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June 27, 2003 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Play the Minimum Wage Game. Educational Friday Flash Fun. Well, sorta.
posted by Cerebus (40 comments total)

 
why do people with minimum wage jobs have children? minimum wage is ridiculous, and even $8/hr is seriously pushing it, but the whole "these are people with families" part of the argument never makes sense to me. Is it because abortion is more immoral than raising a child in poverty to that many people?
posted by techgnollogic at 7:54 AM on June 27, 2003


yes, sometimes you backpedal and have to accept a minimum wage job because you've been laid off and there's nothing else open and you already have kids... but how often does that happen in a situation where the job you lose paid plenty and you fall into poverty from there?

where are all these minimum wage jobs? i guess i've seen adverts for $6/hr gigs, but only rarely... even custodial jobs around here start at $7.
posted by techgnollogic at 7:58 AM on June 27, 2003


It's called "stayed at home to be mother to kids for ten years before father left us with nothing," technollogic. Sadly, it's not a rare occurence, and it's one of countless scenarios in which the bread-winner of a household isn't modelled after the Nuclear Family.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:34 AM on June 27, 2003


techgnollogic, which planet are you on? you know there are people who don't have the opportunity of going to college or finishing school, right? are you going to deny anyone who is unable to earn a certain wage the right to have a family?
posted by kv at 8:40 AM on June 27, 2003


Around here ONE person can't make it on minimum wage.
posted by konolia at 8:42 AM on June 27, 2003


I agree techngollogic - it should be illegal for poor people to have kids - bring back forced sterilisation! or better still, just burn them all
posted by gravelshoes at 8:43 AM on June 27, 2003


kv: are you going to deny anyone who is unable to earn a certain wage the right to have a family?

Refusing to house, clothe, and feed their children =! Denying the "right to have a family"
posted by trharlan at 8:45 AM on June 27, 2003


Yes, let them eat cake.
posted by Cerebus at 8:59 AM on June 27, 2003


I picked "Cardboard Housing," "Dumpster Diving" "Goodwill" and "Free Clinic." That left me with 300 bucks for beer money a month.

I can't live on that!!!
posted by Perigee at 9:29 AM on June 27, 2003


So, for the people who support the idea of a living wage for families, the state should never be selfish or stingy, but it's perfectly acceptable for the individual to think of themselves and their own needs rather than their (potential) children?

I wouldn't think that I or the state should deny somebody the right to have a family. However, I would expect that the individual would take an honest look at their life situation and decide intelligently whether or not they can afford to raise a kid.

I don't know how many people do or don't do that. My impression though is that there are an awful lot of people who go ahead and have kids even though its the worst possible thing they could do for themselves or their kids.
posted by willnot at 9:36 AM on June 27, 2003


Technologic - Back in the 1700's, during the Irish Potato Famine, Jonathan Swift made an excellent, "Modest Proposal" to deal with the irresponsible destitute Irish who were, nonetheless, having far too many babies.

Sadly, Mr. Swift's proposals have never been implemented and the sorry universal trend - of higher than average birthrates amnng the hunger, disease ridden, uneducated and destitute poor continues to this day.

If only humanity as a whole were as practical as Swift.

Meanwhile, wealth concentration in the US continues but I have my own immodest proposal to deal with this trend.
posted by troutfishing at 9:47 AM on June 27, 2003


willnot: In a perfect world where mothers and fathers don't abandon their families, where parents don't die before their children are all grown up, where where birth control is 100% effectice with a 0% failure rate, and where abstinance and moral discipline are easy and absolute, yes, you have a point.

We don't live there, though.
posted by Cerebus at 9:53 AM on June 27, 2003


I should add, "where people never get fired, laid-off, downsized, right-sized, happy-sized, or outsourced, and their income only trends upward," to the above.
posted by Cerebus at 10:04 AM on June 27, 2003


are you going to deny anyone who is unable to earn a certain wage the right to have a family?

Yes. Parents shouldn't be able to punish helpless children like that just to fulfill their own selfish desires.
posted by gyc at 10:16 AM on June 27, 2003


The current Federal Minimum Wage at $5.15 went into effect on September 1, 1997. In the nearly six years since then, the consumer price index (one of the best ways to monitor inflation) has increased roughly 14% since 1997 ($100 in 1997 would buy you the same amount as $114.33 today) This was done using the CPI inflation calculator on the linked page).

$5.15 x 114% = $5.87. So at the very bare minimum, people earning the Federal Minimum wage have about $1500 less in real wages (gross) than they did in 1997. (at 40 hours a week for 52 weeks).

$1500 is a lot of money when you're only earning $10-$12k a year. Why does minimum wage not increase on a yearly basis like many other jobs do at a 3% avg. with inflation? Most government employees get a standard 3% raise a year.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:31 AM on June 27, 2003


So of course you mean no premarital sex, right?

I guess if a wife is abandoned by an abusive husband who doesn't pay child support, her children should be taken away?

Besides, no form of birth control is perfect (except perhaps for sterilization)-when I was pregnant back in the 80's, the very pregnant technician who did my ultrasound had been on the pill when she conceived.

having said all that, I think it is a good thing to wait to get married and to wait to have sex until one can take care of a family. Or do people have the right to risk pregnancy on minimum wage?

And please don't forget that if you have two in the household making minimum wage, you are therefore bringing in TWICE the minimum wage.
posted by konolia at 10:37 AM on June 27, 2003


Damn! That Lucky Ducky always comes out ahead! Sure, he can't properly clothe or feed himself or his family, but his 5 children will bring him endless familial bliss and steal wages from hardworking people who live above the child-allowance quota!

I've given up on the idea of conservatism having anything to do with morality or responsibility, in favor of the notion that modern conservatism is unbounded greed and shoddily justified self-interest wearing the guise of a stable political system. When I meet real conservatives, like an 84-year-old ex-farmer I met in a trailer park the other day, I can't help but wonder what happened to values like 'charity,' 'frugality,' and 'good will.'

no war but class war!
posted by kaibutsu at 10:39 AM on June 27, 2003


gyc - re: your reply to the question "are you going to deny anyone who is unable to earn a certain wage the right to have a family?" - "Yes. Parents shouldn't be able to punish helpless children like that just to fulfill their own selfish desires." - posted by gyc at 10:16 AM PST on June 27

I've sometimes thought that people should be licensed to have kids, based on taking several free public courses (not too high a bar for 99% to pass if they tried, or even 100%, see below) which would be very similar to the sort of driver's ed. courses, exams and so on which are required for motor vehicle licenses.

Then I think about the inevitable bureaucracy which would follow, and cringe: "The Registry of Birth Licensing" and the "Fertility Control Police".

The problem, it almost goes without saying, is that people would produce "unlicensed babies" anyway. What then? Tax them? Fine them? - Neither helps the lot of the "unlicensed" infants. Perhaps these miscreant families could be locked up for a bit (intact, and in decent facilities, of course) and forced to take the "Parental Licensing" courses or simply not released until they could pass the test for the license (with special provisions for the retarded, of course: simpler tests, special coaching, etc.)

Sounds fascistic, eh?

But think: human beings, especially poorly raised or abused ones, are far more potentially dangerous than either cars, or guns (wielded or driven by humans, that is).
posted by troutfishing at 10:39 AM on June 27, 2003


I'm all for being responsible, and exercising good judgement. People are, however, people; and people exercise irresponsible and bad judgement every day. This is a fact to be dealt with, no matter if you endorse it or decry it.

To sit and say, essentially, "Tough shit, they can starve for all I care" (as trharlan does) indicates a complete lack of compassion and morality. What Would Jesus Do, after all?
posted by Cerebus at 10:47 AM on June 27, 2003


Just because you get pregnant doesn't mean you have to carry the kid to term, and carrying the kid to term doesn't mean you have to keep/attempt to raise it. So the no sex or accidents happen line is a non-starter. Raising kids is a choice. It's not an accident. Bad things do happen to good people, and in those situations, I'd like to be able to help. But, if you make bad choices then yes, Cerebus. I say tough shit.

There are all kinds of options for somebody that takes a serious look at their life and realizes that while they may want a kid, they can't really do right by their kid at this point in their life, and if they tried to take on the responsibility of raising it, they'll probably Never be able to do right by the kid because they'll be in a hole they can't claw their way out of.

I want a mansion. However, when I look at my finances, and do a little cold hard thinking about it, I realize I can't afford one right now. Maybe next year though.
posted by willnot at 10:51 AM on June 27, 2003


Where the hell do you people get the idea that i'm suggesting that there be laws prohibiting poor people from having children? I agree that the current minimum wage should be raised, but I don't see what bearing the "familiy of three" situation has on the argument. I don't understand why a legal bare minimum wage should automatically be high enough to support the wage earner, their spouse and a child. I think the minimum wage should allow one person a decent standard of living with enough left over to save, say, 10%. Doubling up on rent and phone by having 1 roommate works out to you making $5.75 an hour before taxes, and includes the health care, transportation, personal expenses, and 10% savings.

Once again, how many people are working minimum wage jobs? Where are they? What kinds of jobs are they? Why do I never hear about them?
posted by techgnollogic at 11:06 AM on June 27, 2003


That game was boring.

I made $3.35/hr. at Wendy's in 1986. By the of the summer, I was pullin' in a $3.50... Damn right!
posted by Witty at 11:08 AM on June 27, 2003


Not everybody making minimum wage is there because they got shafted by some ruthless abusive husband and stuck with two kids and marketable skills, or their parents died and they were left with no family and no assets. Yes that happens but that's not the norm.

What percentage of the people who don't have all those "great opportunities" handed to them like $8/hr jobs and have to accept full-time minimum wage positions just to hopefully make ends meet were born to parents in the same exact position? Poverty breeds poverty in more ways than one.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:12 AM on June 27, 2003


I just now called my boss and quit my job so some poor person with kids can have it. It paid better than minimum wage too.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:17 AM on June 27, 2003


Cerebus: To sit and say, essentially, "Tough shit, they can starve for all I care" (as trharlan does) indicates a complete lack of compassion and morality. What Would Jesus Do, after all?

I don't measure compassion by one person's willingness to seize someone else's money and spend it. Because you feel that it's just, moral, and compassionate to force someone to support someone else's children, and I don't, it does not necessarily follow that you are compassionate and I am not. In fact, I would argue the opposite.

Did you give a substantial portion of your disposable income to charity last year? Did you walk past the shiny new Lexus and buy a six-year old Taurus so you could feed other people's children? Or are you only compassionate with other people's money?

And the Jesus bit. What on Earth are you talking about?
posted by trharlan at 11:29 AM on June 27, 2003


Just because you get pregnant doesn't mean you have to carry the kid to term, and carrying the kid to term doesn't mean you have to keep/attempt to raise it.

Except that the extreme Right, which would gleefully slice minimum wage to zero, wants abortion outlawed. And, I would suspect, would object to the creation and expansion of state-run orphanages. They also tend to object to homosexual couples who might want to adopt, so there's no out there.

The fact is, there's nowhere for these kids if not with their parents. No infrastructure exists to take them and care for them-- and the moral issues the party in power has with abortion and birth control offer no other alternative.

These are facts. Deal with them. Closing your eyes and wishing for an ideal world where people always think ahead and do the right thing isn't going to solve diddly-squat.
posted by Cerebus at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2003


I've sometimes thought that people should be licensed to have kids, based on taking several free public courses

Well I think I'd probably oppose any such program. I'm generally against governmental intrusion into private lives. However, I do see your point about children born into bad situations eventually becoming a burden on society. I'd just wish people would just take time and think and plan and analyze whether having children in their situation would be a good thing.
posted by gyc at 11:41 AM on June 27, 2003


why do people with minimum wage jobs have children?

A Short Play by DragonBoy

woman - what are we going to do tonight?

man - how about a movie?

woman - For both of us to go to a movie it'll cost $22 for tickets and another $25 for a babysitter. How much you got?

man - I got about four dollars, you?

woman - two bucks.

man - what can we do for six bucks?

woman - we could go get some dinner off the dollar menu and still have $2 left.

man - great - what can we do for two buck?

woman - you could get some condoms... wink wink.

man - yeah - or we could save the two dollars, I promise I'll pull out.

woman - yeah - that's what you said before Mike was born, and Jane and Kristy and Billy.
posted by DragonBoy at 11:41 AM on June 27, 2003


In fact, I would argue the opposite.

Do you know what a 'sin of omission' is? Are you blind to the moral problem of inaction? Or is it simpler and more personally satisfying to wallow in your own greed? Or is it just that you really would prefer to do absolutely nothing at all?

Did you give a substantial portion of your disposable income to charity last year?

You're damn right I did. I also donate a substantial portion of my time and labor.

Did you walk past the shiny new Lexus and buy a six-year old Taurus so you could feed other people's children?

I bought a fuel-efficient Volkswagon. It's only the second new car I've ever owned, but I couldn't find one used. My last car was a Kia, and before that a Suzuki.

My point about Jesus should have been obvious-- he would urge you to give away all your goods to help the poor (Matthew 19:21-26). I think that the simple expedient of giving people a living wage would be something he could get behind.
posted by Cerebus at 11:42 AM on June 27, 2003


I'm all for being responsible, and exercising good judgement. People are, however, people; and people exercise irresponsible and bad judgement every day. This is a fact to be dealt with, no matter if you endorse it or decry it.

Ok... well who is going to help me out with my irresponsibility and poor judgement when it comes to managing and budgeting my money (I tend not to be very good at it)? How about if someone writes me a big fat check to help me recover from the lack of good judgement I showed when I dropped out of college and waited to go back until I was in my late 20's (this would be the period of time that I managed to get into debt). I make irresponsible, poor judgement calls all the time too. But no one comes racing to my aid, pats me on the back and says, "it's ok".
posted by Witty at 11:43 AM on June 27, 2003


Poverty breeds poverty in more ways than one.

You're right, but the party in power wants to dismantle the only system that breaks that particular vicious cycle.
posted by Cerebus at 11:44 AM on June 27, 2003


The extreme right would also probably like abstinence outside of marriage and even abstinence with in marriage I'm guessing. It's not exactly fruitful to call on me to be realistic while disregarding options that are only unrealistic in your fantasy world.

The facts are that abortion isn't illegal (regardless of what the extreme right might like). Closing your eyes and pretending that isn't true won't do diddly-squat for this discussion. That fact is that adoption is a viable alternative. I'm not sure what sexual orientation has to do with this discussion, but I know of homosexuals who have successfully adopted. I live in California, so we're probably more socially progressive than some other areas, but the fact remains that regardless of what some extreme right would like to be true -- which by implication you are suggesting is in fact true, there are still lots and lots of options for people who find themselves pregnant with a kid they can't afford to support.
posted by willnot at 11:47 AM on June 27, 2003


I make irresponsible, poor judgement calls all the time too. But no one comes racing to my aid, pats me on the back and says, "it's ok".

Yes, indeed, they did. Had you fallen on truly hard times you could have drawn on welfare, food stamps, or government-sponsored housing. Hospitals would have treated your injuries regardless of your ability to pay. That you didn't avail yourself of these pieces of safety net doesn't mean they weren't there for you.
posted by Cerebus at 11:49 AM on June 27, 2003


It's not exactly fruitful to call on me to be realistic while disregarding options that are only unrealistic in your fantasy world.

How realistic are the options? Given a pregnant woman on minimum wage, what can she do?

Abortion: What if her personal morals preclude it?

Adoption: How realistic is this? Especially if we postulate that others in a similar plight avail themselves of this same option-- there will be more kids than willing parents. Foster care? Overburdened already. State-run orphanages? Almost non-existent these days; I know of exactly one in my metro area.

Even if successful adoptions take time-- where does the kid live in the interim? How is it supported?

What else is there?
posted by Cerebus at 11:55 AM on June 27, 2003


kaibutsu - Hurrah for real conservatives. (see below in comment)

Techgnollogic - Are you arguing that the poor are so because they are genetically inferior? Yes, there are genetic difference between individuals. But the ground of this argument is heavily polluted by the unjustified claims and actions of the American Eugenics Movement and horrendous attempted genetic purges of the Nazis. Beware, it's a minefield.

Furthermore, the issue is fantastically complex. Genetic fitness, in nature, is determined by environment. But environments can and do change, sometimes quite rapidly. And, quite importantly, highly succesfull species are not always those best adapted to their environment - often, they merely got there first, usually by accident.

Furthermore, consider merely one complex expression of genetic traits - intelligence. [ Leaving aside the crucial genome/phenome distinction for the moment ] If, as some argue (and others contest this too), there is a general factor of abstract intelligence, "X", well.....

There is a simple process which impacts the heritability of intelligence, called "regression to the mean". The more highly intelligent one is, the farther out one is on the Bell Curve distribution, right? Well, the farther out one is, the higher the probability that one's offspring will not be as intelligent. The converse holds true also: if there is, in fact, some correlation between intelligence and income or societal standing in general, "Low status/income parents with correspondingly low IQ's would tend to produce offspring who are more intelligent than they are.

Further, the complex of genes determining human IQ (and many claim that the "factor 'X' ", generalized intelligence, is merely a artificial construct or, even a red herring) are only dimly understood: because a nearly infinite host of genetic interactions both within the organic structure of the brain and also in the interactions between the body and the brain - contribute to intelligence.

What this means, in practice, is that "inferior" (dumb) parents often bear and raise exceptional children who dramatically overshoot the "regression to the mean" effect.

Meanwhile.....(moving on into environmental factors)...in one recent study on the effects of teacher expectation on pupil performance, it was discovered that high school teachers, chosen at random and told that they were "exceptional" teachers, were given for a year children they were told (falsely - the kids were also chosen at random) that they were being given a class of exceptional students.

The result? At the end of the year, every one of these pseudo-exceptional classrooms was the highest scoring in it's respective school district.

So......the wealthy believe they are better and are told they are better. So they perform better. Nothing mysterious here.

Conversely, poverty 'breeds' poor self esteem which, in turn, 'breeds' poor performance. Urban crime, parental violence and child abuse, criminality and drug abuse, as well as poor nutrition, poor air quality, gangs, and on and on..........all of these factors which have nothing really to do with the genetic 'fitness' of children born into these environments drag down academic performance (and full fruition of intelligence and creativity perhaps) and tend to contribute to lower lifetime earnings.

In any case, the correlation between poverty and intelligence or "genetic fitness" (whatever that would be in an urban setting, inner Detroit say - the ability to run faster from gangs?) is a shaky one at best.

The Genotype/Phenotype distinction is also quite crucial to this issue, the purported "inferiority" of the poor: that is to say, it's considered crucial in the informed opinions of biologists and geneticists. Google it, if you want to know what I'm getting at.




"Real, old fashioned conservatives...
(a Troutfishing exclusive)

- Believe in small government but substantiate these beliefs through their unstinting personal generosity. If they accumulate fortunes, they give the greater part of these for the public good when they retire.

- Are appalled by corrupt government/business partnership profiteering, and are suspicious of the very idea of a class of "idle rich", those so wealthy that they need not work because they...

- Believe that hard work is good, that it builds good charactor and morals and prevents mischief ("Idle hands are the devil's playground").

- Are self reliant to a fault except within the bounds of their local community, which they heavily support and occaisonally look to for assistance during bad times or in the event of disasters, and believe that no one - not the government or any societal group - owes them anything.

- Believe in a strong national defense but also are deeply suspicious of "foreign adventurism" on the part of the US government. They believe that good fences make good neighbors and that - in small towns or among great nations alike - respectfull conduct is the best way to contribute to the general peace.

- Avoid personal indebtedness and are convinced that the U.S. National Debt is a scandal and that both the Debt and the yearly Federal Deficit are the symptoms of moral decay, the slippery slope paved with good intentions on the way to national fiscal ruin.

- Are mostly Christians and so believe in (and read from) the Bible - but they believe in BOTH books, the New Testament and the Old Testament and so...

- Are mostly generous and tolerant. They believe in being tough on criminals, an Old Testament dictum, but begrudging pay attention to Jesus' words concerning forgiveness and so do not endorse draconian penal codes.

- Are usually moderate, neither consuming drink nor indulging any of the appetites to excess: or if they do, they keep it quiet and are humbled by their shortcomings."



May their ranks increase (and the ranks of Neocons and state-corporate incestually nepotistic protofascists - think "revolving door" Cheney - shrivel in proportion.)
posted by troutfishing at 12:01 PM on June 27, 2003


Well, Cerebus, I commend you for practicing what you preach. It's quite common for people to only be "compassionate" when others are forced to be. Like the man who calls for taxes or living wages because "I think it's the right thing to do, but I'm not (otherwise) going to help out, because you might not, and that would be unfair."

And you/I/we have muddied the waters regarding individual ethics and social policy (unless you think that they should be the same, but I don't know that's the case). I think the ethical social policy is to let people do as they wish with their own money. It's ethical, in my book, to "let people wallow in their own greed". If they wish to wallow, who am I to judge? Be not your brother's keeper, eh? Further, how is it ethical for the state to prohibit voluntary contracts?

This is, to me, an entirely different question than "Should I, voluntarily, help the needy?"

And, one could argue that while Jesus would help the poor, he wouldn't force others to do so. From Was Jesus a libertarian?: The New Testament... states that "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (II Corinthians 9:7). God asks for a voluntary contribution of ten percent of our earnings, whereas Caesar puts a gun at our heads for half of our earnings.
posted by trharlan at 12:10 PM on June 27, 2003


willnot - Have you ever been around a woman from conception through the early part of her pregnancy? The force of the instincts towards maternity, towards carrying that foetus to term, and the power of the associated hormones which get released in the process......pregnancy is it's specialized form of awareness, maternity is it's own logic.

You can do what you will, but having seen this, I'm not so judgemental. And consider this - children raised in poverty WILL exert an economic toll on society far out of proportion to the costs of providing for certain minimum standards. In other words, we (as a society and as a nation) can pay for preschool care, early childhood nutirtion programs, good schools, and so on - or we can opt to pay for prisons.
posted by troutfishing at 12:11 PM on June 27, 2003


troutfishing: Techgnollogic - Are you arguing that the poor are so because they are genetically inferior?
(400 words about genetic variation later)

Me: Uh, no. i was arguing that it's hard for people to offer their children special opportunities to escape poverty when you're poor and can't afford to. they miss all those special opportunities and unless they happen to work hard and get lucky they probably end up poor too.
posted by techgnollogic at 12:26 PM on June 27, 2003


Racism can start problems that egalitarianism cannot automatically stop. You have to deal with the negative feedback even after the racism is gone. Calling remnant negative feedback racism, or suspecting such motivations without cause, is more likely to delay a solution or make things worse because it diverts attention from the mechanics of the problem.
posted by techgnollogic at 12:32 PM on June 27, 2003


techgnollogic - OK, sorry for the lecture, I misinterpreted your comment. I totally agree with your first comment above - and I also agree that there are some nasty negative feedbacks loops at work too. But has racism ended? I hardly think so. This doesn't mean that I think that black Americans are completely innocent in the overall equation but I'd say racism is still very, very real.

One form very popular to notice recently has been the "_____ while black" type of racism (in the blank, put, driving, walking, eating, sitting on a park bench....)

At least one prominent black leader ( I think Jesse Jackson, but I'm not positive) has admitted quite openly to "functional racism", which is the sort that you employ when you cross the street (if you indeed do this sort of thing) if approaching a black male(s) on the sidewalk while walking in the inner city. Statistically, you'd be on decent grounds there. So there is one form of at least partially justified racism. But there are many forms which are not so justified.

I agree that it's important to look at the overall mechanics, or dynamics, of the situation. But US society is so far from attempting egalitarian solutions right now - we're going full throttle in the opposite direction, I'd say.
posted by troutfishing at 3:15 PM on June 27, 2003


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