lifetime. Your arguments about the complexities of a $1 per hour raise are offensive.
posted by bigZLiLk at 4:13 AM on April 18 [5 favorites]


I sincerely wish the left could have a conversation about macroeconomics that didn't rely on vilifying the wealthy and jokes about taking their stuff. The US (and global) economy is tremendously more complex than a handful of overpaid CEO's trying to fuck over the poor. A dollar raise in labor cost in the US has a considerable butterfly effect that eventually reaches a shopkeeper in Djibouti.

Economic policy in America so completely ignores issues of income disparity, that I'm shocked we see so few jokes about taking the rich's stuff as we do; powerless people don't have much else to do.

You're right that the economy is complicated, but that's really all you've said. Let's take that as a given, the question is still "What shall we do then?" In a complicated economic world, where some people have massively more than they need to be outrageously comfortable and some people have massively less than they need to live, what shall we do? Should we wring our hands about how complicated it all is and then do nothing or should we try to do something to help people at the bottom. Is the global economy is really so complicated that a slight change in the amount of money held by the fabulously wealthy is untenable? I don't think it is, and your comments read a lot like "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:06 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


corb: This also means that fewer people can be hired.

Not only is this wrong, we have eight decades of empirical date to prove this is wrong.

As for your concenrs about inflation, have you actually looked at the economy at anytime in the last 7 years?
posted by spaltavian at 5:37 AM on April 18


Red herring — the question isn't what "you" are worth. It's what your labor is worth.

No the question, as a matter of federal policy, is what is most beneficial to the economy as a whole. No one cares about the worth of labor; employees want the most money they can get, employeers want to pay the least amount of money they can.

A government, when contemplating weighing in on that relationship needs to determine: 1) whose interests they wish to further, and what if any balancing they wish to do there and 2) what, if any constraints, they are to its actions from state philosophy.

Since America is a capitalist state, there is only so much intervention it can countenance, but minimum wage is well within those parameters. And it's power has always come from a robust middle tier that has high level of consumptions, and a working class teir that supports state idelogy because they have a reasonable belief in advancement. This means that, economy policy in the United Sates (and all democracies) best serves state interests when it broadly protects the bottom two-thirds from rapacity while keeping the top third rich and happy, so that they continue to leverage their cash in ways the enhance the states' power and power through investment, and cheap access to capital.

So, within reason, we only need to look at the efficacy of mimumum wage laws because they supoprt the goals above. Poverty is far more socially and economically damaging than being very slightly less rich. In other words, the further a we travel down the economic ladder, the more bang we get for our buck.
posted by spaltavian at 6:11 AM on April 18


I'm not going to drag this out too much further, but it just want to, again, assert I am in favor of raising a minimum wage each year as a cola increase. However:

- a salary cap is such a ridiculous non-starter that even suggesting one shows you aren't taking this issue seriously. Should Brad Pitt only get $50k each movie? Lebron James only get $20 per hour? Lady Gaga give her music away free once she sells 10,000 albums? Who decides what is too much?

- raising taxes on the wealthy does absolutely nothing to the minimum wage, unless you are suggesting the government then writes checks to poor people, like a weekly allowance, that's the only way to "redistribute" it

- mcdonalds is not the only minimum wage employer in the us, while their CEO can "afford" it, he is an outlier. the 80,000 other small businesses (factories, coffee shops, logistics, call centers, frozen banana stands) that rely on low skilled minimum wage workers don't have cigar chomping CEOs rolling around in pools of gold.

And the wonderful comment that "paying CEOs tens of millions per year amounts to many lifetimes of theft from the majority". Would you argue that Hugh Jackman is stealing from the usher at your local AMC theatre, or is it just mcdonalds you have a problem with? What about the factory worker in Kansas who earns 100 times what a factory worker in Bangalore makes in a year, is he also stealing?

When you paid your taxes, did you give the exact amount you owed, or did you write a larger check so the government can redistribute it to those people who need it?
posted by BlerpityBloop at 6:52 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


You're being disingenuous, BlerpityBloop, which is antithetical to a real conversation. Try again.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:54 AM on April 18


No. I'm being realistic. Metafilter leans left, no big, but the suggestions of nebulous salary caps and CEOs stealing lifetimes from workers is just so ridiculous.

I'm guessing if anyone here suddenly won the lottery their first thought wouldn't be "this is more than I need, I'm going to give 90% of it to minimum wage earners".
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:08 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Winning the lottery is incredibly differen than making 2000X what your front-line workers make. Still disingenuous.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:13 AM on April 18


- raising taxes on the wealthy does absolutely nothing to the minimum wage, unless you are suggesting the government then writes checks to poor people, like a weekly allowance, that's the only way to "redistribute" it

That's precisely what a bunch of people are suggesting, only they don't call it a "weekly allowance" because they're trying to discredit a perfectly sound idea with meaningless rhetoric. Further, taxing the rich and spending that money on public services used by everyone is a form of redistribution.

- mcdonalds is not the only minimum wage employer in the us, while their CEO can "afford" it, he is an outlier. the 80,000 other small businesses (factories, coffee shops, logistics, call centers, frozen banana stands) that rely on low skilled minimum wage workers don't have cigar chomping CEOs rolling around in pools of gold.

The majority of low wage workers work for corporations with over a hundred employees. Small business is, as it almost always is, a red herring designed to cover the sins of the Walmarts of the world. I also don't know why you keep saying "I support raising the minimum wage" and then turn around and parrot right wing talking points about why we shouldn't raise it. You're talking out of both sides of your mouth.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:16 AM on April 18 [7 favorites]


Which is why I said disingenuous, Bulgaroktonos.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:25 AM on April 18


Winning the lottery is incredibly differen than making 2000X what your front-line workers make.

I don't know...given that CEO pay is not really related to performance, it's closer to winning the lottery than it is to working.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:30 AM on April 18


And the wonderful comment that "paying CEOs tens of millions per year amounts to many lifetimes of theft from the majority". Would you argue that Hugh Jackman is stealing from the usher at your local AMC theatre, or is it just mcdonalds you have a problem with?

That's a bad comparison. Hugh Jackman indisputably adds value to a movie through the simple mechanism of increasing the number of people who see it, and is in all likelihood still earning less than his marginal product.

But while there's no way for us here to know for sure, I for one think it's unlikely that the marginal product of the CEO of McDonald's really is as high as $14M/year. Instead, I think it's likely that he's extracting value created by other people (who are not necessarily the front-line burger flippers).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:38 AM on April 18


I for one think it's unlikely that the marginal product of the CEO of McDonald's really is as high as $14M/year.

That's fine as your opinion, but the process by which a CEO is chosen isn't all that different from a movie star. They get hired, there are salary negotiations, they have to be paid sufficiently to get out of their existing responsibilities, etc. The owners of the company -- typically the board of directors -- are the ones doing the paying, and presumably think that the CEO will add value commensurate with their salary; similarly, the producers of the movie think that expending a large amount of their investors budget on a big-name star will pay dividends as well.

I don't see any reason why actors should be exempt from an N-times rule (e.g. nobody makes more than 14 times the lowest person), to ensure that the craft services people and PAs and other people down at the bottom don't get screwed and get their fare share of the action, if the McDonalds CEO is subject to it. Anything else is just cherry-picking jobs you don't like.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:53 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


A CEO running a billion dollar global corporation with tens of thousands of employees does quite a bit more than a burger flipper, or Hugh Jackman. But that's a silly discussion, I regret making the comparison.

And, again, I'm for a reasonable yearly wage hike, not an overnight $15 rate and arbitrary salary caps.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:53 AM on April 18


Yeah but overnight $15 would make up for the gap between COL and wages that has been going on since the 70's.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:10 AM on April 18


BlerpityBloop, I'm surprised that you don't see the simplest path to a wealth cap. Simply limit the maximum dollar amount any one person can hold. Like World of WarCraft. Anything above a certain amount, the federal government takes.
posted by wuwei at 8:11 AM on April 18


BlerpityBloop: And, again, I'm for a reasonable yearly wage hike, not an overnight $15 rate and arbitrary salary caps.

An overnight $15 rate is what would bring the minimum wage in line with what it was in the 1970s. If you're really for people getting COLA increases, why aren't you for them getting them retroactively? Was the minimum wage way too high in the 1970s, or is it way too low now?

Oops, should have previewed.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:13 AM on April 18


A CEO running a billion dollar global corporation with tens of thousands of employees does quite a bit more than a burger flipper,

Please prove that the value added by that CEO is more than the guy actually executing and delivering on a meal that doesn't result in food poisoning. Show all work.
posted by mikelieman at 8:18 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Ah but then The Poors would be getting money they don't deserve, tonycpsu.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:18 AM on April 18


Anything above a certain amount, the federal government takes.

90% top tier, yeah they'll game the benefits, but then when they die, there's 100% estate tax over $1 million per child.

Hey, don't the Ayn Randians believe that you earn your own fortune? So they should be A-OK with making sure that the next generation isn't just a bunch of entitled freeloaders, right?
posted by mikelieman at 8:21 AM on April 18


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, mikelieman.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:23 AM on April 18


gorbweaver: And please don't forget wage theft is real and pervasive.
Treat wage theft as a criminal offense

Harsher penalties, including prison time, should be on the table more often when willful wrongdoing is proved. Thieves caught stealing thousands of dollars from someone’s home can go to jail; the same should be true for thieves caught stealing thousands of dollars from someone’s paycheck.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:25 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


And, again, I'm for a reasonable yearly wage hike, not an overnight $15 rate and arbitrary salary caps.

You can be against salary caps, and they may be unfeasible in the current political climate, but that's a far cry from the idea being ridiculous on the face of it. Salary caps are a thing for many major athletes. And if you worked in IT, your salary was capped illegally by colusion between major tech firms. If you work for many employers, your salary is capped unofficially but in a quite real manner at your current wage, plus or minus 50 cents. For example, here is a touching obituary (posted to the blue some time ago) about a dishwasher who was "like family" to the business owners, but never got a raise over the course of 10 years. In our own past, the 90% income tax served a role so similar as to be indistinguishable from a salary cap on the very rich.

You question as to who decides how much is too much is also a bit much: the legislative branch, which presumably would pass a law about it. They set the minimum wage, didn't they? Who else do you think would set a maximum one?

Here in the West, limiting the wealth of the nobility was key to the stability of kingdoms. Extravagant displays at court with plenty of expensive travel was used to intentionally drain resources from powerful nobility who might challenge the ruler. It wasn't written down anywhere as "YE OLDE SALLARY CAPPE" but it was for real, and a political necessity. It's not insane for people to look at the wealth captured by the Bill Gates Foundation rather than being redistributed by the government and think that there is something wrong there, something that might be poisonous.

That line of thought may not ultimately be correct, but it's not absurd on the face of it like you're implying.

I also wonder what value you think a CEO adds and how that impacts CEO pay. In America, the average CEO at a top company recieves several hundred times the wages of the average worker. In Japan, about 16 times. (About $300+ million compared to $500+ thousand.) Are American CEOs simply that much better than Japanese CEOs? Do they add that much more value to their companies? Or are cultural and historical issues allowing American CEOs to plunder their companies for larger wages they don't deserve by any measure?

It's one thing to say: I don't agree with this approach to the problem, and here's why. It's another thing to say, you're all children for even bringing this up, geeze, grow up and be real...
posted by jsturgill at 8:27 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]


ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY tonycpsu

I had to have a conversation with my (former?) boss about my hours. I'd been noting them down on a sheet in the kitchen, which magically disappeared on payday. The conversation went roughly thus:

"My hours have vanished, did you take them to the office?"
"Nope, never touched them."
"Nobody else was in the building. Are you sure you didn't touch them?"
"Nope, didn't."
"I'm leaving. I'll be back in an hour and I expect to be paid. If I am not, my first two calls are to the Labour Board and the police. My third call will be to the Toronto Star."

Funny enough, she 'found' my sheet and paid what she owed me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:31 AM on April 18 [5 favorites]


Lebron James only get $20 per hour?

You know the NBA has a salary cap, right? I mean, it exists specifically to not allow players to earn what the market will bear so Mark Cuban can buy a bigger plane, but it does in fact exist.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:40 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, mikelieman.

Not sure what's foolish exactly about a 90% top tier income tax and making the progeny of the wealthy earn their OWN fortunes, IF they're worthy of it.
posted by mikelieman at 8:43 AM on April 18


And if you don't want the Government to take it all when you die, maybe build some libraries or museums or something....
posted by mikelieman at 8:44 AM on April 18


Lebron James only get $20 per hour?

Well, it's not like he does anything useful. At least fast food workers are helping feed people. Entertainment isn't as important as eating. A hundred years ago, ball-players didn't get paid squat, for the most part.
posted by Slinga at 8:46 AM on April 18


The focus on athletes and movie stars mostly serves as a distraction from the really wealthy people who are the people who employ athletes and movie stars.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:49 AM on April 18 [8 favorites]


You know the NBA has a salary cap, right? I mean, it exists specifically to not allow players to earn what the market will bear so Mark Cuban can buy a bigger plane, but it does in fact exist.

Actually, it's something a bit more interesting than that. The salary cap, draft system, etc., are all designed so that smaller, poor(er) teams to occasionally punch above their weight and be real contenders. This promotes the overall health of the league, which is what enables the top players to earn not just their capped salary but also their endorsement dollars, which are worth much more.

In other words, the Ayn Rand-loving super-capitalists running the NBA have decided to limit up-front compensation and artificially distort the marketplace of players in order to increase the ability of weaker teams to compete, so as to ensure the long-term durability of the league itself and, because of that, ensure greater long-term benefits to everyone involved (or at least everyone at the top). They survive and prosper as a league only because they do not have a perfectly rational free market.

If the rich could somehow manage to apply this long-horizon, short-term sacrifice for the greater good thinking to the country they live in and whose politics they pollute with unfettered spending, America might become a better place.
posted by jsturgill at 8:53 AM on April 18 [7 favorites]


Not sure what's foolish exactly about a 90% top tier income tax and making the progeny of the wealthy earn their OWN fortunes, IF they're worthy of it.

Was referring to your Ayn Rand comment. You can't expect those assholes to actually follow the consequences of their ideology; fuck you I got mine is what it boils down to.

The focus on athletes and movie stars mostly serves as a distraction from the really wealthy people who are the people who employ athletes and movie stars.

They are an example of the free market at work, and that's fine. What it's distracting from is the pimply kid making virtually nothing for serving you popcorn with a smile. (and yes, I know how the economics of movie theatres work.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:53 AM on April 18


The salary cap, draft system, etc., are all designed so that smaller, poor(er) teams to occasionally punch above their weight and be real contenders.

Yes, I know all the "official" reasons the cap exists. If it wasn't the best possible solution for owners, those reasons would not mean jack and it would not exist. The cap is not a good example of enlightened self interest. n.b. I am a crunchy granola communist.

posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:00 AM on April 18


Enh. I get it. The owners are venal as hell. But the league wouldn't survive without a handicap being given to the weaker teams, and I think it's interesting as hell that they way they chose to implement that handicap was to distort the marketplace.
posted by jsturgill at 9:17 AM on April 18


> The focus on athletes and movie stars mostly serves as a distraction from the really wealthy people who are the people who employ athletes and movie stars.

> They are an example of the free market at work, and that's fine.


No, it isn't fine. It is anything but a free market. It is a government enforced monopoly that eliminates all competition. If you download some bits from from a computer to view Jackman's movie, they will put you in jail. If you pull waves out of the air and show a Lebron James game in a bar, they will put you in jail.

It is anything but a free market. Monopolies are the anti-competitive antithesis of a free market. Intellectual property monopolies are the basis of the wealth of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison. These people hate free market competition. They will do anything to avoid free market competition.
posted by JackFlash at 9:30 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]




Me:
The US sourcing so many goods from places like China and emerging economies indicates that we're anything but pulling the ladder up behind us. In fact, it's allowing those economies to experience more economic prosperity than they ever have.
Pope Guilty:
Prosperity which is overwhelmingly being experienced by the wealthy, connected business owner class and creating a relatively small middle class to act as managers and administrators for the wealthy, and producing sweatshops and poverty in the rest of the economy. If the best that free trade can do is create a small number of oligarchs and the kind of poverty for the masses seen in those "emerging economies" you cite, while enriching wealthy first-world business owners even further with the sweat and blood of the working class of less developed nations, I'd call that a pretty shitty deal for everybody who isn't a part of the business owner class.
So would you be satisfied if you could go and close down every factory in the developing world that came about as a result of US and First World consumer demand? You'd be willing to impoverish all those millions and send them back to scratching out a living because a few connected owners get too wealthy for your tastes? How inhumane is that, wanting to burn down the village in order that the rich will suffer? Even if you intentions are to bolster domestic US industry, isn't that also what we call crony capitalism? Only this time, the cronies are cronies by nationality, advantaged by the patch of dirt they happen to call home. This really is a "let them eat cake" moment here. Not only are you denying the ability for poor in other countries engage in world markets serving us relatively rich consumers in the US, you're denying the poorer of us US consumers the ability to take advantage of the goods they produce.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:52 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


So would you be satisfied if you could go and close down every factory in the developing world that came about as a result of US and First World consumer demand? You'd be willing to impoverish all those millions and send them back to scratching out a living because a few connected owners get too wealthy for your tastes? How inhumane is that, wanting to burn down the village in order that the rich will suffer? Even if you intentions are to bolster domestic US industry, isn't that also what we call crony capitalism? Only this time, the cronies are cronies by nationality, advantaged by the patch of dirt they happen to call home. This really is a "let them eat cake" moment here. Not only are you denying the ability for poor in other countries engage in world markets serving us relatively rich consumers in the US, you're denying the poorer of us US consumers the ability to take advantage of the goods they produce.

I'd be willing to close down sweatshops that aren't environmentally responsible, that physically abuse their workers, that physically destroy their workers' bodies, and that don't pay a living wage in their local economy. Of course the workers there will often have different priorities, since they are so desperate and there are so few options.

Is it ethical to have sex with a homeless person in exchange for providing them with shelter? Happens all the time, and the homeless person seems to view it as a fair exchange, so...

I think a good compromise would be to increase the cost of my shirt by a dollar, treat the foreign worker well, and yes, slightly decrease my buying power.

Or in the survival sex scenario I brought up, perhaps the best idea would be to both stop the exploitation and provide shelter.

Please don't jump right over that excluded middle ground on your way to making a point, OK?
posted by jsturgill at 11:35 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


keeping in mind that this is all a counterfactual, since the Obama administration and his Democratic allies in Congress did not actually try to reduce benefits as you claimed.

Why do you believe they haven't? The increase to Tricare premiums is a real thing that was proposed by the Obama administration, which would have increased yearly premiums by at least 100%. Even if you personally believe that the cost increase (and thus, benefit reduction) would still keep things relatively inexpensive, it is demonstrably a reduction of benefits.
posted by corb at 12:29 PM on April 18


So would you be satisfied if you could go and close down every factory in the developing world that came about as a result of US and First World consumer demand? You'd be willing to impoverish all those millions and send them back to scratching out a living because a few connected owners get too wealthy for your tastes? How inhumane is that, wanting to burn down the village in order that the rich will suffer?

Is it a racist position, I wonder, to presume that the rest of the world outside the developed West exists as a favor from the West, and to never wonder how people in those underdeveloped nations survived for thousands of years without benevolent white capitalists disrupting their societies and then paying them extremely little money in order to extract the wealth of their bodies and their local natural resources for export to the wallets of the West? Very White Man's Burden, isn't it?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:41 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


corb: Why do you believe they haven't? The increase to Tricare premiums is a real thing that was proposed by the Obama administration, which would have increased yearly premiums by at least 100%.

First off, when you've used this talking point in the past, you used a total bullshit figure of 345%, but now it's 100%. Forgive me if this doesn't leave me feeling you're arguing in good faith.

But the real issue here is that healthcare costs are increasing, and Tricare premiums have not kept up with inflation, much less with the cost of delivering the healthcare. Delivering the same amount of healthcare services requires more money to come into the system. The program could continue to provide the same dollar amount of benefit without raising premiums. Is that what you want? If not, it needs more money -- where should that money come from? Were this any group other than veterans subject to footing part of the bill for increased healthcare costs -- Medicaid, for instance -- would you be arguing that it's mandatory that we put more money into the system so that the beneficiaries don't have to pay higher premiums?

Finally, to paint this as an Obama-driven change is ludicrous -- Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs supported premium increases to ensure the actuarial integrity of the program. With a congress that won't let us borrow and won't let us spend, you have to find the money to keep the program going somewhere, and I kinda think your affinity for the beneficiaries in this case has something to do with your opinion on whether they or the government should pay.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:55 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


Corb, you're not engaging with people consistently here. You originally said "...the left just focuses their reductions to COLA on things like military retirees." Someone called you on that: it was the right that killed the COLA and VA expansion.

I think the unacknowledged shift you made to focusing on Tricare indicates a stance based more on stereotypes than fact. Perhaps a hat-tip indicating that yeah, you were wrong initially, would go a ways to remedy that.

The stereotypes about the left and right when it comes to veterans are, I think, basically incorrect. The left has consistently been a friend of veterans. Maybe you can argue that the populist sentiment on the left has historically called for downsizing the military, but that's a seperate issue. Left elites actually in congress have rarely moved in that direction, and Obama certainly hasn't. He's taken the war-ball and run with it.

More generally, the government has used and abused veterans throughout America's history. It's not a partisan issue.

As for Tricare: Obama's proposal was, in fact, to make veterans pay more in a variety of ways. Non-flag officers, average Joes, would indeed see a 100% increase after 5 years. But look at the absolute costs rather than the percentages. By 2018, the ceiling for family enrollment costs would be $1,226, or $100 a month. How much do you think family health insurance will cost everyone else in America by then? Supplementary Tricare for old vets would top out at $618 a year. Try to find a deal like that on the private market. Seriously.

I'm around vets a lot. Vets bitch and complain. Everyone bitches and complains. But they get good healthcare, at a good price (scandals and political issues that simply can't be addressed realistically, like PTSD, aside). If I never hear a military family or vet complain about Tricare again, it'll be too soon. Millions of Americans would kill to get that kind of healthcare. Oh no, your copays increased from $4 to $8! Let me weep for you. You have to drive fifteen minutes to a different facility in order to get your free healthcare? Tragic.

You know what millions of Americans used to bitch about, before the ACA? Not having a doctor at all.

Should veterans be entirely shielded from healthcare inflation? These fees have not increased since 1995. And would the right not have attempted something similar, eventually? I see the political right as regularly fucking over vets, except when they decide to call the other side out on it, so as to make it a talking point and rally the base. Defense contractors and weapons systems? Sure, the right will fund that. Veterans benefits? Not so much.

Remember the VA scandals? That infrastructure deteriorated under Clinton and Bush; the first reports surfaced years into Bush's term, and he did nothing until it became politically infeasible to ignore. All the Bush years did for service members was give thousands of soldiers PTSD for fighting in wars we shouldnt' have been in in the first place.

You really want to make the mistreatment of vets a right or left issue? I don't think the facts support it.

Tricare costs in particular may not even rightly fall under a service issue. Healthcare overhaul is Obama's signature accomplishment; reforming the military side is an extension of that, not a reflection of his disdain for those serving their country.

You want an indication of how the Obama presidency treated vets, maybe you should look at the annual pay increases that civilian employees were denied. This is the first year that civilian federal government employees received a pay bump since 2010. The military never stopped receiving raises.

Clearly the left hates the military and punishes service members? I don't see it.
posted by jsturgill at 1:24 PM on April 18 [18 favorites]


Tricare costs in particular may not even rightly fall under a service issue. Healthcare overhaul is Obama's signature accomplishment; reforming the military side is an extension of that, not a reflection of his disdain for those serving their country.

It's a little of both, really. Tricare has historically been an extremely generous benefit - yes, admittedly, far better than the majority of civilian healthcare - because it's one of the perks that is offered to keep people doing their full twenty years or however long it is for them until retirement.

Obama's healthcare "reforms" have kind of consistently attempted to shift costs so that people who had very generous healthcare had to pay more, and people who had not-great healthcare had to pay less. You see that with the staggering 40% excise tax on "Cadillac plans" to pay for healthcare for people who weren't able to get it cheaply. And you see it with Tricare. Attitudes like yours - "Let me weep for you" - seem to be very prevalent in this administration - reducing earned benefits in order to pay for other programs.

My position is that the veterans have already earned their healthcare by their willingness to put their bodies on the line for their country, and deserve the healthcare at the extremely inexpensive rates they were promised - because to do otherwise violates the implicit contract between the government and the veteran. "Yes, we will break your body and mind in the service of our wars, but when you're done, you can lay down your pack and rest and we will take care of you." Yes, healthcare costs are rising, but the government knew that, and if the administration didn't want to pay for healthcare for veterans, they shouldn't have broken said veterans in a bunch of bullshit wars.

And I think it's disingenuous to claim that the Tricare increases are false or somehow "debunked" simply because you politically agree with them and believe them to be a necessity or think they're still a good benefit after all. Cuts are cuts.

when you've used this talking point in the past, you used a total bullshit figure of 345%, but now it's 100%. Forgive me if this doesn't leave me feeling you're arguing in good faith.

I'm not sure which article or proposal I was looking at then, but even given the article you provided, costs would be roughly 341% of original costs for the highest earners, from $539 to $1840, thus meaning I would have been off by 4% - hardly a "totally bullshit figure". The reason you view it as a "totally bullshit figure" is that you and others rule out flag officers, whereas I don't. But that's, again, a political decision - where you decide that they deserve the rise, so you're not going to talk about it. It's not a problem with my figures.
posted by corb at 9:25 AM on April 21


Some interesting push back btw around minimum wage rules implemented by the federal government.
posted by corb at 10:38 AM on April 21


corb: My position is that the veterans have already earned their healthcare by their willingness to put their bodies on the line for their country, and deserve the healthcare at the extremely inexpensive rates they were promised

Was there a promise that we would make sure that no veteran ever sees a premium increase? If so, could you show us where that promise was made?

As near as I can tell, what you're calling a promise is actually less of an explicit promise than the one made to municipal union employees that their pensions and health benefits will be taken care of. For our service members, it seems to be more of an implicit guarantee that the benefit would be provided, but no promise of any particular premium cost for the beneficiaries.

Of course. when it's come to tearing up union employee contracts in the past -- ones with explicit promises of specific dollar amounts rather than implicit guarantees -- your position on who should be forced to pay has been quite the opposite of what it is here. No matter how much you try to drape your argument in emotional appeal, the fact is that veteran salaries and health benefits have been protected for a long time. As I've said many times, I want them to continue to be protected, and, frankly, you and I could probably sit down together and rattle off dozens of other military programs we'd rather see cut than to have vets be forced to kick in more for their healthcare. yet we also both know the realities of how many of the big weapons programs serve as make-work programs for almost every congressional district, which means the political will to shrink them to pay for veteran health care is simply not there. What is your remedy to this problem, given the fact that the Tea Party exists and won't let spending increase anywhere?

corb: I'm not sure which article or proposal I was looking at then, but even given the article you provided, costs would be roughly 341% of original costs for the highest earners, from $539 to $1840, thus meaning I would have been off by 4% - hardly a "totally bullshit figure". The reason you view it as a "totally bullshit figure" is that you and others rule out flag officers, whereas I don't. But that's, again, a political decision - where you decide that they deserve the rise, so you're not going to talk about it. It's not a problem with my figures.

The people at the very top would see about a 2.5-fold jump (remember that you can't include the original amount in a "percent increase"), but it's totally dishonest take the people at the 100th percentile of the distribution and use them as a shorthand for what the size of the increase is for everyone. I'm not going to dig up your original comment citing the 345% figure (because the mods frown on that kind of thing) but suffice it to say you very casually talked about it as a 345% increase when that would only be true for people at the very top, yet you also said you personally were be facing a 345% increase, implying that a 3.5-fold increase was a possibility for people without stars on their shoulders.

So, no, you haven't been straight with your numbers, you've played very fast and loose with them, and you seem to have a very different opinion on the sanctity of promises and contracts in a different context.

Also worth pointing out that for a lot of folks, these are new benefits that were not promised to them at the time they joined the military:
Congress has also provided very low-cost health care to military retirees, a benefit that didn't exist when current retirees enlisted. In 1995, Congress created TRICARE, a health care plan for working-age retirees and their families who were unable or unwilling to use the free medical facilities on military bases. The enrollment fee was set at $460 a year for a family and was supposed to be adjusted every year to reflect the growth in health care costs. For the next 18 years, the enrollment fee was not adjusted by a single dime. Finally, in 2013, it was raised by $60 a year.

If the annual enrollment fees had been adjusted with medical inflation, as intended when TRICARE was created, the fees would be over $1,000 a year instead of the current $547.68 for a family. TRICARE is also far cheaper than average employee contribution for private insurance, saving the average working-age retiree about $4,100 a year currently. Over the past 18 years, a working-age retiree enrolled in TRICARE prime would have saved tens of thousands of dollars in health care expenses compared to private insurance – costs that have been picked up by the government.

Before 2001, when a retiree turned 65 and became eligible for Medicare he or she was no longer eligible for TRICARE. Any expenses not covered by Medicare would be the responsibility of the individual retiree. But in 2001, again under pressure from the military lobby, Congress created TRICARE for Life, which has no co-pays or deductibles, no annual fees and covers all expenses not paid for by TRICARE. Since 2001, the Pentagon has paid more than $70 billion for this plan. In fiscal year 2011, civilian seniors paid an average of $3,563 in out-of-pocket costs after Medicare Part B premiums. TRICARE for Life beneficiaries paid about $850 – a savings of $2,700 annually for retirees.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:21 AM on April 21 [10 favorites]


I have no problem with taking care of veterans of WARS. Now, all this stuff that's been happening the past decade or so, do we consider them WARS, and consequently the benefits earned equivalent to those earned by those in actual-wars?

Not sure without a clear and present danger to the existence of the union, that there's enough risk to have earned a lifetime of medical benefits. Of course, with a single-payer, universal coverage system like I prefer, this is moot.
posted by mikelieman at 11:25 AM on April 21


deserve the healthcare at the extremely inexpensive rates they were promised

If it wasn't in their enlistment contract (or equivalent documents for officers), they weren't promised it.

And, as tonycpsu notes, it couldn't be in the enlistment contracts for current retirees unless they were allowed to retire before their 20.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:52 AM on April 21


Corb, I'm not sure we're having the same conversation. The entry point to all of this was a characterization you made of the left: hike the minimum wage (and expand the social safety net in general), and fund it by cutting (things like) COLA increases to vets.

I think that's BS, and based on stereotypes of left vs. right that aren't well founded.

We both totally agree that Tricare costs are going up. I guess my point is that they're going up because healthcare costs are rising, and the program has to be changed in order to remain viable. I don't think your point, that Tricare costs are going up in order to prop up a minimum wage hike that doesn't yet exist or other social welfare programs for non-vets, makes sense. I think it's absurd. They're going up in order keep service members' share of the burden proportionate.

I don't want to wrestle in the mud too much with you over this, but I also fundamentally disagree with some of your reaction to what I wrote.

You seem upset that flag officers get separated out and treated as less relevant, but I think that's more than fair. To use their percentage increase to spark outrage is misleading, to say the least--though depending on how you word your point, you may at least be able to avoid stating an outright lie.

Some people reading this may not know what a flag officer is. They are commissioned officers who have been promoted to the highest ranks of their branch. They don't put their bodies on the line the same way the average marine might, and that makes a difference to me. They also get paid very handsomely for their service. We're talking about admirals and generals here, not hardworking grunts and sergeants. REMFs. Service members like to bitch about them a lot too, and I happen to agree.

Not only are flag officers physically safe, and rich, there also are too many of them. We have just under a thousand, I think, in a DOD with a bit over one million people in it. We had a thousand flag officers during WWII, and they oversaw 12 million service members.

When a CO who's never seen combat gets an unnecessary promotion and pay raise to become a flag officer, is underworked, paid over $100,000 a year, retires with full pay to work at a defence contractor, and pays under $2,000 a year for his entire family's healthcare... I do not get outraged. I think they're getting a great deal at below market price while riding our taxpayer dollars all the way to... well, wherever it is they want to vacation this year.

And I won't be shamed into pretending that I'm outraged when I'm not. My reaction seems to upset you for some reason, but I think it's the only reasonable stance to take if you look at the numbers and understand what's happening.

The Cadillac healthcare plans you seem so shocked by are similarly not a big deal. These health plans are yet another way of shielding executive compensation from taxes. I think executives should be taxed on their income. Forty percent is a reasonable tax rate on our highest earners. It is in no way "staggering."
posted by jsturgill at 12:28 PM on April 21 [5 favorites]


Some people reading this may not know what a flag officer is. They are commissioned officers who have been promoted to the highest ranks of their branch. They don't put their bodies on the line the same way the average marine might, and that makes a difference to me.

The problem here is that there's really no way to say that something broadly applies to every member of a specific dataset. You talk about commanders as though they never ran risks. My own commander in the last third of the war had one glass eye from combat wounds, and he kept going back. Or for example - take General Mattis. Flag officer, yeah, but I don't think anyone with more than a passing knowledge of him would call him a REMF. A friend of mine - a 0311 who fought in Fallujah - said that he was surprised one day when General Mattis just kind of slid into their fire position and took some shots at the enemy alongside them while asking them how they were doing before moving on. Again - do I think there are too many general officers? Fuck yeah. Do I hate the ones of them that climb over enlisted bodies to their stars? Fuck yeah. But there's no real way to quantify that, and I can't condone taking away from the Mattises of the world just because there are some awful human beings out there collecting a retirement check.

yet we also both know the realities of how many of the big weapons programs serve as make-work programs for almost every congressional district, which means the political will to shrink them to pay for veteran health care is simply not there. What is your remedy to this problem, given the fact that the Tea Party exists and won't let spending increase anywhere?

Honestly? I think we're fucked. I think we may differ on the cause of why we're fucked (you say Tea Party, I say safety net spending), but I absolutely, one hundred percent, think we're fucked. Given democracy, no one is going to vote for anyone who takes jobs or money away from their district or the voters, which means pork will always flourish. No one will let go of big weapons programs, regardless of how poorly they work or how useless they are. No one will let go of safety net programs, no matter how long-term destructive they are. We are in a political arms race, and it is impossible to stand down from it.

My most potent remedy to the problem is to buy everyone a large bottle of whiskey and let them drink their sorrow at the downfall of the Republic away. That's all I've got. If you've got a better way, I'm all ears, but I don't think the political will is there for a correction.
posted by corb at 1:39 PM on April 21


Mattis earned his pay, but he also got his pay. I'm not privy to the actual details, and I am not up on all the caveats so this may be incorrect, but he retired as an O-10 with 40+ years in, so I think he's getting something like $20,000 a month for the rest of his life. I also think he's still working, as part of the board of directors for General Dynamics. I don't know what his compensation is, but I'm willing to guess that it's north of $100,000 / year.

Gen. Mattis is (likely) pulling down something like $30,000 to $50,000 a month now that he's left the service. He will never miss a lousy $150 per month. Never ever ever. Neither will any of the other flag officers, though of course the lower grades will wind up with smaller retirements and less cushy defense industry gigs.

Nothing has been taken from him. The left does not hate soldiers and veterans, and social programs are not funded on their backs.
posted by jsturgill at 2:19 PM on April 21


(you say Tea Party, I say safety net spending)

Are you high? On almost all metrics the US is one of if not the lowest spenders per capita in social spending of the developed world.

The US would have to spend an extra $250 billion (one and a half percent of GDP) to even get close to Australia and Canada, the next highest spenders. How much social spending would this be exactly? It would triple TANF and SNAP if it was used exclusively on those programs. If would beef up TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid's budgets by at least 40% each.

I'm not sure how you're supposed to cut safety net spending when the fat is gone and the muscle is gone. At this point you're just shearing away at bone while yelling "WHY IS THIS FAT SO TOUGH AND HARD TO GET RID OF?!?"
posted by Talez at 2:49 PM on April 21 [11 favorites]


corb: No one will let go of big weapons programs, regardless of how poorly they work or how useless they are. No one will let go of safety net programs, no matter how long-term destructive they are.

There's certainly a great deal of political dysfunction in the U.S. that leads to a lot of poor spending choices, but I dislike your conflation of wasteful military spending and social welfare spending. Your comment that the latter is "long-term destructive" is nothing more than a statement of faith, and certainly not anything you've provided any evidence for. Safety net spending is a remarkably efficient use of government resources to alleviate suffering, nothing like the wasteful Rube Goldberg machine of weapons programs that turn a lot of money into a handful of jobs.

Now, is every penny of social welfare spending targeted to the person who needs it most? Of course not -- government is still government, after all -- but you can't talk about it in the same breath as weapons programs that even the Pentagon leadership is begging Congress not to pay for without providing an empirical basis for that comparison. If seniors were lining up outside of Congress beseeching Congress to take away their Medicare, that would be a different story.

Look, reasonable people can disagree about the ideal size and scope of government, how to best go about reducing waste in the defense budget, etc., but there's a certain level of frustration that sets in when someone continually stretches the truth in glaringly-obvious ways in an attempt to show that one group of employees is being treated unfairly by the government, while at the same time sticking up for the rights of private employers to treat their employees as unfairly as they'd like. We're supposed to let the minimum wage worker who isn't making enough to feed her family twist in the wind, but when it comes to the military veteran who might in a few years have to pay something closer to (but still nowhere near) parity with what the luckiest of civilians have to pay for their health coverage, we're supposed to open our wallets immediately?

I don't get it. If this were any other group of employees, particularly other government employees, you'd be scolding them about how they should have been more careful when they read their employment contracts, or how we taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook to "bail out" underfunded benefit programs because of bad choices made by shortsighted politicians. There seems to be zero intellectual consistency about what group of people is required to show personal responsibility and what group should have their implicit guarantees regarded as explicit promises, even those who joined before those promises were made.

I really want to understand how you square this circle. Is it just the combat thing, and if so, should police officers who often risk their lives to protect us get a pass as well?
posted by tonycpsu at 7:02 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


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