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February 2, 2004 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Minimum wage is San Fransisco is now $8.50. Minimum wage in New York City is $5.15 per hour. Minimum wages from around the United States.
posted by the fire you left me (125 comments total)

 
How's this for a great idea? Let's just raise minimum wage to...oh...how about $50 per hour? No, wait...we should make it $100 per hour.

Then EVERYBODY will have plenty of money!

(Countdown to proponents of "Living Wage"...in...3...2...1...)
posted by davidmsc at 9:20 PM on February 2, 2004


How about we raise it so that it meets even the barest minimum for a roof over your head and enough food not to starve? (it's not doing that now in most big cities)
posted by amberglow at 9:23 PM on February 2, 2004


Hah! A reductio ad absurdum, eh?

But seriously, isn't a minimum wage effectively a tax on employers to redistribute income to the very poorest workers? Almost all democracies have taxation/welfare systems that redistribute and I see minimum wage as a comparitively unbureaucratic way of doing that. I am very sure that $50 per hour wouldn't work, but I don't doubt there's a sweet spot where it does more harm than good.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:31 PM on February 2, 2004


No, try this link for the minimum wages across the United States.

I do support the concept of the minimum wage, but only as a means for one person, without any dependents, to subsist on their own after working 40 hours a week. Ehrenrich was able to subsist, in that she was able to find a place to sleep that wasn't a shelter (although it isn't the best of places), was able to feed herself (Ehrenrich could have used all the resources available, including food co-ops, generic brands, and going vegetarian), and was able to get to work (bicycles are inexpensive at thrift shops, and most bus passes in small towns cost $50 or less a month). And at $5.15 an hour, you can qualify for Medicaid and food stamps. It is miserable, but it's not supposed to be fun to survive on the minimum wage.
posted by calwatch at 9:33 PM on February 2, 2004


Somehow Davidmsc managed to combine a false dichotomy, a reductio ad absurdum, and a straw man argument into a concise little troll. Brevity is the soul of (t)wit.
posted by Hildago at 9:48 PM on February 2, 2004


Heh. Tell me more, Hildago...tell me more. Seriously -- we've seen this "livable wage" threads before -- we all know where this is going, so I'll just ask one question before it devolves too much -- and I'm asking in all seriousness:

How much should government-mandated "minimum wage" be?
posted by davidmsc at 9:51 PM on February 2, 2004


has any one stopped to consider that maybe not all jobs warrant a livable wage?

i mean, maybe what you are doing simply isn't worth all the food clothing rent electricity etc etc that people have come to take as the 'necessities' of life?

no to be calloused, but labor is a production resources as much as pig iron and electricity and should subjected to supply and demand.

raising minimum wage beyond what a market can absorb will cut available jobs in the short run, and eat your gains through inflation in the long run. For every bit you try and take - reality will steal back. It wont be cheated.

giving everyone a livable wage is a battle you just wont win.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 9:59 PM on February 2, 2004


How about we raise it so that it meets even the barest minimum for a roof over your head and enough food not to starve?

What exactly IS that wage? 20.00/hr? Here's another idea. Learn a trade that demands enough money to put a roof over your head. What a novel concept! Putting the burden back on the individual. That'll never fly.

(it's not doing that now in most big cities)

Then move to a smaller city. I know plenty of people who would love to live in NYC or San Fran but can't afford it. Such is life.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 10:01 PM on February 2, 2004


ps - more good ideas!:

after we've forced employers to pay you what you want to be paid, lets make them give you benefits, smoke breaks, health care, paid vacations and whatever else we can twist from them.....

...then act REAL surprised when jobs start moving over seas.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 10:02 PM on February 2, 2004


david, that's the heart of a reductio ad absurdum ... there is no logically valid universal. You interpret that to be that there is no answer, so there is no practical minimum wage; again ... illogical.

On the flip side of the absurd, let's get rid of the minimum wage. When the poverty stricken rise against the coporate overlords, hunger will be solved. We'll just eat the rich.

ON preview: raising minimum wage beyond what a market can absorb will cut available jobs in the short run

Again we have a falacy. You're building in a falsehood to the argument as if its prima facia. What can the market absorb? Answer that dead serious question and then we have a point for discussion.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:05 PM on February 2, 2004


isn't a minimum wage effectively a tax on employers

Not really. The traditional economics-based criticism of minimum wage law is that it creates incentives for employers to either outsource labor to countries with lower wages, or increase automation. Thus, if you employ 6 people each making $5 an hour, and the minimum wage increases to $6, there is little chance that you will not change anything, suck it up, and pay $36 instead of $30. Instead, as an efficient business, you will find a way to somehow get rid of the sixth person thereby keeping your labor cost constant at $30.

Since the free market will reduce headcount to compensate for the added labor cost, it becomes the government's responsibility to artificially supply the incentive to maintain employment levels. This means the government either has to subsidize the company's tax burden (good old corporate welfare at its finest) or do some WPA-style hiring. Either way, it is an extremely expensive public policy.

That said, a compassionate nation does not always have to adhere to the efficient market. It may very well be good policy for the government to guarantee a living wage at its own expense, in a program similar in scope and progressivism as Social Security. These are questions for lawmakers and politicians. But in any event minimum wage law is not costless.

That said, who actually makes minimum wage? It was my understanding that in most markets the lowest-level retail and custodial jobs have paid a dollar or two above minimum for the last several years.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:06 PM on February 2, 2004



How much should government-mandated "minimum wage" be?


Certainly, it should be more than $5.15 in New York City, I would say at the outset. I believe that was, at least partially, the point of the post. I am not a minimum wage expert, and therefore claim no authority.

And just as there is no single answer to what constitutes a fair minimum wage (as Wulfgar! nicely points out), there is no universal rule that says threads like these have to turn sour. We (well, you) are responsible for dragging them down by our level of discourse.
posted by Hildago at 10:09 PM on February 2, 2004


wulgar - you cannot cheat supply and demand. Every penny will be accounted for. Raising the salary of any position beyond what it would merit without controls will be paid for down the road. It is a zero gain maneuver.

Removing minimum wage entirely - WHY ISN'T THERE A MINIMUM PRICE FOR FLOUR?! Aren't flour producers terrified that people will try to pay them nothing for their flour??

'When the poverty stricken rise against the coporate overlords'

Workers want to work, and employers want to employ them. A balance will be found.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 10:16 PM on February 2, 2004


you cannot cheat supply and demand. Every penny will be accounted for. Raising the salary of any position beyond what it would merit without controls will be paid for down the road. It is a zero gain maneuver.

This sounds kinda neat. What exactly in the hell does it mean? Every penny accounted for? Ask the Pentagon, please. Raising salaries beyond merit? Hello? The name Ken Lay mean anything? Please, platitudes mean nothing. Explain what you mean , with best economy of verbage, if you would. Every word will be accounted for. ;-)
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:22 PM on February 2, 2004


Raising the salary of any position beyond what it would merit without controls will be paid for down the road.

See Lay, Ken.
posted by notsnot at 10:23 PM on February 2, 2004


Workers want to work

Nobody wants to work. That's why they call it "work".
posted by majcher at 10:33 PM on February 2, 2004


I have to admit i don't understand why Ken Lay is being brought into an argument about minimum wage.....

do you really want the platitude explain? Valium did a pretty good job, though left out the contingency in which the employer passes on the price increase to the consumer (inflation) which causes that 'livable wage' of yours to be out dated... which must then be raised... which raises prices... which raises the 'livable wage'.... which....

you get it.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 10:33 PM on February 2, 2004


'It may very well be good policy for the government to guarantee a living wage at its own expense'

the government's expense = the tax payer's expense... lets not hide behind euphemisms.

helping those in need should be a matter of conscience, not compulsion.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 10:42 PM on February 2, 2004


helping those in need should be a matter of conscience, not compulsion.

Whim, you mean, not conscience. That's what it boils down to. Don't you hide behind euphemisms either.
posted by furiousthought at 10:54 PM on February 2, 2004


Basically, San Francisco is saying that if your labor isn't worth $8.50 an hour, it is illegal to work.
posted by kindall at 11:01 PM on February 2, 2004


Advice for farmers: How to lock in a minimum price for flour. (Wheat, actually)
posted by bashos_frog at 11:36 PM on February 2, 2004


I'm sorta curious what Davidmc thinks the minimum wage should be. Seriously.....
posted by Eekacat at 11:40 PM on February 2, 2004


And not just flour - sugar, too.
from the link:
Sugar is one of several commodities protected in the Farm Bill. Some are supported through loan programs, target prices, and deficiency payments along with export enhancement programs or through marketing loans and acreage restrictions. Others have loan programs or guaranteed minimum prices without production or acreage controls.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:41 PM on February 2, 2004


Trypt, did you ever think it might be in the best interest of San Francisco as a city to have a higher minimum wage? If the people that do the crap work in trades that, as Dennis Murphy said, don't "demand enough money to put a roof over your head," the city itself would collapse under it's top-heavy weight. The foundation of any society doesn't start with lawyers, corporate raiders or other assorted asshats. Have you ever see what a garbage strike can do to a city? How about a transit strike? Or a teacher's strike? I'm a-guessin' you aren't a big fan of unions, huh?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:43 PM on February 2, 2004


Here's a Presidential candidate that some of you may appreciate: Millie Howard! Saw her on C-SPAN several weeks ago, during the "Lesser-Known Candidates" forum in N.H. Among her policies is the "birthright stipend:"

"...I believe that a $10,000 Birth Right Stipend for all SOVEREIGN CITIZENS OF THE STATES AND ALL NATURALIZED CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES AS OF 12/31/91 IS EQUITABLE. This would be fiat money requisitioned by the States and issued by the United States Treasury Department and given interest free to American citizens for the purpose of bartering in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ONLY. The Birth Right Stipend would begin in June of our eighteenth year and end at death."
posted by davidmsc at 11:43 PM on February 2, 2004


You know what sucks, in Ontario Canada the minimum wage got raised to $7.15 (up from 6.85) which works out to only $5.35 in U.S. dollars, and this is supposed to be a socialist country.

Instead, as an efficient business, you will find a way to somehow get rid of the sixth person thereby keeping your labor cost constant at $30.

Well maybe if the minimum wage wasn't raised, they'd end up firing that sixth person anyway. Like you're always going to hire as few employees as possible anyway.
posted by bobo123 at 11:44 PM on February 2, 2004


the contingency in which the employer passes on the price increase to the consumer (inflation) which causes that 'livable wage' of yours to be out dated... which must then be raised... which raises prices... which raises the 'livable wage'.... which....

Isn't that predicated on the notion that profit margins are fixed and not flexible? You treat it like a constant rather than a variable.
posted by trondant at 11:57 PM on February 2, 2004


Well maybe if the minimum wage wasn't raised, they'd end up firing that sixth person anyway.

True, but this would happen at a slower pace since the fixed costs of capital would be more expensive relative to the labor cost under a lower wage than a higher wage. At the very least a high minimum wage should leave us concerned about extremely rapid acceleration of the unemployment rate in periods of recession and divestment.

I'm not hiding behind euphemisms. Taxpayers would foot the bill for the minimum wage. This is why we would need to package a living wage system through contributions the same way we package social security and medicare.
posted by PrinceValium at 12:09 AM on February 3, 2004


I'm sorta curious what Davidmc thinks the minimum wage should be. Seriously.....

In theory -- I don't think that there should be any government-mandated minimum wage.

In practice -- I know that's not likely to occur. So my primary concern in any debate about a minimum wage is keeping it low, or at least raising it as slowly as possible.
posted by davidmsc at 12:21 AM on February 3, 2004


The traditional economics-based criticism of minimum wage law is that it creates incentives for employers to either outsource labor to countries with lower wages, or increase automation. Thus, if you employ 6 people each making $5 an hour, and the minimum wage increases to $6, there is little chance that you will not change anything, suck it up, and pay $36 instead of $30. Instead, as an efficient business, you will find a way to somehow get rid of the sixth person thereby keeping your labor cost constant at $30.

If this business were efficient, why wouldn't it make the necessary changes anyway and lower its labor costs to $25? There is always an incentive to cut labor costs through automation, which means that the pool of unemployed will tend to increase, which means that everyone's wages will tend to get depressed, no matter how well-educated they are. Eventually, in the absence of a minimum wage, most of the labor market could be paid very little -- just enough to keep them alive and working. In fact, if calwatch's suggestion gains any traction, corporations will probably start pushing for more government welfare for the working poor, thus subsidizing their labor costs. I disapprove of this -- why should my tax dollars be paying for a working woman's groceries, instead of her employer? -- and the empirical evidence for the minimum wage/lower employment connection is not entirely persuasive, but I am just an ordinary taxpaying citizen, so what do I know?

Has anyone ever noticed that the theoretical ills of an increased minimum wage are quite similar to the theoretical ills of increased automation -- that they create a disincentive for employment, and that they raise barriers to market entry for new businesses? I've never heard a neo-classical economist attack automation like they've attacked the minimum wage. I guess their reasoning is: government intervention is baaad; market-driven structural change is goood; the suffering of millions of poor people is an irrelevant externaaality -- but a convenient trope when trying to score political points.
posted by skoosh at 12:43 AM on February 3, 2004


Just because a market clears at a certain price does not mean that this is the economically optimal price for that good. It has been shown through repeated studies that when the minimum wage is increased, employment among those that receive that wage does not significantly fall. Both the supply and demand curves for low skill workers are relatively flat in the region of the minimum wage. Thus, increasing the minimum wage is a transfer of wealth from corporate profits to poor people. Poor people derive greater utility from money than do those that recieve corporate dividends. Therefore, increasing the minimum wage is economically advantageous.
posted by cameldrv at 12:45 AM on February 3, 2004


do you really want the platitude explain? Valium did a pretty good job, though left out the contingency in which the employer passes on the price increase to the consumer (inflation) which causes that 'livable wage' of yours to be out dated... which must then be raised... which raises prices... which raises the 'livable wage'.... which....

you get it.
That should have been a question, yes?

No. No I really don't "get it". What you've described is two economies, an economy of the rich and an economy of the poor. Example: WalMart has to pay more, and they raise prices, so that those who shop at WalMart for the best prices suddenly have a choice in where they shop, speading wealth and competition for that wealth. Jobs become equitable across the board instead of being coercive for work at low end wage slavery. People make more, so they can afford more, from a variety of resellers, rather than the company store (big box screw machines like WallyWorld). Manufacturers who base pricing on high volume sales to WalMart can all of a sudden ask prices fair to the market, as opposed to being coerced into a lowball return by WalMart's pricing structures. Inflation serves all, instead of serving a few. Meanwhile, high ticket items remain static because the minimum wage doesn't affect them at all. High ticket sellers raise prices based solely on desire for high return (against a free market ideal) and those who can afford such items will vote with their dollars ... so to speak. Sounds like win-win to me.

So, oh wise ones who know the world of trickle down retail, please explain exactly how putting more money in the hands of consumers hurts the economic flow of trade? Unless, of course, your concern is defending the upward flow of capital. In which case I say that I see your bluff and you can kiss my ass.

On Preview, Valium, that is a completely useless strawman, bringing taxpayers to bare as some sort of disincentive. If people make more, then tax revenues increase, yes? You are assuming that employers will cut persons from the tax base to increase profits, and yet the argument from your side is also made that prices will rise. So which is it? Increasing unemployement or higher prices? Either way, it points to the root problem, that a certain select individuals are making too much money for the wrong reasons. Care to argue that? Spread the wealth, and my, what a happy return we shall see.
posted by Wulfgar! at 12:52 AM on February 3, 2004


has any one stopped to consider that maybe not all jobs warrant a livable wage?

I am curious. Who do you expect to do a job like this?

From davidmsc's second link: Doesn't capitalism lead to the lower labor wages? No. Under capitalism ones wages depend on how much one can produce. That is why Michael Jordan -- or a doctor -- gets paid millions of dollars more then the minimum wage. It depends on how well and how much they produce.

Heh. I shall read no further.
posted by moonbiter at 12:56 AM on February 3, 2004


Wages have always been influenced by things external to strict forms of the supply/demand equation.

Not one of you is earning exactly what a perfectly tuned, truly global, free market engine would pay you - your wages are artificially adjusted by all sorts of protections and traditions and momentums and prejudices.

So why, when a relatively benign prejudice attempts to artificially (and mildly) adjust the lowest acceptable working wage, is there so much silly hand-wringing? The economy has been successfully dealing with large-scale supply/demand wage anomalies for pretty-much-fucking-ever.
posted by Opus Dark at 1:36 AM on February 3, 2004


How much should government-mandated "minimum wage" be?

In the midst of some of these diatribes I'd like to indicate that this is not a government mandated raise in minimum wage. It was a proposition passed by the voters of San Francisco. There's a difference.
posted by quadog at 2:03 AM on February 3, 2004


Who in the right mind wants to work, certainly not me. Then again I am glad that I live in the workers paradise that is the EU, with that evil diktat the social chapter. How are we ever going to increase tractor production.
posted by johnnyboy at 3:09 AM on February 3, 2004


It was a proposition passed by the voters of San Francisco

Apparently rendering the "tax-payer" argument sort of irrelevant, since the taxpayers themselves decided to raise the wage - while echoes from the past murmur softly "If these Californians keep doing this, soon the little brown people will also want to live in our streets, date our daughters and go to our schools"
posted by nkyad at 4:39 AM on February 3, 2004


How much should government-mandated "minimum wage" be?

I know! I know! Ask me!

At least one fourth of the wages and benefits Congress pays itself or at least one twentieth of the average CEO's exorbitant salary and benefits.

Anything else is class warfare.

Who wants to be trickled down upon? The assumption that equal opportunity exists for each person to suceed and the poor are "just lazy" are both false. My experience is the more laborious and more dangerous the job, the less it pays.

Blue skies and ivory towers create a scenic view, not a realistic one. For realism visit the alleys and underpasses.
posted by nofundy at 4:47 AM on February 3, 2004


How much should government-mandated "minimum wage" be?

It would have to vary from state to state. In a state like say, Alabama, where housing is cheap, it would be lower than say in New York, where it is not.

Learn a trade that demands enough money to put a roof over your head. What a novel concept! Putting the burden back on the individual. That'll never fly.

For a lot of people, yes that is a good idea. And maybe the government has a part in keeping student loans and job training programs to help people do that. And even skilled trades go through slumps.

Besides, not all people are capable of learning a trade. For some people unskilled labor is the best they can do. But even the guy rolling your burrito at Taco Bell or sweeping floors is putting in an honest days work and deserves to make a decent living at it. I'm not saying that this hypothetical person should be compensated like a brain surgeon, but he should be able to live a dignified life without resorting to desperate measures. Yes, working multiple jobs and the like to keep your family comfortable is admirable and heroic, and both of my parents have done it. But that comes at a price in terms of health and quality of life. And certainly people shouldn't have to do it to meet basic neccessities.

My experience is the more laborious and more dangerous the job, the less it pays.

This is true. I've worked plenty of low-wage service positions. Is there any other reason to keep these jobs so low paying other than that we somehow devalue the people doing them?
posted by jonmc at 5:30 AM on February 3, 2004


I would calculate it for each city/urban area, using average rents, transportation and food costs--then I would mandate a minimum health coverage (either govt. or employer paid, so emergency rooms aren't the only place to go)
posted by amberglow at 5:32 AM on February 3, 2004


No. No I really don't "get it". What you've described is two economies, an economy of the rich and an economy of the poor. Example: WalMart has to pay more, and they raise prices, so that those who shop at WalMart for the best prices suddenly have a choice in where they shop, speading wealth and competition for that wealth. Jobs become equitable across the board instead of being coercive for work at low end wage slavery. People make more, so they can afford more, from a variety of resellers, rather than the company store (big box screw machines like WallyWorld).

Huh? Wal-Mart raising prices (to a point comparable with the smaller retailers where the poor can't afford to shop) means that people have more choice in where they shop? That's one of the most Orwellian newspeakish euphemistic statements I've ever heard.

Meanwhile, high ticket items remain static because the minimum wage doesn't affect them at all. High ticket sellers raise prices based solely on desire for high return (against a free market ideal) and those who can afford such items will vote with their dollars ... so to speak. Sounds like win-win to me.

So a higher minimum wage will result in higher prices for the poor and static prices for the rich? This is win-win?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:19 AM on February 3, 2004


Ever flummoxed by reality, San Franciscans, in order to protect their precious "diversity," actually strike a heavy blow against it.

An $8.50 minimum wage doesn't actually make it possible to live in San Francisco in reasonable circumstances, but forcing merchants to pay such wages will push up prices and discourage small business formation, all making San Francisco all the more unlivable to middle-income families, and add a little more to the flood of sprawl out to Tracy and Solano. For 150 years, San Francisco was a place that people came to get rich -- now it's a place to hang out once you've gotten rich. People who actually want to start businesses and produce need to look elsewhere.
posted by MattD at 7:01 AM on February 3, 2004


Someone explain to me why we want to find reasons to keep people poor? A nation that uplifts every citizen loses how?
posted by archimago at 7:16 AM on February 3, 2004


So, when I now go to McDonald's and order a burger and fries, how much more is that going to cost me? 50% more? Good thing I have that minimum wage increase to help pay for it..
posted by eas98 at 7:18 AM on February 3, 2004


I would bet an increase in minimum wage would increase the cost of a burger and fries by pennies. Given the cost of engineering and marketing a product on that scale, the cost of fungible labor has to be the least of their concerns.

Would anyone seriously argue that American workers were better off before labor laws like minimum wage? It's nice to argue that the workers should be completely free to contract (and to race to the bottom) based on their individual mettle and goals -- maybe some of those McDonald's employees would take an extra quarter an hour in exchange for working on inexpensive, unsafe machines -- except we tried that once, and we wound up with unsafe workplaces and an unhealthy workforce.
posted by subgenius at 7:40 AM on February 3, 2004


Archimago, have you not been paying attention? No matter which side of the fence everyone is on, they certainly all realize that the market is a fragile thing that is easily broken by attempts to make everyone rich. Not everyone can be rich. I doubt that everyone in the world could even live comfortably at a uniform level. The discussion has been about the best way to make a nation optimally prosperous.

Your question is akin to asking, "Can anyone tell me why constant blowjobs are a bad idea?"

A nation that tries to uplift every citizen will break itself through hyper-inflation, overseas job brokering and rampant unemployment/underemployment rates.
posted by jon_kill at 7:46 AM on February 3, 2004


Businesses should be allowed to profit. Businesses, however, should not be allowed to profit by paying wages which are so low they can't even put a roof over the workers' heads. In San Francisco, $800 a month gross (gross!) doesn't even rent you a one-room studio in the ghetto even if you occupy it with another minimum wage worker. Maybe that shit flies in Nebraska, but not around here.

And that $800 is assuming you're permitted 40 hours a week; most minimum wage employers will go to some lengths to prevent that from happening, as it changes the employee's status to full time, and further regulation starts to kick in.

How do all you free market libertarian types propose to prevent exploitation of workers in low-wage positions, if not by regulation? Absent some sort of regulation, isn't the remaining option for workers -- having very weak position to freely negotiate with the employer -- who wish to extract value from the labor market to go into collective bargaining? Surely the Invisible Hand gang isn't suggesting we have more pinko unions, just to prevent employers from gaming the labor market?

Or is the implicit position of these naysayers that minimum wage workers have no right to expect sufficient valuation of their labor to support themselves?

If a minimum wage can't keep food in people's mouths and roofs over their heads, what will? I don't see all you naysayers making useful suggestions as to how to give the working poor a way to stay off the streets and keep ramen in their bellies. Social services ain't cutting it, because most of those aren't available to someone working.
posted by majick at 7:46 AM on February 3, 2004


It is totally insane for someone with minimum-wage-only skills and education, who is wholly responsible for his or her own expenses, to move to, or stay in, San Francisco, which has one of the highest costs of living and most competitive job markets in the world.

The only rational people working minimum wage jobs in San Francisco are doing so to supplement other means of support (parents, Social Security or SSI, school financial aid).

If the supply of people supplementing other means of support is insufficient to fill the demand for unskilled labor, then the market will raise the price of the labor. Until then, small business owners and consumers should not have to subsidize the actions of the tiny minority of unskilled workers without other means of support who are so grossly irrational as to move to, or stay in, San Francisco, when the vast majority of unskilled workers are smart enough to live where the cost-income-opportunity matrix is more suitable.
posted by MattD at 8:09 AM on February 3, 2004


It is totally insane for someone with minimum-wage-only skills and education, who is wholly responsible for his or her own expenses, to move to, or stay in, San Francisco, which has one of the highest costs of living and most competitive job markets in the world.

Yet all those yuppies and hipsters in SF still want someone to froth their lattes, wash their cars, mow their lawns, ring up their purchases and roll their veggie burritos. And those people gotta live somewhere, MattD. Preferably close, since they can't afford cars a lotta the time.
posted by jonmc at 8:19 AM on February 3, 2004


'Thus, increasing the minimum wage is a transfer of wealth from corporate profits to poor people. '

'transfer of wealth' = euphemism for theft. lets say that such a thing does have a desired effect on the ecconomy, how do you morally justify it?

This represents one of the conundrums of democracy. Given the opportunity to vote, OF COURSE the masses will vote to have money taken from the few and given to them.

If gay marriage was put to a vote, it would be illegal - however, that doesn't mean that 'equal protection under the law' should be thrown out at the request of the bigoted masses.

a mandate from the masses should not imbue the government with the powers to strip the productive members of society of their earnings, no matter what ends they serve.

However, after [x] generations living with social security and welfare, such ideas are taboo. "OF COURSE we have rights to their money! I want a piece of that pie!"
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 8:33 AM on February 3, 2004


what jonmc said...it's true for all big cities--they wouldn't run without all the lower-level employees and service people (and middle class too). Even within city limits here, it's $4 a day in subway fares--if people have to live even further away because of housing costs how can they afford to commute?

and Tryptophan--raising the minimum wage takes nothing from you, and gives nothing to you (unless you work for the minimum wage)--prices go up all the time anyway, whether a business has added expenses or not.
posted by amberglow at 8:35 AM on February 3, 2004


Businesses should be allowed to profit. Businesses, however, should not be allowed to profit by paying wages which are so low they can't even put a roof over the workers' heads. In San Francisco, $800 a month gross (gross!) doesn't even rent you a one-room studio in the ghetto even if you occupy it with another minimum wage worker. Maybe that shit flies in Nebraska, but not around here.

Instead of perverting the market and creating gross and cumbersome regulations and economic distortions, a laissez-faire approach would dictate that government drop all of its subsidies, its living wages, its rent control, and its unprofitable public transportation. After this occurred, the $800-a-month crowd, genuinely unable to make ends meet, would hightail it out of town to Lincoln or Omaha, creating a labor shortage in SF. The remaining labor, thanks to its newfound scarcity, would be able to charge $10-$20/hour to haul the trash, do the dishes, and press the shirts. Those who became "rich", simply because they bought their homes and apartment buildings at the right times, would be rendered a good deal poorer by the lack of demand for housing, and would no longer be able to live like kings on the back of the poor. Further, thanks to the higher cost of living experienced by those who buy services rendered at artificially low prices, the working man might be able to live a normal life again as his dollars have less competition for goods and services.

All the sudden, stripped of its artificial weight, the economy might start to work.

Surely the Invisible Hand gang isn't suggesting we have more pinko unions, just to prevent employers from gaming the labor market?

Anyone who claims to support "capitalism" but is opposed to unions and collective bargaining is a charlatan. At the root of our free-market values is a belief that both labor and capital should be free and unfettered-- the same principle that holds that people with capital ought to freely be able to assemble corporations should also hold that those with labor can form the same assembly.

raising the minimum wage takes nothing from you, and gives nothing to you (unless you work for the minimum wage)--prices go up all the time anyway, whether a business has added expenses or not.

That's a fallacious argument, amberglow. I'm going to die anyway, whether you slit my thoat or not.
posted by trharlan at 8:43 AM on February 3, 2004


why fallacious? what's not true about it? If the minimum wage is raised and it's passed along in the price of goods, what's different about that price rise, or one bec. of a new refrigeration unit, or bec. the business's rent went up, or bec. the owner has a kid in college?
posted by amberglow at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2004


amberglow - 'raising the minimum wage takes nothing from you, and gives nothing to you ' Not saying Im a degree'd analyst or anything, but you have a very shallow understanding of economics.

talking about unions: unions are good so long as they behave within the limits of the law - eg. not harassing and abusing scabbers. The cost of retraining an entire work force should be something a union could angle with, however physical violence and vandalism should not. Ive worked quite a few union jobs and they've all left me with little respect for unions.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 9:04 AM on February 3, 2004


All the sudden, stripped of its artificial weight, the economy might start to work.

... Until everyone moved back in again, having heard there are decent paying jobs in San Francisco, and all those $10/20 dollar an hour jobs go back down to $5 an hour, and the cycle perhaps repeats itself again and again endlessly. Except, the low-paid workers have to stay on the move to fucking Nebraska every couple of years, and don't buy houses, raise families, or move up the ladder in seniority at their jobs. So they're screwed. Bang-up theory, Adam Smith.
posted by Hildago at 9:27 AM on February 3, 2004


The arguments against a livable minimum wage work much better where there is no flow of cheaper labor from poorer countries. The lowest paid workers cannot bear pressure to raise wages when there are cheaper guest workers who will froth those lattes, and keep the toilets clean.

I've had a small business. A mandated minimum wage means that I could pay my workers more fairly without getting killed by the competetitor willing to pay less who can sell products cheaper.

a. I want my government to help keep the playing field level. b. We're an incredibly wealthy nation. We can afford to pay fair wages to every citizen.

on preview: talking about unions: unions are good so long as management behaves within the limits of the law - eg. not harassing and abusing union members and organizers. Management has lots of power. A good union (and there are good ones as well as corrupt ones) allows workers to share in the wealth.
posted by theora55 at 9:30 AM on February 3, 2004


'transfer of wealth' = euphemism for theft. lets say that such a thing does have a desired effect on the ecconomy, how do you morally justify it?

This represents one of the conundrums of democracy. Given the opportunity to vote, OF COURSE the masses will vote to have money taken from the few and given to them.

If gay marriage was put to a vote, it would be illegal - however, that doesn't mean that 'equal protection under the law' should be thrown out at the request of the bigoted masses.


That's right, Grover -- it's a modern-day Holocaust! no, not really.

It's very strange that this has to be spelled out in this day and age, but people with lots of money ought to be taxed more than people with hardly any money, because they can afford to pay more. This is what is known in constitutional law as a "rational basis" for differential treatment and therefore perfectly constitutional. I find it very unlikely that an intrepid hardcore-libertarian lawyer pushing a test case would last more than an hour advancing this equal-protection argument in court.

Apart from the constitutional argument, redistribution of wealth from the rich to the not-so-rich is ethically justifiable because a. wealth is itself a form of privilege and concentrated power which should only be grudgingly tolerated in a democratic society; b. wealth does not accrue in a sociopolitical vacuum, but in the context of an economic system maintained by, and therefore subject to, the tacit consent of all; and c. wealth inequality increases poverty in real terms, because the rich can outbid the poor in common markets (e.g. for basic commodities and natural resources), even when the marginal utility gained by the rich is much lower than that lost by the poor.
posted by skoosh at 9:57 AM on February 3, 2004


raising the minimum wage takes nothing from you, and gives nothing to you (unless you work for the minimum wage)--prices go up all the time anyway, whether a business has added expenses or not

why fallacious? what's not true about it?


For one, the blanket statement that "prices go up all the time anyway" is demonstrably false.

If one of the inputs of the price of a good goes up, either the price will go up, resulting in a decrease in the quantity demanded (and, eventually, unemployment), or the price will stay the same, profits will suffer, and producers will exit the market, allowing the remaining producers to charge higher prices.

So if you consume a good, and the costs to produce that good go up, eventually those costs will be passed along to you, the consumer.

The argument that prices will go up anyway, while possibly true in some cases, doesn't justify hastening their ascent-- hence my throat-slitting analogy.
posted by trharlan at 10:07 AM on February 3, 2004


strip the productive members of society of their earnings

[Cough!]
Um, yeah, productive members of society, like Ken Lay or GWB. And, uh, earnings, like Ken Lay and GWB worked soooo hard for all that wealth they stole/squandered. Bullshit on those assumptions.

How many wealthy actually are productive? Is living on daddy's dime somehow productive? On what planet? And earnings somehow doesn't seem to connect to trust funds and capital gains for a person like myself who knows what real work is about. But then, spending daddy's money might get to be a tiresome job after a time.
posted by nofundy at 10:12 AM on February 3, 2004


Except, the low-paid workers have to stay on the move to fucking Nebraska every couple of years, and don't buy houses... So they're screwed. Bang-up theory, Adam Smith.

They're not buying houses anyway, are they?

Markets take time to approximate equilibrium, Hildago. And I'd expect some wide swings to occur in the period immediately after the regulatory state takes the brakes off. The alternative is central planning which few thoughtful and rational people support.
posted by trharlan at 10:17 AM on February 3, 2004


Well, since the only jobs that are eventually going to be left in this country are service jobs, we better all hope that the minimum wage is enough for us.
posted by eas98 at 10:36 AM on February 3, 2004


How many wealthy actually are productive? Is living on daddy's dime somehow productive? On what planet? And earnings somehow doesn't seem to connect to trust funds and capital gains for a person like myself who knows what real work is about. But then, spending daddy's money might get to be a tiresome job after a time.

According to the Spectrem Group, only 1% of the mass affluent (net worth 1mm+) cite inheritance as their source of wealth, compared to 13% who cite "entrepreneurial business" and 33% who cite "employer equity participation."

While Ken Lay, no doubt, could cite "employer equity participation", what about the other 2,309,999 millionaire households? Are all of their gains ill-gotten?

And, nofundy, unless you work in a steel mill or a tobacco farm, I'd guess that you have no idea what "real work is about".
posted by trharlan at 10:37 AM on February 3, 2004


And, nofundy, unless you work in a steel mill or a tobacco farm, I'd guess that you have no idea what "real work is about".

What?

I can't speak for nofundy, but I've held jobs ranging from busboy, to line worker in a factory, to baker, to retail clerk, to commissioned sales, to data entry and I assure you, it's all more real work than living off investments or trust funds.
posted by jonmc at 10:47 AM on February 3, 2004


The funny thing about arguing that increasing the minimum wage will cause jobs to move overseas is that most jobs that pay minimum wage could never move overseas. You're never going to be able to outsource a cashier to India.

As for people needing to move out of San Francisco if they can't afford to live there, what if they can't afford to move? It's entirely possible that without a car, money, or a family to help them out, that one can get stuck somewhere with barely enough money to survive.
posted by drezdn at 11:03 AM on February 3, 2004


And, nofundy, unless you work in a steel mill or a tobacco farm, I'd guess that you have no idea what "real work is about".

And you sir are full of it. You forgot coal miner, construction worker and a thousand other occupations. I could work all day, kick your ass, run 5 miles and still have energy to screw your pooch.
posted by nofundy at 11:15 AM on February 3, 2004


You're never going to be able to outsource a cashier to India.

Maybe not to India, but I've seen three cashier jobs "outsourced" to a set of four self-checkout machines supervised by one cashier. Dunno where the people who wrote the software live.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:18 AM on February 3, 2004


trharlan: just as an aside, you completely obliterated a sensible comment with that snide closing sentence. Work on your rhetoric.
posted by aramaic at 11:22 AM on February 3, 2004


"people with lots of money ought to be taxed more than people with hardly any money, because they can afford to pay more. "

Says who? The laws of justice say that you should recieve what you pay for and pay for what you recieve. This is true in the supermarket and should be true in society. I don't see why society has to be a 'bum deal' where you pay in more than you take out.

If you drive a car, you you should be taxed on it to pay for the roads you use. If your children use the public school, you should pay for the school. There is no reason why people should be getting anything for free. If you feel moved by compassion for your fellow man, then donate accordingly. It is unjust to rope me and those who feel simliarly into charitable donations taken at gun point.

The fact remains that earnings are a person's property and should not be taken without compensation. Helping those in need should be a choice.

a. wealth is itself a form of privilege and concentrated power which should only be grudgingly tolerated in a democratic society;
Keeping what you earn should only be grudgingly tolerated? There are places where this is true. Go chill there.

wealth does not accrue in a sociopolitical vacuum,
I Disagree. Wealth will accrue were ever someone produces and does not require the consent of those around them. Wealth does not necessarily mean bank accounts and treasury bonds. Wealth is also home equity you created yourself - the crops you raise - the necklaces your daughter makes and sells at the annual fair etc.

(sorry for skttr brained nature of this post. im posting in between installing the .NET frame work on the production PCs in the Steelmill i work in)
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 11:35 AM on February 3, 2004


Rawls, meet Nozick ....

It is miserable, but it's not supposed to be fun to survive on the minimum wage.

why not? aren't poor people allowed to have fun? be careful, you're showing your color.

Wealth is also home equity you created yourself

and what gives you the right to that land? why aren't the American Indians the richest people in the country? i think *you're* the one in a sociopolitical vacuum.

earnings are a person's property

well, if you're talking currency, those earnings are worthless without the backing of the U.S. government. and you can't just say, "I want the government to back my currency, but I don't want them to provide services for anyone but me."

i know there's a good response to that, but i'm not sure what it is.

also, working in a lumber yard is hard work.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:04 PM on February 3, 2004


You guys could always, say, raise taxes on rich people instead of giving them tax breaks and use the money to subsidize businesses for higher minimum wage costs. I know that if I made in excess of $500,000 a year I wouldn't mind paying 60% taxes or higher. But that would just cause the economy to disappear into itself, right? All those high-end boutiques that sell $240,000 leather chairs would just dry right the fuck up, and how would we ever survive the loss of these aristocratic establishments?
posted by The God Complex at 12:10 PM on February 3, 2004


It is unjust to rope me and those who feel simliarly into charitable donations taken at gun point.

No, what's unjust is to live off the backs of those around you without recognizing your obligation to contribute towards the health of society. One major reason we have a successful economic engine in this country is the concept of limited liability for the owners of corporations, your absurdist Randian diatribe notwithstanding. The shareholders and management of corporations are shielded from certain consequences of the actions of corporation, and in response, investment in productivity looks much more attractive. Without that investment, producers could never have harnessed the economies of scale necessary for large scale industrialism to be possible. Limited liability, however, is not a feature inherent in an economy; it is a government invention.

The laws of justice say that you should recieve what you pay for and pay for what you recieve.

Exactly. Now pony up for your police protection, fire protection, military defense, roads, running water, electricity, a legal system that prosecutes criminals and enforces contracts and property rights, hospitals, state and national parks, public education, standardized currency, and generally, a government that creates a society in which you can produce and prosper without the poor rising up to take it from you.

The least you can do is recognize the necessity of ensuring basic food, shelter, and services for all Americans, no matter how unskilled or "unproductive."
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:21 PM on February 3, 2004


Governments should always tax money, not people.

People with more money would then logically pay more taxes.

Living wage is a good thing. It does no harm to wealth and a lot of good for society.
posted by nofundy at 12:52 PM on February 3, 2004


I am more than happy to pay for "police protection, fire protection, military defense, a legal system that prosecutes criminals and enforces contracts and property rights, and a standardized currency" as they are the infrastructure to a society. (I would argue that property rights are not entirely enforced as some of mine is taken and given to people i don't know or care for)

however, there is no reason why government services such as runing water, hospitals, national parks, roads and the rest cannot be al la carte. Why pay for them if you don't use them?

The least you can do is recognize the necessity of ensuring basic food, shelter, and services for all Americans, no matter how unskilled or "unproductive."
Fuck that. The constitution promises that you will not be stopped from persuing life, not that life will be handed to you. If you don't care enough for your own life to accuire your needs, why should I?
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:53 PM on February 3, 2004


I had no idea that such a throwaway comment would be important enough to generate three responses.

nofundy wrote that "And earnings somehow doesn't seem to connect to trust funds and capital gains for a person like myself who knows what real work is about." While the meaning of this sentence isn't completely clear to me, I interpreted it to mean "people who are the recipients of capital gains and trust funds haven't earned their money" like nofundy claims to have earned his/hers. I challenged this contention because I resented nofundy's holier-than-thou attitude, and I found it unlikely that s/he is putting in eighty hours a week at a back-breaking, filthy, stressful, and hazardous job-- the type of job at which the average person looks and remarks that "those guys really earn their money". Were I writing a lengthier exposition, I suppose I might draw a continuum between, say, bailing hay by hand, and being Joan Kroc. And I would pose to nofundy a question like "Where, in this continuum, do you draw the line between 'hard work' and 'not hard work'?" I chose not to, thinking that an exposition of this nature might be a bit much for a Metafilter post.

It strikes me a little funny that the statement "I'd guess that you have no idea what 'real work is about'" merits a reply such as "Work on your rhetoric" while "I could... kick your ass" is met with nothing more than a hush.
posted by trharlan at 12:53 PM on February 3, 2004


But that would just cause the economy to disappear into itself, right? All those high-end boutiques that sell $240,000 leather chairs would just dry right the fuck up, and how would we ever survive the loss of these aristocratic establishments?

Well, the people who made the chairs would be out of work. The guy who ran the shop would probably have to let some cashiers go. The accountant would lose some business. The UPS guy would probably get paid less overtime, et cetera. You and I would probably survive just fine, but that doesn't mean that everyone would. When the ostentatious rich spend a quarter-mill on a chair, they illustrate trickle-down economics in action.
posted by trharlan at 12:59 PM on February 3, 2004


It strikes me a little funny that the statement

Possibly because I didn't want to repeat myself in such a short timeframe?
posted by aramaic at 1:10 PM on February 3, 2004


If you don't care enough for your own life to accuire your needs, why should I?

Yes, because that's why people are poor: they just don't care.

however, there is no reason why government services such as runing water, hospitals, national parks, roads and the rest cannot be al la carte. Why pay for them if you don't use them?

Except that if these services were provided based on a pay-for-use model, the unit cost would be so high for some services that only the rich could afford them. We live in a society that has the means to provide--rather easily, in fact--the necessities of life to everybody. Remember, we're not talking about people "don't care enough for [their] own life to acquire [their] needs," we are talking about working people trying to support families on the minimum wage. Subsidizing basic services for these low wage earners is not only just, but inevitable, and necessary for a stable society.

I don't intend my argument to be a defense of the mimimum wage per se, but rather a rejoinder to the abject Randianism that's seems to be floating around here today. And people thought MeFi was left-leaning? Not if you read this thread.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:16 PM on February 3, 2004


i propose a maximum wage. a "not to exceed" wage. that should free up a lot of funds to even things out a bit.

really, in the sense that any poor or uneducated person (according to some arguments) do not deserve to receive compensation for their time and work that allows them to meet basic necessities, is there really anyone out there that deserves or actually "earns" millions and millions of dollars in compensation?
posted by centrs at 1:18 PM on February 3, 2004


No, what's unjust is to live off the backs of those around you without recognizing your obligation to contribute towards the health of society.

What's frustrating is that you accuse tryptophan of embarking on "absurdist Randian diatribes" (The likes of which might also be heard coming from the "absurdist" mouth of Nobel Prize winner F.A. Hayek, BTW) while pooh-poohing his valid concern that what you call an "obligation to contribute towards the health of society" is enforced at gunpoint.

And to those of you who cite a common currency as a great thing that our government does for us, I hope you send a box of chocolates to Alan Greenspan and the ghost of J.M. Keynes when the full extent of the debasement of our currency is finally laid bare for all to see.
posted by trharlan at 1:19 PM on February 3, 2004


If you feel moved by compassion for your fellow man, then donate accordingly. It is unjust to rope me and those who feel simliarly into charitable donations taken at gun point.

I am more than happy to pay for "police protection, fire protection, military defense, a legal system that prosecutes criminals and enforces contracts and property rights, and a standardized currency" as they are the infrastructure to a society.

It's all relative. I could consider my tax dollars being used in the public school system as a charitable donation to the spawn YOU decided to thrust into this world (i have no kids, btw) OR I could look at educated children as part of the infrastructure of society, which I am paying to support.

If you don't care enough for your own life to accuire your needs, why should I?

Don't insult us by ignoring centuries of institutionalized poverty with these statements. Yeah, some poor people take advantage of the system. So do the rich. If you really think that the impoverished don't bust their asses every day just to subsist then you need to take a closer look at the world.
posted by archimago at 1:20 PM on February 3, 2004


monju - perhaps they don't care and perhaps they are unable. If they are unable because they are physically unable, then i would say fuck em. Let em die. If the socio-political environment prevents them, then something needs to change. In a completely free society, the able bodied will never have that problem.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2004


is there really anyone out there that deserves or actually "earns" millions and millions of dollars in compensation?

If I can save a corporation $10mm by re-engineering its processes, and they pay me $5mm, have I not "earned" what I have been paid?
posted by trharlan at 1:22 PM on February 3, 2004


archimago - i agree. a DINK couple shouldn't have to pay for public schools.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:22 PM on February 3, 2004


has any one stopped to consider that maybe not all jobs warrant a livable wage?

Tryptophan-5ht: I am curious. Who do you expect to do a job like this?

Yes, I repeat myself, but I am curious. Who, exactly, do you expect to do a job that doesn't pay a livable wage? I'll assume you won't, because you seem quite concerned with your own welfare. But who, pray tell, do you expect to do those jobs that need to be done yet don't warrant a minimum, livable wage?
posted by moonbiter at 1:31 PM on February 3, 2004


I would bet an increase in minimum wage would increase the cost of a burger and fries by pennies. Given the cost of engineering and marketing a product on that scale, the cost of fungible labor has to be the least of their concerns.

So, when I now go to McDonald's and order a burger and fries, how much more is that going to cost me? 50% more? Good thing I have that minimum wage increase to help pay for it..


Have not looked recently, yet remembering 10 years back, saw some of the McDonalds in the Dallas having starting wages at 8.50 an hour and their prices seem the same with those through out the US.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:34 PM on February 3, 2004


Let me try:

1.) Refuse to raise minimum wage to a living wage.

2.) All minimum wage workers move out of expensive cities, as some here have suggested is 'the responsible thing to do'.

3.) Demand for workers to fill their former jobs increases as does the wage required to lure applicants.

4.) Workers return to city to reclaim their now lucrative jobs.

Or we could just skip 1-4 and just pay people a halfway decent amount for their work without attempting to squeeze every drop of 'value' from them.
posted by 4easypayments at 1:37 PM on February 3, 2004


trharlan - no. what you did had value to the company, but come on, you did not "earn" 5 million dollars in that time frame.

hell, the president of the united states only makes $400,000 a year. is what you did more important than what he does?

and while you were working, who took care of your kids, was responsible for their safety, had influence on them? what price do you put on that?

what about the restaurants you ate at and the hotel you stayed at while you were working onsite? the people that took care of you and allowed you to do your job? the people at the gym you worked out at?

the people that provided your internet connection and desktop support and your cellular service?

what about the people involved in the processes you re-engineered? without them, there would be no processes.

all of those people and more contributed to your success. why are they less valuable than you are? why should you make $5 million and then those people go home and worry about making ends meet?

what makes you more intrinsically valuable? you wouldn't be able to do what you do without them.
posted by centrs at 1:40 PM on February 3, 2004


moonbiter - students, teen agers, people with assited living etc etc.

If you are the primary income provider for yourself or yet an entire family, you had better thought more ahead than minimum wage!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:41 PM on February 3, 2004


a DINK couple shouldn't have to pay for public schools.

But we as members of a society and community have a vested interest in educated children. If you didn't pay for public schools, you'd probably have to pay a lot more for your police and fire protection, your court system, and your jails. And just because you don't use the roads now doesn't mean that the ambulance that's taking you to the hospital won't need them. Life is not so black-and-white as to justify an a la carte tax system.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:43 PM on February 3, 2004


Yes, I repeat myself, but I am curious. Who, exactly, do you expect to do a job that doesn't pay a livable wage?

Teenagers and other students working in the summer or after school to save up money for tuition or just for extra spending money, retired people supplementing their pension/savings/etc., someone with a spouse that makes enough money to support them both working to make a little extra on the side.
posted by gyc at 1:45 PM on February 3, 2004


ufez - you make a good point. Life is not so black and white. However that doesn't make an a la carte system infeasible. Perhaps use of the roads would would be included in the tax for emergency services.

If after careful debate, it was decided that well educated children counted as 'infrastructure' then let that be payed for from the common tax.

I simply take issue with paying for programs I will never benefit from. Nor do I like the idea of others paying for programs I DO benefit from.

As a smoker, I don't think that if i were to ever develop cancer, all you guys should help pay for my chemo. my fault for smoking.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:53 PM on February 3, 2004


students, teen agers, people with assited living etc etc.

Do you think the pool of teenagers, students, etc. is large enough to fill all of these jobs? I'm assuming you are thinking these unworthy McJobs are the ones at fast food joints, shelf-stockers at retail stores, and the people who pump your gas, clean your hotel room, and vacuum your office.

If you are the primary income provider for yourself or yet an entire family, you had better thought more ahead than minimum wage!

What if you thought ahead, but were unable to get job that was worthy of a livable wage due to scarcity of said jobs?

And if you didn't think ahead, what? Should you just die?
posted by moonbiter at 1:59 PM on February 3, 2004


And I would pose to nofundy a question like "Where, in this continuum, do you draw the line between 'hard work' and 'not hard work'?" I chose not to, thinking that an exposition of this nature might be a bit much for a Metafilter post.

I wish you would have, I really wish you would have, lowballing expectations for Metafilter discussions is really depressing, and besides we'd be having a more interesting conversation than this

If they are unable because they are physically unable, then i would say fuck em. Let em die. If the socio-political environment prevents them, then something needs to change. In a completely free society, the able bodied will never have that problem.

kind of social darwinism slapfight. Actually, let's, this is boring. I'll start. Hard work involves either consistent physical labor, exposure to the elements, repetitive and rapid work, or draconian pressure to perform. How's that?
posted by furiousthought at 2:04 PM on February 3, 2004


moonbiter - "Do you think the pool of teenagers, students, etc. is large enough to fill all of these jobs?" If it weren't, the salary would rise to make it more attractive untill the position would be filled. supply and demand.

not thinking ahead and being unable - not my problem. Alot of people here seem to support the idea of welfare. In the absence of mandatory charity, people would still be charitable - and if not more so.

For all the talking i do bashing charity, i actually have no problem handing out money to the homeless (even though i know that enables them to stay on the street rather than getting their shit togther) and friends needing money between pay checks. My ex room mate still owes me $750 from when i helped him pay his rent. My girlfriend's parents owe me $350 from when her father lost his job. I simply take issue with it being required of me.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 2:07 PM on February 3, 2004


I wish you would have, I really wish you would have, lowballing expectations for Metafilter discussions is really depressing

That's thoughtful. Not thoughtful as in "sweet", but thoughtful. Your point is well-taken.

Hard work involves either consistent physical labor, exposure to the elements, repetitive and rapid work, or draconian pressure to perform. How's that?

Pretty good, but selling used cars meets this definition, and I'd sure as hell rather sell used cars than work on an Alaskan fishing boat. Oddly enough, many professional athletes meet all of these criteria.
posted by trharlan at 2:10 PM on February 3, 2004


Point: society has a vested interest in keeping me and people like me at least marginally happy. If I descend into complete hopelessness, I will buy a nice high-powered rifle, get a decent scope, line up a few sniper nests, and start blowing people away.

Your precious precious police won't be able to stop me until AFTER I've killed a few innocents. Your precious precious handguns won't do jack against me, because I'll be a couple hundred yards out, firing from a prepared position. I suppose you could use your guns to end your own suffering after I've blown your guts out, but other than that they'll be pointless as I'll be concealed, and shifting firing positions regularly.

Of course, I *will* get taken down by the cops eventually, but not before I've killed a bunch of people. Who probably made more than minimum wage, and who probably felt somewhat irked at the prospect of spending a few extra hard-earned dollars trying to keep people like me even vaguely hopeful.

Not every dollar you waste on taxes and "forced charity" is wasted. Think about that the next time you step out of your house and don't get a nice high-caliber round in some crucial portion of your anatomy. That's the beauty of the US -- the poor can be just as armed to the teeth as the rich, and they've got less to lose.
posted by aramaic at 2:11 PM on February 3, 2004 [1 favorite]


you accuse tryptophan of embarking on "absurdist Randian diatribes" (The likes of which might also be heard coming from the "absurdist" mouth of Nobel Prize winner F.A. Hayek, BTW)

No no no no no.

Hayek was in favor of a guaranteed minimum income for everyone, and for the state provision of a market basket of social insurances. It's all right in The Road to Serfdom, for crying out loud, and in language that implies that it's glaringly obvious that the state should provide these things (ie, it's no grudging admission).

Personally, I'd prefer to just tax ourselves to give everyone some money rather than distort things with a minimum wage (and also get rid of social security, welfare, farm subsidies, and the like -- just tax ourselves foo% and give everyone a check every month; minimal overhead). I suspect that at least some people favor minimum wages over the direct provision of a baseline income because then you don't the taxes or distortions that provide it come out of your paycheck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:13 PM on February 3, 2004


"I simply take issue with paying for programs I will never benefit from."

But if you consider not being the victim of a violent crime a benefit of where you live, then you have an interest in education for the neighbors' kiddos and people making enough money at their job so that they can live in a manner that meets the basic necessities of life. I did an econometrics project my senior year at university where I ran economic and demographic data from every single county in the US and singled out the percentage of the population living below the property level and the rate of violent crime. There was a positive correlation between an increase in % under the poverty level and the violent crime rate. That's not to say that there aren't a ton of other factors (I'd know, I had to take them out of my study), but it's pretty solid evidence that we are a safer and happier society (assuming safety = happiness on any level) when the people at the bottom of the barrel are taken care of.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:18 PM on February 3, 2004


If it weren't, the salary would rise to make it more attractive untill the position would be filled. supply and demand

It seems to me that relying on supply and demand in this simply turns into a big rigged game of "Prisoner's Dilemma," where the employers hold the advantage of exerting downwards pressure on wages because there are relatively few employers vs. a large pool of employees.

not thinking ahead and being unable - not my problem.

So you believe it's better for every person to look out for themselves rather than every person support the team?

Alot of people here seem to support the idea of welfare. In the absence of mandatory charity, people would still be charitable - and if not more so.

History does not seem to support you out on the "if not more so" part, which is why the modern welfare state developed in the first place.

For all the talking i do bashing charity, i actually have no problem handing out money to the homeless ... I simply take issue with it being required of me.

Well, this really isn't an issue of your personal nobility and I do not question yours. However, there are plenty of rapacious and unscrupulous organizations in the world that will more than make up for your laudable willingness to help friends and the homeless out.
posted by moonbiter at 2:20 PM on February 3, 2004


uzef - having people not be poor is good. We can both agree on that. I suppose we disagree on how to get there.

moonbiter - no, the modern welfare state developed during the great depression when EVERY ONE was dirt poor. The masses turned to that 2 percent who still had some money and all wanted a piece.

and yes, everyone should look out for themselves and those they love. Socialism tells people that they don't have to take care of their neighbor because the state will.

if you wanna get into the history of it, the great depression as you know was caused by the market crash of 29 (i think that was the year...) which was a result of over speculation made possible by deviation from the gold standard - which was pioneered by the same people who were the first to suggest welfare and social security. It too bad they didn't have any other swell ideas we could listen to.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 2:28 PM on February 3, 2004


I will admit that I don't particularly care for or about all this theoretical economics.

However, it's interesting to me that if you take the figures on this Dept. of Labor page and plug them into the inflation calculator on this page, you get results like this:
Effective Date       Amount       2002 Dollars
October 24, 1938     $0.25           3.01
October 24, 1939     $0.30           3.69
October 24, 1945     $0.40           3.94
January 25, 1950     $0.75           5.45
March 1, 1956        $1.00           6.46
September 3, 1961    $1.15           6.72
September 3, 1963    $1.25           7.15
February 1, 1967     $1.40           7.47
February 1, 1968     $1.60           8.53
May 1, 1974          $2.00           7.79
Jan. 1, 1975         $2.10           7.37
January 1, 1976      $2.30           7.40
January 1, 1978      $2.65           7.56
January 1, 1979      $2.90           7.69
January 1, 1980      $3.10           7.38
January 1, 1981      $3.35           7.02
April 1, 1990        $3.80           5.29
April 1, 1991        $4.25           5.62
October 1, 1996      $4.75           5.40
September 1, 1997    $5.15           5.69
So, San Francisco has now caught up (in terms of 2002 purchasing power) to the federally mandated wage of the year I was born.

Why is it that none of the supposed negative effects of a living wage were witnessed in 1968?
posted by Irontom at 2:30 PM on February 3, 2004


IRONTOM! are you serious??
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 2:34 PM on February 3, 2004


Of course I am - I didn't start paying attention to politics and economics until somewhere around 1991.

So, enlighten me.
posted by Irontom at 2:40 PM on February 3, 2004


of course he is. that's why we need to keep raising it.

duh.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:40 PM on February 3, 2004


no, the modern welfare state developed during the great depression when EVERY ONE was dirt poor. The masses turned to that 2 percent who still had some money and all wanted a piece.

I'm not sure that this explains the phenomena of the modern welfare state in other nations besides the United States, but I'll not argue that point any further since I simply don't know for certain.

However, I'd be interested if you could provide historical examples where people were more charitable in the absence of manditory charity -- or, more to the point of this discussion, in the absence of a minimum wage.

the great depression ... was a result of over speculation made possible by ... the same people who were the first to suggest welfare and social security

Of course, this does not in itself make welfare and social securty bad ideas, since one can be wrong about one thing but right about others.
posted by moonbiter at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2004


In the absence of mandatory charity, people would still be charitable - and if not more so.

Now there's an interesting supposition.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2004


ROU_Xenophobe:

In "The Principles of a Liberal Social Order" and "Law, Legislation, and Liberty" Hayek pulls back from many of the positions you attribute to him.

As I googled, I found this(.pdf). Some interesting reading.
posted by trharlan at 2:48 PM on February 3, 2004


.....i think im done with this thread. you guys are right. As dave suggested, lets raise minimum wage to $100 an hour, then everyone will be RICH.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 2:55 PM on February 3, 2004


Well, the people who made the chairs would be out of work. The guy who ran the shop would probably have to let some cashiers go. The accountant would lose some business. The UPS guy would probably get paid less overtime, et cetera. You and I would probably survive just fine, but that doesn't mean that everyone would. When the ostentatious rich spend a quarter-mill on a chair, they illustrate trickle-down economics in action.

Or you could take that $240,000 from them in taxes and divide it up amongst people that really need it. I really doubt the trickled down effect on such sales is all that prominent, considering that someone who runs a shop that sells such merchandise is probably knee-deep in money themselves. I understand the concept of trickle-down economics, but I think having higher taxes on people that make an excess of money anually would provide more benefits than the meagre trickle down that occurs when rich people hand their money to one another.
posted by The God Complex at 2:56 PM on February 3, 2004


.....i think im done with this thread. you guys are right. As dave suggested, lets raise minimum wage to $100 an hour, then everyone will be RICH.

*yawn*
posted by The God Complex at 3:09 PM on February 3, 2004


...i think im done with this thread. you guys are right. As dave suggested, lets raise minimum wage to $100 an hour, then everyone will be RICH

If I am partially responsible, I'm sorry to run you off, which was not my intent. However, I think you mischaracterize my (or our) side of the argument by claiming that I want to make everyone rich. I don't. I just don't want lots of people to be poor. I think it makes for a weaker society and can eventually lead to strife.

I'm all for supply and demand, but I think that there need to be some lower-end parameters to play by because the game is rigged in favor of downwards pressure on wages. The employment market is largely a zero-sum game. The larger number employees vs. employer means that employees are more likely to undercut each other when it comes to wages -- after all, if they don't take the job offered at $x, the other guy might. Employers have the same pressure in the opposite direction -- raise wages or be outraised by the other guy who will get all the good employees. However, because there is an imbalance in the numbers, the wage market favors employers as a whole because there simply are less chances to "defect" (in terms of the Prisoner's Dilemma).

Of course I could be wrong about this, but to convince me that I am I would like to see some evidence or a logical argument of why I am.
posted by moonbiter at 3:18 PM on February 3, 2004


...then everyone will be RICH.
posted by majcher at 4:07 PM on February 3, 2004


moonbiter - no worries. Just got to point where i feel i made my point and heard what there was to be said for the other side. neither of us have convinced the other. moot point.

'I just don't want lots of people to be poor'
I don't either. We just disagree on how to get there.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 4:20 PM on February 3, 2004


then everyone will be RICH.

I think you mean 'equally miserable', the goal of Those Who Know Better Than The Rest Of Us.

Or: socialists. Take your pick.

I just don't want lots of people to be poor

When the primary health risk to the "poor" in the U.S. is obesity, you don't have that much to fret about.
posted by hama7 at 4:31 PM on February 3, 2004


Jack Vance, in one of his Demon Princes novels, invented a currency based on the single invariant: human toil. His money was enumerated in SLVUs--Standard Labor Value Units--one unit of which would be equal to one hour of unskilled labour under certain standard conditions.

He later refined that conceptual currency to an SVU--the amount of money necessary to buy a cheap meal. So, in our times, an SVU would be equivalent to, say, a Quarter Pounder with cheese, fries and a Coke.
posted by y2karl at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2004


Know this: Nickel and Dimed is a really, really bad book. It's not completely without value to a reader, but Barbara Ehrenreich's writing is wan and artless and, most importantly, her testing scenario is critically flawed from the outset since she has apparently never heard of having a roommate to share expenses.
posted by NortonDC at 6:47 PM on February 3, 2004


Hmm, you think that Carol Payne's testing scenario is critically flawed, too?
posted by y2karl at 6:59 PM on February 3, 2004


y2karl: You've probably seen this, but in case you haven't, I bet you'll find it interesting. Not that I agree with it, but...
posted by trharlan at 8:06 PM on February 3, 2004


She also wasn't trying to support any children or an unemployed spouse, NortonDC.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:21 PM on February 3, 2004


Nor did she have a peg leg, nor a cancer-stricken mother, nor a kid in college, none of which keeps Nickel and Dimed from being a really, really bad book. Look, I both bought and read the book, because I give a damn, but I also have a clear enough perspective to realize that no amount of caring on my part will turn that into a good book.
posted by NortonDC at 8:50 PM on February 3, 2004


That's the beauty of the US -- the poor can be just as armed to the teeth as the rich, and they've got less to lose.

and it may be just about time to remind the administration of that fact. aramaic, my hero!
posted by quonsar at 6:18 PM on February 4, 2004


When the ostentatious rich spend a quarter-mill on a chair, they illustrate trickle-down economics in action.

This is so absurdly stupid. If the ostentatiously rich were to spend $250,000 on a chair, you can bet that the chair is either an antique or a designer piece. If it's an antique, no workers are getting any of that "trickle-down". Maybe the guy who sold the chair gets some money, though anyone selling multi-thousand-dollar chairs is most likely rich to start. If it's a one-off designer piece, it's probably coming from Europe. So again, no trickle-down.

But of course, this statement betrays the awful truth, which is that when the ostentatious don't spend a "quater-mil" on chairs, or houses, or whatever -- when they put it in an offshore account, for example, then there's no trickle-down at all. So we poor slobs are dependent on some rich bastards buying very expensive shit if we're ever going to see any of that money that could have given 4,500 workers an extra buck an hour for a week's worth of work.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:56 PM on February 4, 2004


if you wanna get into the history of it, the great depression as you know was caused by the market crash of 29 (i think that was the year...) which was a result of over speculation made possible by deviation from the gold standard

I refuse to discuss economics with someone so ignorant of the relevant history.

I'm not sure what "overspeculation" is. The proximate cause of the stock market collapse of October 1929 was buying on margin, the precipitous decline in share prices a result of margin calls coming due and being defaulted upon. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the dollar and its relation to the gold standard. Proper regulation of the market (that bugbear of the Randian) later suppressed the practice.

Clearly, your knowledge is as threadbare as your compassion.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:06 AM on February 6, 2004


A piece from the New York Daily News examines this from the perspective of a working mother raising one child in the city: My week living on the minimum wage.
posted by NortonDC at 8:43 AM on February 10, 2004


adam - 'margin calls coming due and being defaulted upon.'

means: they lent money and they didn't get it back. correct? They over estimated the strength of the market and sunk too much money into it.

Massive bubbles like the pop of 29 are not possible in a fixed money system. None of the money is imaginary.

The investment risk in a fixed money system would prevent that kind of rampant and dangerous money lending.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:23 AM on February 17, 2004


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