Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Back to work, peasants!
September 19, 2003 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Treasure hoarding bastards to the starboard bow, Mr. Christian! While they laid off millions and millions of workers, and starting moving jobs to offshore providers, the rich got richer. According to the new The Forbes 400, the aggregate net worth of the nation's wealthiest 400 citizens leapt 10% in the past year, to $955 billion. Meanwhile, minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1997.
posted by dejah420 (72 comments total)

 
Um, starboard bow means the right side of the forward part of the boat.
Perhaps you might have wished to say something like, Treasure hoarding bastards to the brig.

Re: the post. The rich get richer and the poor keep learning how to ask if you want fries with that. Not a huge surprise, is it? Especially with ShrubCo and his Mighty Band of Butt Pirates.

Oh yes, Arrr, you said butt pirate, matey.
posted by fenriq at 12:24 PM on September 19, 2003


While they laid off millions and millions of workers, and starting moving jobs to offshore providers ...

Meanwhile, minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1997.


Um ... oh never mind; it's too easy.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:26 PM on September 19, 2003


Cap'n dejah420 likely meant "treasure hoarding bastards off the starboard bow". Arr, matey?
posted by starvingartist at 12:33 PM on September 19, 2003


Cap'n dejah420 likely meant "treasure hoarding bastards off the starboard bow". Arr, matey?

Indeed I did, laddy! Indeed, I did. They'll be extra rum in your grog tonight, my fine bucko. Aaarrr.
posted by dejah420 at 12:39 PM on September 19, 2003


I assumed dejah420 meant for the treasure hoarding bastards to walk the plank, which might be located at the starboard bow.
posted by originalname37 at 12:40 PM on September 19, 2003


Aye! Keelhaul 'em all! I'll dance ye all a jig as they get face ter face wit' Davey Jones locker!
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:41 PM on September 19, 2003


Oh, and Aarr!
posted by originalname37 at 12:44 PM on September 19, 2003


dejah420, are you somehow implying that the minimum wage SHOULD be increased for some reason?
posted by davidmsc at 12:46 PM on September 19, 2003


I'd say minimum wage should at least increase by as much as inflation, wouldn't you?
posted by fvw at 12:50 PM on September 19, 2003


Ahoy and all that. Someone just sent me this link, which is somewhat relevant, in that it proposes a new way of compensating pirate captains of industry and other robber barons.

dejah420, are you somehow implying that the minimum wage SHOULD be increased for some reason?

I dunno, are you implying that $5.00 an hour is a livable wage, fully enough to be able to support yourself and possibly an offspring?
posted by dejah420 at 12:52 PM on September 19, 2003


the aggregate net worth of the nation's wealthiest 400 citizens leapt 10% in the past year, to $955 billion. Meanwhile, minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1997.

Meanwhile? Arr, matey -- can't you see they're one and the same?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:52 PM on September 19, 2003


Well, duh...its easy to understand why the ultra-rich got richer in the past year. The stock market is up over 15%, which is probably where many of these rich folks have their money.

Incidentally, the article suggested that the value of the Forbes 400's wealth had actually declined in the two previous years. Does that make everyone feel a little better?
posted by Durwood at 12:56 PM on September 19, 2003


Meanwhile, minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1997.

One of the best suggestions I've heard is that the minimum age shouldn't be a fixed number, but a percentage of the average wage, which would be adjusted each year. So as the average wage goes up so does the minimum wage, plus business wouldn't be burdened with a big hike with the minimum wage every five years or so, it would be more gradual. Then instead of debating what amount minimum wage should be, we could debate what percentage. Arr.
posted by bobo123 at 1:02 PM on September 19, 2003


I'd say minimum wage should at least increase by as much as inflation, wouldn't you?

(snicker, chortle)

No. In fact, I'd say minimum wage laws should be repealed. Comparing the Forbes 400 to minimum-wage earners is apples & oranges -- the two have little, if anything, to do with each other.
posted by davidmsc at 1:02 PM on September 19, 2003


I'd say minimum wage should at least increase by as much as inflation, wouldn't you?

Exactly. Governments try very hard to give their employees a 3% (average historic inflation) cost of living increase every year. (I didn't get one this year, but it's a very off year). For those that make minimum wage and haven't received a raise in 5 years, things are going to be quite difficult.

Think of it this way. Min wage is currently $5.15, right? So at 40 hours a week for 50 weeks (many hourly workers do not receive paid vacation) that's a gross income of $10,300 per year.

Adjusting for inflation between 1997 and 2002, in order for them to have stayed on equal footing with where min wage was when it was last raised, they would need to now earn $11,375.45, which is roughly 10.44% higher or $5.69 per hour.

So what are the arguments against raising it?
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:04 PM on September 19, 2003


I dunno, are you implying that $5.00 an hour is a livable wage, fully enough to be able to support yourself and possibly an offspring?

No, I am not implying that. I *know* that $5.15/hour is not "fully" enough to be able to support "yourself and...and offspring." Nor do I believe that the concept of "livable wage" is worth dignifying or arguing against, because it is a meaningless phrase used by people who usually simply want to take money from other people, via the government.

Which is why people should either: (a) not get into a position of having to try to support themself and a family on minimum wage, or (b) work hard to improve his/her lot in life, via said hard work, education, training, etc.
posted by davidmsc at 1:07 PM on September 19, 2003


I'd say minimum wage should at least increase by as much as inflation, wouldn't you?

Because that would keep the purchasing power of minimum-wage employees constant? Not likely-- a percentage of those employees would begin earning $0.00/hour. Anyone know what the likely net effect on total $ in play would be for a given increase in the minimum wage?

And are we supposed to be shocked by the rich getting richer? They have billions of dollars in savings. Even if you have one measley billion and you leave it in a money market account earning 1%, you have to spend $10,000,000.01 during the year to have your net worth decrease. Shocking!
posted by yerfatma at 1:08 PM on September 19, 2003


All wealth discrepancies derive solely from differences in merit.

(Somebody had to say it)

AAArrrgh, matey!

(actually kinda ironic, given that the first sentence of this post is true for pirates)
posted by yesster at 1:09 PM on September 19, 2003


If you want a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan, you're barely scraping by with $10,300 a month.

That said, few people actually work for $5.15/hour. States and localities have their own higher minimums, and the market has set the basic unskilled wage a bit higher than minimum in most (though not all) places. It's despicable, though, that a free government can endorse poverty via statute. For the government to condone anything lower than an assistance-free living wage (enough to pay for food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare) is heartless.
posted by PrinceValium at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2003


PV: For the government to condone anything lower than an assistance-free living wage (enough to pay for food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare) is heartless.

How much food? A full seven-course dinner each night? Happy meals every day? What if I want an Atkins-based diet, which will cost more than, say, the Zone diet? What if I'm allergic to milk and bread? Will the program cover steak? Or just the cheapest ground beef available? Will it mandate certain foods - a la the food pyramid?

What kind of clothing? What if my children want to wear a different outfit every day to school? Will we be given enough for one pair of shoes, or seven? What about winter-wear, for people in snowy areas? Will the clothing allowance allow us to purchase bikinis? How about that nice pair of Choos my wife wants? Or will we only get enough to buy clothes at the Salvation Army?

How large a shelter? Large kitchen? Or just a kitchenette? Will we be able to buy the dwelling? What if we want a room with a view? Does each child get his/her own room? What about air-conditioning? What if we want to live in a really ritzy area - will the "minimum wage" cover that, too? What about the lawn - we want a really big backyard, too.

How much healthcare? Does it have to be HMO-style? Mandated exercise, or risk losing coverage? Will it be enough to buy all the medicine that I need (or want)? Generic only? A full gym and spa, to ensure optimal health (cheaper in the long run!)? Or only "doc-in-a-box" healthcare for urgent things? Will our chiropractic/herbal supplements/high-colonics be covered, too?
posted by davidmsc at 1:23 PM on September 19, 2003


If the government is truly representative, then it should care about both those above and below the poverty statute. Its not a question of morality, or work ethic, but of representation.

Fortunately or unfortunately, representation has come to mean representation of financial interests rather than representation of voting interests. Even the unions have less power these days.

The point about the wealthy getting wealthier vs. the non-growth of minimum wage is not a question of apples vs. oranges -- one has not necessarily profited off the backs of the other, but rather of representation. One simply doesn't vote, is discouraged when they try to vote, and doesn't have the means (even when they try to vote) to fully gain representation. The other, well, the other is clearly represented fully by our president.
posted by zia at 1:29 PM on September 19, 2003


3% (average historic inflation)

Not to be any more of a dick than usual, but can you provide a source for that figure, Ufez?
posted by yerfatma at 1:32 PM on September 19, 2003


Nor do I believe that the concept of "livable wage" is worth dignifying or arguing against, because it is a meaningless phrase used by people who usually simply want to take money from other people, via the government.

Those greedy greedy poor people are trying to steal all the money! How dare they?

Minimum wage is a necessary component to the regulation of labor within a market. Minimum wage laws aren't a communist plot, they are an attempt to place a bottom threshold on the value of labor. Of course, in the modern economy minimum wages don't mean much. Today large companies will use off-shore workers while small businesses use illegal immigrants and the government isn't very interested in slowing that profitable trend.

I'm hungover, barely through my second cup of coffee, but something has been brewing in my head these past few years: There is a class-war happening. It isn't a class war against the rich by the poor, as is classically thought, the rich are trying to further exploit the poor.

It's an interesting thing to see the poor called greedy, or "lucky duckies" because they don't pay "their share" in taxes. It's interesting to see people who are poor themselves, side with the wealthy and push ideas like school vouchers, which would destroy the public school system and leave the poorest children far behind, or the estate tax, which applies to a tiny minority of wealthy tax payers.

The poor get poorer and the rich get richer, it's just a fact of life - yeah right. We all live in this country together and together, rich and poor this country can become great. Instead the wealth moves it's resources offshore to avoid having to share any of it while hiding behind gated communities and profiting off war, environmental degradation, exploitation and fraud. A poor man makes money to feed a family, a rich man just accumulates wealth in order to accumulate more wealth.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:40 PM on September 19, 2003


We're looking at raising the minimum wage here in Wisconsin. A recent study whose findings suggest that it should be raised is here.

I can't say that I know very much about the issue, but I think that the point of contrasting increases in executive pay with decreases (adjusted for inflation) in the minimum wage is to suggest that an increase in the minimum wage wouldn't bankrupt these guys. It would just cause a slight shift in priority.

This, however, is predicated on a belief that there should be a minimum wage. The question of whether or not there should be a minimum amount you can pay someone to swab the poop deck is an entirely different matter and comes simply down to what kind of society we want to live in.

davidmsc, I don't know how an average person works their way out of poverty on $5.15 an hour. It's even harder to imagine how one could on much less. When full-time work doesn't provide a roof over one's head or enough food to stay healthy, it's difficult to imagine even charting much less staying on a course of adult education or any other kind of self improvement. Staying alive is about all I'd have time for in that situation.

I believe in hard work and, therefore, concept of a "livable wage". If you work, you should be able to live. It's as simple as that.
posted by originalname37 at 1:45 PM on September 19, 2003


Not to be any more of a dick than usual, but can you provide a source for that figure, Ufez?

Sure, fatma. 3% is the figure commonly used in Economics and Finance classes as the historic interest rate. My google-fu only found this page as the first non-.pdf citation of it. Most searches will turn this up though.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:49 PM on September 19, 2003


Governments try very hard to give their employees a 3% (average historic inflation) cost of living increase every year.

It's not as hard as you think, when you consider that governments in essence write their own paychecks.

It's also a bit silly since the CPI has been below +3% for 8 of the past 10 years.
posted by clevershark at 1:50 PM on September 19, 2003


It's not as hard as you think, when you consider that governments in essence write their own paychecks.

That may be true, especially for the Federal Gov't, but local governments are vastly different. Here in my County we're required to have a balanced budget. There are rather creative ways to get out of a big defecit (like a bond or something) but when you've got a very fiscally conservative congress/senate/council/board of commissioners, it's a vastly different story. We've had a very difficult time with a big budget defecit this year and requested that all departments come up with a way to either reduce expenses by 10% or increase revenues by 10%. There have been quite a few jobs cut (most of which were filled) and there will be no raise this year.

It's also a bit silly since the CPI has been below +3% for 8 of the past 10 years.

Which captures one of the largest economic booms we've seen since the industrial age. In Economics classes you attempt to look at things under the most 'normal' circumstances possible by taking out factors like that, which is why you look far beyond the past 10 years.

/local gov't budget analyst.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:59 PM on September 19, 2003


Furthermore, clevershark, it's probably wisest for gov'ts to aim for a 3% a year due to the fact that when they can most afford it, the CPI is relatively steady, but when they can least afford it, the CPI is usually rising at a higher rate. It's a good average taking in both good times and bad, so ideally it will all balance out in the long run.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:06 PM on September 19, 2003


Most searches will turn this up though.

Which doesn't necessarily make it true. I've made it my business to ignore economics as much as possible since graduating with a degree in it, but when I left there was some discussion of true inflation rates being a good deal lower than that. However, they may have been talking over a much longer period of time (or in a certain school of analysis). The chart here suggests a recent average around your figure.
posted by yerfatma at 3:08 PM on September 19, 2003


Dodge issues much, DavidMSC?

Oh, and how does one go about improving one's lot in life when you're working two 25-hou-per-weekjobs (any more and they have to give you insurance) just to keep from losing your car, and thus your jobs?
posted by notsnot at 4:06 PM on September 19, 2003


No, I am not implying that. I *know* that $5.15/hour is not "fully" enough to be able to support "yourself and...and offspring." Nor do I believe that the concept of "livable wage" is worth dignifying or arguing against, because it is a meaningless phrase used by people who usually simply want to take money from other people, via the government.

Which is why people should either: (a) not get into a position of having to try to support themself and a family on minimum wage, or (b) work hard to improve his/her lot in life, via said hard work, education, training, etc.


Hey Davidmc. Fuck you.

Fuck you and everyone else who makes stupid comments such as yours.

Of course people shouldn't get into a positon of having to support themselves and their family on minimum wage. That being said, how does one protect oneself from layoffs? No matter how hard one works, when the layoff comes, it's there. And in the job market today, it's very, very hard to find a job, much less a decent job.

And work hard? Once again. FUCK YOU. Jesus, how many unemployed/underemployed people work/worked their asses off only to find themselves out on the street? Obviously not a special person such as yourself, but I can speak from experience here. I've got an MBA and am currently working on another masters degree. I've got huge expierence in a number of different fields. My wife graduated with honors and yet we're both unemployed. Can't find a real job. Best I've been able to do was a part time liquor store job.

You suck. You suck massively. I hate you and everyone like you.

Did I say fuck you yet? Just in case I didn't. FUCK YOU.
posted by damnitkage at 5:28 PM on September 19, 2003


I've been noticing something similar to by elwoodwiles. It reminds me of the situation in antebellum America. We've got a large middle and lower class that's defending the rights of the upper class to exploit the lowest classes because they believe that someday they too might be able to benefit from this exploitation. This looting of the collective wealth of America for the benefit of the top percentage is adding to growing income disparity between Americans.

America loves a success story, and everyone wants to believe that all it takes is hard work to succeed. However the vast majority of us middle class or better Americans started that way. Davidmsc might disagree, but I think that the answers to all of those questions shouldn't be none just because they are difficult questions.

Income inequity is the basis of most of our social problems. I ask my middle class friends if they'd ever consider robbing a bank. Hell I ask you, "Would you consider robbing a bank." Most say that they wouldn't, as I hope you did mentally, "no." When I ask why the answer is always some variation of, "I've got to much to lose". Obviously there are people out there who's lives are so worthless to them it makes it's worth taking that risk. How about we start addressing this problem by raising the minimum standard of living to one that exceeds the average standard of living inside our prisons.

I love how much pure greed pours out of some mouths when this topic comes up. Davidmsc, you don't feel evil arguing against a minimum standard of living just so that you can buy more things than those who weren't born into your situation? I'm no communist but even that arrogance sickens me.
posted by betaray at 5:32 PM on September 19, 2003


Upon further review...

I wish to say again how much I loathe people with a mindset like Davidmsc.

I'm pissed. Needless to say. Hey Dave, where are you?

Just curious....
posted by damnitkage at 5:48 PM on September 19, 2003


Did I say fuck you yet? Just in case I didn't. FUCK YOU.

Gee and I wonder why conservatives don't feel welcome at MeFi. I think one has to weigh the pros/cons of raising or even having a minimum wage, the ability of one to support themselves v. the possibility of any job loss due to a raise in the minimum wage. It doesn't do us any good if, by raising the minimum wage to ~$10, for example, that businesses decide to fire half of their workers. People always seem to pit the very rich against the very poor but I'm more concerned about the effect raising the minimum wage would have on small business owners. They'd be much less able to painlessly absorb a mandated raise in wages than someone like Wal-Mart.
posted by gyc at 6:23 PM on September 19, 2003


I'm pissed. Needless to say. Hey Dave, where are you?

He's probably being polite and letting you blow off steam at his expense without responding. So calm down. I'm sorry things have worked out the way they have. It's not his fault. Unless he's off twirling his moustache over a woman he just tied to the railroad tracks.

People die of cancer. Doesn't mean we should stop talking about it.
posted by yerfatma at 6:24 PM on September 19, 2003


Which is why people should either: (a) not get into a position of having to try to support themself and a family on minimum wage, or (b) work hard to improve his/her lot in life, via said hard work, education, training, etc.
posted by davidmsc


You know, part of me really thinks that you're just trolling...and that to respond to you is just giving you more ammunition so you can stroke yourself some more in public...but sheesh, I just can't resist.

So...following your logic, abortion should be mandatory for poor people. In fact, sterilization should probably be mandated if they show no potential for crawling up the social ladder to your deemed platform of acceptance. I mean, after all...who wants more of those icky poor people around to remind you how lucky you are to live a privileged life in the richest country in the world.

I mean, since 1 in 6 American kids goes to bed hungry...wouldn't it be just easier to round them all up and send them somewhere...work camps or poor houses or something. I mean, it's obviously their fault...let's punish them for it.

Personal anecdote...I have lots of education...lots and lots. I have an exceptional amount of experience in my field. I have a work history, resume and referrals list that is just short of astounding. I haven't been able to find a job in 18 months. Why? Because companies want me to work for less than what it would cost to put my baby in daycare. Because they can get cheaper labor (not better mind you...but cheaper) from countries where English is not the primary language.

I've worked hard since I was 15. I put myself through college and graduate school. I got certified and trained in every conceivable aspect of my career. I still got laid off...like most of the people in my neighborhood.

So, I suggest to you that your views are those of someone who is so privileged that they don't even realize the disaster happening outside their pretty white-bread picket-fence little world. But hey, that "let them eat cake" trick worked really well for the aristocracy before...I'm sure it's good for one more round.
posted by dejah420 at 6:30 PM on September 19, 2003


It doesn't do us any good if, by raising the minimum wage to ~$10, for example, that businesses decide to fire half of their workers.

Any data to back that up?
If not, I got some.

Unemployment Rates in the Clinton years:
Sept. 1993: 6.4% Minimum wage at $4.15
Sept. 1994: 5.6%
Sept. 1995: 5.4%
Sept. 1996: 5.0% Minimum wage increased to $4.75
Sept. 1997: 4.7% Minimum wage increased to $5.15
Sept. 1998: 4.4%
Sept. 1999: 4.1%
Sept. 2000: 3.8%
(via BLS)
posted by PrinceValium at 6:41 PM on September 19, 2003


gyc: btw, that laying off jobs things is a temporary problem, but it's also a symptom of an ethical problem we have to address: We've established fair labor laws in our country. Why do we allow businesses to profit from unacceptable labor conditions abroad? Walmart is the perfect example. The Walton family made a fortune profiting from the unfair labor conditions in other countries. Walmart's constant price rollbacks are not Walmart decreasing their margins, it's their suppliers finding cheaper labor. Global inequities in pay and labor conditions are what are costing American jobs. We can't accept lowering our standards to try to reclaim jobs, we must work to raise standards everywhere thus creating jobs everywhere.

I'm optimistic. I believe that in the long run labor prices will stabilize globally as living conditions equalize. The only question is how long we'll allow profiteering to slow us down. I can only imagine what we'd be accomplishing if we had a global economy with the production of the present first world economy.
posted by betaray at 7:22 PM on September 19, 2003


Well, I was thinking what damitkage actually said, but I generally have better impulse control these days, and would have said something like what dejah420 said, but she already did, so I won't.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:22 PM on September 19, 2003


Any data to back that up?

Yup. Draw a simple supply-and-demand graph. Draw a line from the meeting point of the lines to the left and call that point $5.15. Now go up to where you think $6.00 would be and draw a line back through the X. See the difference between where the lines meet the supply (going up) line? Those are all people you just laid off. So before you start in on how unfeeling we lot are, think about the real people, some of whom have wives and even kids, the very just increase of the minimum wage put out of a job.
posted by yerfatma at 8:39 PM on September 19, 2003


I don't know how an average person works their way out of poverty on $5.15 an hour.

And yet millions of Americans have done just that.
posted by davidmsc at 8:53 PM on September 19, 2003


I was an economics major, yerfatma. I've seen the graph. But that's a textbook, and this is real life, where supply and demand curves have too many variables to plot with any degree of precision. Your generalization exists only in classrooms and is simply not applicable to a highly regulated, complex economy.

There was some research conducted by some academics who advised the labor department under Clinton, around the time of the most recent federal minimum wage hike. Their findings are published in Card and Kreuger, Myth and Measurement, 1997. Here's some data from their findings and for good measure, a critical analysis by the Cato Institute.

davidmsc: Millions? You're full of crap.
posted by PrinceValium at 9:07 PM on September 19, 2003


damnitkage: Hey Davidmc. Fuck you. Fuck you and everyone else who makes stupid comments such as yours...You suck. You suck massively. I hate you and everyone like you. Did I say fuck you yet? Just in case I didn't. FUCK YOU.

Huh...and isn't it funny how us "conservative/objectivist/republican" types are stereotyped as cruel, despicable, and mean...?

Better idea, damnitkage: screw you. Not once did I launch a personal attack on any user or person; I was merely pointing out that, unlike pie-in-the-sky "progressives," responsible adults and elected officials have to actually THINK about things like "how to provide - or *should* we provide - some sort of living wage." Sure, it sounds wonderful to say that everyone should have a decent shelter, enough food to live on, a decent pair of clothes, health insurance, and hey, why not a nice car to boot...but someone with a mindset like YOURS, you freaking moron, doesn't stop to think about WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM? And, as I pointed out above, WHO gets to decide what a "living wage" will encompass?

The government can not "create" wealth out of thin air, and the government can't mandate a blanket "acceptable minimum lifestyle" for every person without determining what constitutes a living wage, or how to pay for it.

Platitudes are wonderful to spout -- "everyone should be paid a living wage!" or "Won't somebody think of the children who go to bed hungry!" -- but short of literal armed theft of the productive citizenry, it simply can't be done. And even if it did happen, it couldn't last very long.
posted by davidmsc at 9:10 PM on September 19, 2003


PV: davidmsc: Millions? You're full of crap.

I dunno...think about literally how many people have started off as teenagers working at McD, or in retail sales, or waiting tables, since the institution of the minimum wage, and then "grown up" and become regular middle-class folks earning a decent living. It sounds reasonable to me.
posted by davidmsc at 9:14 PM on September 19, 2003


Republican Dave? I never would have guessed.

It's not the politics of the matter davey, it's your attitude. It's your implication that those of us without jobs at this moment are somehow less educated, less hard working and less deserving.

I was a middle class folk, earning a decent living. However now, I do work retail as that's the only job I can find. And don't give me any bullshit about education or working harder or trying harder, etc. I worked my ass off both at work and at school, as did my wife. I'm sure we worked with scumbags like yourself.

I guess that since we have to work retail now, that we're just not all grown up like "middle-class" swells.

You'll get yours david. When you do, I hope that it's really nasty.
posted by damnitkage at 10:10 PM on September 19, 2003


No, damnitkage, it's not my attitude. It's called reality. I don't think that people without jobs at this moment are "less educated, less hard-working, (or) less deserving." And retail sales are just fine by me -- I've done it, my wife has, my oldest child has, many friends have done it. That doesn't change the fact that for many young people, it often is the first job that they have, and the pay is often at the lower end of the pay scale. I did not mean to imply that "retail sales" are somehow inferior jobs, and I'm sorry that I wasn't more clear about it.

Life is not perfect - and nothing is guaranteed. I understand that circumstances beyond our control can have unpredictable and negative consequences. It's not necessarily fair, or "just," but it is reality. And I'm all for government providing temporary assistance to people who are caught up short due to no fault of their own. This debate, however, is not about "temporary" assistance - it was about pitting rich against poor, the 400 richest people against the millions of people who aren't rich. That was the set-up for this thread. And the minimum wage discussion followed from there, with me articulating why I don't think a "living wage" law would be moral or defensible or practical.

But then -- you insist on childish name-calling, vapid insults, sneering bitterness, and wishing some "nasty" things upon me. OK, I'll stoop to your level: You're a complete, total, fucking waste of space. And a mean person, to boot.

There. Feel better that I'm thinking like you, now?
posted by davidmsc at 10:21 PM on September 19, 2003


Who makes minimum wage anyway?
Skills pay the bills.
posted by lightweight at 10:36 PM on September 19, 2003


lightweight: Skills pay the bills.

Huh. Don't tell that to damnitkage - he's got the skills (MBA), but can't find The Perfect Job, which means that society is evil, Republicans and conservatives are out to "get him", and the universe is malevolent. Maybe it's his tendency to tell people he disagrees with to FUCK OFF.
posted by davidmsc at 10:47 PM on September 19, 2003


Arrrrrr - an MBA is a vacation.
posted by lightweight at 11:14 PM on September 19, 2003


someone with a mindset like YOURS, you freaking moron, doesn't stop to think about WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM?

Umm... that was why the gap between the richest and the poorest was pointed out: because it's obvious that those with all that capital could in fact afford to be paying the labor that moves their enterprises a better wage.

but short of literal armed theft of the productive citizenry, it simply can't be done.

No, it can. The thing you have to make a choice between is what you let fall by the wayside: (a) laborers who can lead marginal but inadequate existences on whatever "the market" will pay them or (b) business models which demand labor performed at inadequate wages.

Not that I think that raising the minimum wage would demand that many of our modern corporations go out of business. For example, a business that cut someone like Dick Grasso's compensation to a paltry $50 million per year could easily afford give 10000 workers a $10000 per year boost. It's ridiculous to speculate modern businesses might not be able to give their labor force better than $8/hr while their upper managment are often rolling in seven or more figures.
posted by namespan at 11:18 PM on September 19, 2003


And this:

Who makes minimum wage anyway? Skills pay the bills.

I agree with the basic principle that everyone should make a directed persistent effort to acquire marketable skills in the form of education/experience, and they should be thinking about it by their mid teens, as well as thinking about savings. I did this. I make a living wage by just about any standards except NYC and SF bay area.

However, there are simply so many ways you can end up as an adult in society without the proper skills/experience that earn you an income that can support you or any dependants you may have. Automation or changing industry patterns may eliminate the jobs you've trained for. A married woman who has spent years out of the workforce raising children may find herself divorced or widowed with out of date skills. Health problems can similarly knock you off of your career track. And once you're there, it's easy to imagine that you're unable to sell your time at a rate that leaves over enough to acquire new skills, unless the minimum wage somehow accounts for that.

I've been far too close to that situation by two of the above scenarious I described.
posted by namespan at 11:31 PM on September 19, 2003


It's ridiculous to speculate modern businesses might not be able to give their labor force better than $8/hr while their upper managment are often rolling in seven or more figures.


But the point is that most businesses today are small businesses, not your big evil Wal-Mart-type businesses, and these small businesses are the ones that *will* feel the effect from a raise in minimum wages.
posted by gyc at 11:36 PM on September 19, 2003


For example, a business that cut someone like Dick Grasso's compensation to a paltry $50 million per year could easily afford give 10000 workers a $10000 per year boost. It's ridiculous to speculate modern businesses might not be able to give their labor force better than $8/hr while their upper managment are often rolling in seven or more figures.

That's true. Large companies CAN do that. I just don't think that they should be FORCED to do that by the government.
posted by davidmsc at 11:47 PM on September 19, 2003


Funny the government offers starting wages significantly over the minimum.
posted by lightweight at 11:50 PM on September 19, 2003


That's true, lightweight, but government wages are also "capped" in most (all, to some degree) cases...nobody is going to be rich solely on a government salary. Comfortable, yes, but civil-service employees (Congress, judges, clerks, etc) hardly epitomize "wealthy."
posted by davidmsc at 12:44 AM on September 20, 2003


I don't think you're dealing with reality, David. The words you say sound real nice in a textbook, but their theory doesn't exactly match what really goes on in this world.

The wage system can not be purely market driven. A capitalist market economy demands two similarly-powerful players: the consumer, who will only pay so much; and the seller, who will only accept so little. Imbalance on either side drives the price up or down according to need.

At a certain point in the wage scale, one can not afford the time/cost to become better educated and can not afford to quit to look for another job. This thwarts the market-driven system: if a worker is not free to shop for a new job, half the market equation is destroyed.

The textbook theory you parrot doesn't accomodate reality. In reality, as prices (wages) drop, the seller (of labour) is not in any position to refuse to sell. Rock-bottom is the destination. Government intervention in the form of minimum-pricing is required to restore a balance of similar powers.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:44 AM on September 20, 2003


fff: out of curiousity -- if I accept your theory, then where do you think that the "minimum wage" should be set? Many people in this thread seem to think that it should raised - some to a "livable wage" level -- but what would you (or anyone else in this thread) deem acceptable as a minimum wage?
posted by davidmsc at 12:47 AM on September 20, 2003


Bravo.

Let it be known that on September 20, 2003, voices were raised on MetaFilter, on behalf of the Rich, in the face of the deepening misery of poor working people (stereotyped so very wonderfully and thoughtfully as "people who usually simply want to take money from other people, via the government".)

How nonjudgmental. How unusual. How caring. How warm. How spiritual. How uplifting. How selfless. How helpful. How understanding. How ethical. How Christian...nay, godly in general. How courageous. How humane. How true to the better angels of our nature.

Bravo. Bravo.

You have to love the rich and their toadies. Love them for their hearts of....gold.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:00 AM on September 20, 2003


Davidmsc, I'm sure a lot of people have worked hard to improve his/her lot in life, via said hard work, education, training, etc. and found their way out of the horror of minimum wage in order to build a better life for themselves and their family.

I doubt any of them got $188,000,000.00 when they retired though. Actually, I doubt even 188 of them got a million.

F_and_m, nice post.
posted by fullerine at 3:08 AM on September 20, 2003


In reality, as prices (wages) drop, the seller (of labour) is not in any position to refuse to sell. Rock-bottom is the destination.

I take your point and I think it's a good one. I would however point out it's not entirely accurate: for anyone, there is a wage low enough that they are better off spending their time continuing to look for a job. Especially given there is a social safety net, however inefficient, that will (hopefully) provide them sustinence and shelter while they do so. Of course, there is a cost to that in time spent filling out forms, standing in line, etc.

fold_and_mutilate, copy and paste this thread into your favorite text editor. Remove all the coments you disagree with. Is that the discussion you would prefer to have? That'd make for some web site. I will defend the Rich not at all. I've been a "poor working [person]." I am not today because of an education paid for in large part by my mother's salary, a result of her Union activities. None of this means I can't have an opinion different from yours, and that difference of opinion doesn't mean I'm ignorant, a Tool of the Man.

I do love your stab at Christianity as insensitive; say what you may about organized religion, I don't think someone following the teachings of Christ to the letter would be arguing against the poor. But it's fun to throw that stuff around here where you can get away with it. Enjoy the day. Make sure no one has an opinion contrary to yours.
posted by yerfatma at 4:30 AM on September 20, 2003


I dunno...think about literally how many people have started off as teenagers working at McD, or in retail sales, or waiting tables, since the institution of the minimum wage, and then "grown up" and become regular middle-class folks earning a decent living. It sounds reasonable to me.

Yeah, but we're not talking about someone working their way up from a teenage job that pays minimum wage. We're talking about someone that's well into middle age who can't find a position that pays more than 5.15.

Surely you agree that there is a big difference between a teenager who most likely lives with a parental figure and is not responsible for things like rent, electricity, etc. and a person who very well be a parent themselves expected to provide for themselves and their family on 10-15k a year.
posted by bshort at 8:41 AM on September 20, 2003


But the point is that most businesses today are small businesses, not your big evil Wal-Mart-type businesses, and these small businesses are the ones that *will* feel the effect from a raise in minimum wages.

No, they're already wiped out by Wal-Mart. ; )

Seriously, I tend to stand by my above statement: businesses that can't pay a living wage are a model we don't want to keep. Small or large, if the business model requires the trading of time/labor for inadequate compensation, then it should be phased out.

What I am sympathetic to, though, is the idea that "adequate" really can vary between, as bshort observed, different phases of life. I remember working in a store for $3 per hour in the mid 80s and thinking I was doing just fine: my parents paid for food, rent, etc, and I saved/spent that money as a I pleased. So in a sense, that job was really an opportunity for me. And it was for most of the other labor, 80% of which was probably under 21. But there were a few adults who applied to work there, and a few that did, and you knew by looking at them that there wages weren't near enough.

Maybe there are some businesses that should be allowed to operate on below living wage for some period of time -- maybe there are some legitimate models that either need time to ramp up or that can operate just fine as first-time opportunities for laborers. But in the former case, why can't capital assume the risk of the ramp-up loses, just like they do in a thousand other situations? And in the later case, how can you tell the difference? It seems to me, if you're going to make a mistake, if you err on the side of higher wages, the worst thing that happens is that you lose business models that offer an inadequate wage for most people and end up paying extra money to the few for whom it is adequate. And as is so often pointed out by our supply-side friends, that extra money doesn't disappear -- very likely it will be spent on goods and services, which in theory should stimulate growth, greater revenues, which in turn could be spent on better wages for labor.

Of course,said overpaid labor would probably just buy more of the Brittney-du-jour and subsidize the RIAA, so maybe I take it back.
posted by namespan at 9:23 AM on September 20, 2003


I dunno...think about literally how many people have started off as teenagers working at McD, or in retail sales, or waiting tables, since the institution of the minimum wage, and then "grown up" and become regular middle-class folks earning a decent living. It sounds reasonable to me.

I think it was clear from my earlier comment that I wasn't talking about teenagers who happen to make minimum wage while living under their parents' roof and eating their food (I was one of those myself). I was talking about people who actually have to use this money to support themselves.
posted by originalname37 at 12:11 PM on September 20, 2003


(sorry for the inadvertent boldfacing)
posted by originalname37 at 3:49 PM on September 20, 2003


fff: out of curiousity -- if I accept your theory, then where do you think that the "minimum wage" should be set? Many people in this thread seem to think that it should raised - some to a "livable wage" level -- but what would you (or anyone else in this thread) deem acceptable as a minimum wage? --posted by davidmsc

I am not an economist, but I see the homeless everyday...many of them have jobs. I volunteer to work with the kids whose parents would otherwise have to leave them under bridges and in cars while they're at work. There are lots of them. In my city alone, there are 1200+ working parents who can't afford housing.

So, since you've indirectly touted your uber-economic skills by suggesting that the minimum wage is excessive or even unnecessary...how do you suggest that we protect workers from exploitation? What solutions do you have for the hungry kids? Where should the working parents who can't afford housing sleep? Really...if my solution of raising the wages is unworkable...what's your solution?
posted by dejah420 at 8:58 PM on September 20, 2003


davidmsc would probably say, dejah420, that they're going to just have to make it on their own.

If that means forming a union?

Well then, davidmsc would say, it's in the corporation's interest to stay competitive. What's a corporation with poweful lobbyists to do these days?

What davidmsc is saying is: Deal with it.

But then if we do, then we're forming a union. That's not good. Way too Marxist and shit. Crushed again. Over and over and over.

I think someone may have found that long sought after perpetual motion machine.
posted by crasspastor at 11:07 PM on September 20, 2003



Here's my take...everyone in this country legally...is entitled to take part in the economy. Every capable, working American should be paid a wage that allows them to support themselves without seeking aid from the government.

The fact that there are hungry in America...the fact that there are homeless in America should be anathema to all tax payers, all citizens and all members of our society. How absurd is it that we have working mothers living under bridges...and yet we can subsidize Iraqi health care? What. The. Fuck? I have watched people die slow painful deaths because they didn't qualify for health benefits. The stories I could tell you about what the children of the homeless have endured would curl your toes and keep you from sleeping at night.

Our first responsibility should be to our own people. Not the almighty dollar...not the sociopolitical goals of the East Coast riche...to our own people. Fuck Egypt...fuck Israel...fuck the rest of the world....I'll worry about those people when my people have food and shelter.

It's time to protect and take care of our own. imperialism didn't work for the British empire and it's not going to work for us. Time to step back from the mistakes of the past and try to fix the mistakes of the future.

I find it offensive that we can get worked up about conditions in other countries, but ignore the vets begging on the streets. I find it abhorrent that the current administration would cut benefits to the wives and children of the men serving in this current pointless neocon testosterone show.

I think it's despicable that one of my friends...an Army wife....is currently sitting in an ICU unit with her 8 month old baby...after the hospital has said they'll turn the lifesaving units off on Monday if she can't find the cash to keep them running....because the unit just doesn't have the funding to keep the baby there.

So, little American Chelsea should die from a spider bite while her father serves in Iraq...but we should subsidize Iraqi health care.

Frankly, I could give a fuck about the rest of the world...I want my tax dollars spent on American citizens. I want tax loopholes that make offshoring attractive to be closed. I want tax loopholes that make hiring contractors instead of employees closed.

I want excessive levies on imported products. If those levies are too expensive...well then by god, ramp up American manufacturing again.

Fuck the world...I want a good country. Fuck the Iraqis...I want Chelsea to live more than 27 more hours. I can fix the world later.

But mostly...I want Chelsea to live once the Army has to turn off her repsirator in 27 hours because they don't have the funding to keep a grunt's kid, who was bitten by a creature on base, alive.
posted by dejah420 at 1:41 AM on September 21, 2003


dejah420:

You're wrong because you have a heart.
posted by crasspastor at 2:04 AM on September 21, 2003


Damn straight, dejah.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2003


I feel poorly in my bitterness when dejah's friend has such real problems.

Dejah, may your friend have the karma gods on her side.
posted by damnitkage at 11:47 AM on September 21, 2003


davidmc: You seem to be under the impression that making the rich employers pay their poorest employees more would be stealing from the rich. However, it's only because the rich employers are in a position of power that they are able to take advantage of the poorest by paying them so little. The emplyers don't usually have all of their money because they earned it; they have it because they already had enough money (possibly by earning it earlier, usually by starting a leg or three up) to have the leverage to take advantage of others. A minimum wage is one way of balancing out that injustice.
posted by callmejay at 9:53 AM on September 22, 2003


Amen Dejah.

How's that little girl? It's been over 24 hours...
posted by starscream at 1:48 PM on September 23, 2003


« Older The Gooberstory......  |  Eyes Hurt?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments