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The Pool Boy Delivers
September 24, 2007 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Making $9.00/hour ("pennies thrown at my feet"), James Razsa leaves the trailer he shares with a roommate every morning to spend the day cleaning the pools of "the ignorant rich" in rural Maine. His most prominent clients -- former President George H.W. and Barbara Bush in Kennebunkport. "'If every American had to pool-boy for these people for a day, you'd have a revolution on your hands,' is how he sees things."
posted by ericb (167 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
We're all pool-boys for these people.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:36 PM on September 24, 2007 [12 favorites]


I guess Razsa replaced Jeff Gannon (née James Guckert) as the preferred pool reporter boy for the Bush family.
posted by ericb at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2007


What a whiner.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


he is doing the job illegals won't do
posted by Postroad at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2007


Well, the article itself is not really that interesting. He's never seen or talked to any of the bushes. The only thing we learn is that Barbra (Sr) likes her pool 82° and will "freak out" if it isn't.
posted by delmoi at 2:40 PM on September 24, 2007


Wow. Hard to find good help these days, isn't it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:41 PM on September 24, 2007


Razsa cleans former President George H.W. Bush's pool, in Kennebunkport, Maine.

I'm guessing they'll have to change that to the past tense pretty soon.
posted by The World Famous at 2:41 PM on September 24, 2007


When I was 23, I was poor as shit, too. And I worked crappy jobs. And I hated George Bush, then and still do.

But I don't really fell sorry for this guy. He's had just as much of a chance as any of us. I would posit that, compared to him, the "ignorant rich" aren't so ignorant after all.

At least they'd have probably prioritized dental care over tattoos.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:44 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


"Exxon is one of the richest companies in the world and he was making $7 an hour. My brother had to go on welfare to support his daughter, even though he was working 40-50 hours a week.
Have these people considered organizing with a union?
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:47 PM on September 24, 2007


Or, um, maybe not having kids when you're making $7 an hour?
posted by dhammond at 2:50 PM on September 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


James has a website. He needs new teeth.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:50 PM on September 24, 2007


Have these people considered organizing with a union?

And thereby hangs a whole raft of questions.

The fact is, many Americans, working class included, believe that unions are pretty much immoral.

I can't really add anything to that, actually.
posted by jokeefe at 2:51 PM on September 24, 2007


At least they'd have probably prioritized dental care over tattoos.

WTF? Where is there anything about tattoos in that article?
posted by jokeefe at 2:52 PM on September 24, 2007


I ask Razsa if he has a monologue loaded up, in the event that his next encounter was at closer range. To my surprise, the idea doesn't appeal.

"What do you say? 'Thanks for School of the Americas, and Iran-Contra, and NAFTA, and shipping all those jobs overseas, and arming Saddam, and funding the Taliban?' What do you say -- 'You're a jerk?' There's nothing that can be put into a sentence that would capture the lives these people have taken, and the way of life that's been taken."


I thought he was pretty sharp and realistic. Enjoyed the article. Thanks!
posted by lazaruslong at 2:53 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


The fact is, many Americans, working class included, believe that unions are pretty much immoral.
Chalk another victory up for the religious right. They can make money hand over fist if they can convince the masses that standing up for their rights in the workplace is immoral.
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:54 PM on September 24, 2007


WTF? Where is there anything about tattoos in that article?

First hyperlink is to a photo of James Razsa -- tattooed and all. fandango_matt links to his website seeking dental help.
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on September 24, 2007


WTF? Where is there anything about tattoos in that article?

It's not in the article, but if you look on his teeth4james blog (in which he talks about not having enough money to pay for necessary dental work), he's clearly tattooed.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:56 PM on September 24, 2007


WTF? Where is there anything about tattoos in that article?

The tattoos are in the photo.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:56 PM on September 24, 2007


i had that fidel castro in the back of me cab once.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:57 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


He could come and clean my pool anytime.
posted by daninnj at 2:58 PM on September 24, 2007


Razsa is not cleaning my pool any time soon, that's for sure.
posted by dov3 at 3:01 PM on September 24, 2007


'If every American had to pool-boy for these people for a day, you'd have a revolution on your hands.'

Why? The article doesn't even say. "Darn the rich people, they have more money then the poor people"?
posted by garlic at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2007


It's probably not smart to bite the hand that feeds you if you've got "soft enamel".
posted by Poolio at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2007 [8 favorites]


I would totally be dropping pot seeds all over their property if I were their pool boy.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:06 PM on September 24, 2007 [8 favorites]


Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:10 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'll join the revolution if it means I don't have to be a pool-boy. I'm already aware that there are lots of people out there who have a crapload more money than me, and I don't like the smell of chlorine.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:17 PM on September 24, 2007


I spent my youth as a caddy at an exclusive golf club. I learned that rich people fart a lot. It was only later I learned that correlation does not equal causation.
posted by srboisvert at 3:19 PM on September 24, 2007 [7 favorites]


Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.

It's really not so much a matter of them having and not sharing so much as it is about the fact that a large portion of the value created by our labour gets skimmed off the top by them. There's also the fact that the ruling class consists of more than 400 people, as anyone who isn't a screaming retard is aware. I'd say "nice strawman" or somesuch, but I'm not sure what the hell you're trying to say.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:22 PM on September 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.

$1.25 trillion/300 million = $4,166.66.

Now we're talking.
posted by Bletch at 3:22 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.

Once again you know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
posted by srboisvert at 3:23 PM on September 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


I don't like the smell of chlorine.

They wish they had more chlorine in Iraq these days -- Chlorine Restrictions Due To Security Concerns Help Fuel Spread Of Cholera In Iraq.
posted by ericb at 3:24 PM on September 24, 2007


Or, um, maybe not having kids when you're making $7 an hour?

Okay -- so the principle is

a) reduce working-class jobs to a level below the poverty line, thus ensuring that

b)all people doing manual or unskilled jobs are become poor,
thereby ensuring that

c)the poor, formerly known as working-class joes, cannot marry or have kids, thus

d) Eliminating poverty by eliminating poor people!

Libertarian social science in action!

Oh...wait...
posted by jrochest at 3:27 PM on September 24, 2007 [13 favorites]


$1.25 trillion/300 million = $4,166.66.

Now we're talking.


My mistake. I saw the $120 billion number in the Google summary and didn't click through.

Once again you know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Trite and inaccurate. You sound like a douchebag.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:27 PM on September 24, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each."

I believe it was Napoleon who pointed out that religion was invented to keep the poor from murdering the rich.
posted by mullingitover at 3:27 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.

Interestingly, if we just cut taxes and distributed the wealth ... oh, never mind ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:29 PM on September 24, 2007


It's doubtful that Americans could ever actually relate to this guy or to anybody else for that matter. The only thing Americans have in common with each other is the crap they consume and the desire to consume more crap. In attempting to appeal to the public interest this guy is talking to a god who was murdered a long, long time ago. He'd be much better off turning to crime -- crime is now respectable and so Americans respect criminals -- rather than calling for revolution. He'd have no problem at all gaining sympathy if he was the man who robbed George Bush rather than the guy who cleans his pool.
posted by nixerman at 3:29 PM on September 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


And Steve, your comment was so fantastically ignorant because you failed to click through. That's just run-of-the-mill idiocy. It's the intentionally simplistic assumption that the private wealth of individuals in the age of the corporation is supposed to mean anything that takes you above and beyond.
posted by nixerman at 3:32 PM on September 24, 2007


PROOF BY INDUCTION THAT EVERYONE MUST BE KILLED

except maybe the last guy
posted by Bletch at 3:33 PM on September 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


Okay -- so the principle is ... reduce working-class jobs to a level below the poverty line

Quick, you're a middle-class franchised proprietor of a gas station. Your average profit margin is in the single digits (indeed, the highest profit-per-unit item you sell is candy, not gasoline). You need someone to work the overnight shift. You will pay this person's salary, not Exxon. How much do you pay him per hour?

Choose carefully. If you go over, you're out of business.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:34 PM on September 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


Screw this story, I want to hear about Sgt. Serenity having Fidel Castro in the back of his cab!

I mean, was he good?
posted by humannaire at 3:37 PM on September 24, 2007


Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.

Yeah, as someone else mentioned, you're off by a factor of 10 or so.

My mistake. I saw the $120 billion number in the Google summary and didn't click through.

How could you possibly imagine that the top 400 people would only be worth 120 billion. That's the value of the top three or four.

The thing is, $4,000 isn't that small of an amount of money. It would cover the healthcare costs for a year, for example.

How about, rather then killing the top 400 people, we simply take everything after the first million of the first 401 richest people. Or, maybe, we could simply charge a higher marginal tax rate to the richest 1%.

Decisions, decisions.
posted by delmoi at 3:38 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


America will not be free until the last corporate executive is strangled with the entrails of the last evangelical.
posted by interrobang at 3:38 PM on September 24, 2007 [26 favorites]


Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.

(wonders where the peak of that particular Laffer curve is)
posted by kurumi at 3:44 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


How could you possibly imagine that the top 400 people would only be worth 120 billion. That's the value of the top three or four.

You're right, of course. I suppose I wasn't paying enough attention.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:45 PM on September 24, 2007


note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.
posted by Richard Daly at 3:49 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sounds like envy to me. And I wish that I could be. . . Richard Corey.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:51 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Great Post!!
posted by Rancid Badger at 3:59 PM on September 24, 2007


(wonders where the peak of that particular Laffer curve is)

Just under the lowest paid researcher's salary at AEI.
posted by ryoshu at 4:01 PM on September 24, 2007


Trite and inaccurate. You sound like a douchebag.

You seem irritated. Perhaps you need a gentle cleansing?
posted by srboisvert at 4:16 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Trite and inaccurate. You sound like a douchebag.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:19 PM on September 24, 2007


The news here for me is that the job of "poolboy" does not involve sexually servicing a bored, hot housewife. How spectacularly bad is this person's judgement that he signed up to be Barbara Bush's poolboy? I mean, that's just horrific. Was he even thinking?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:27 PM on September 24, 2007 [6 favorites]


Ok, I'm going to say what is on the mind of a lot of MeFites - this guy is a fucking loser. End of story, and not an interesting one at that.

Actually, here's the deal:

*cue the violin music*

I grew up in a poor, broken family. My mother was disabled, and she was the provider. It was less than paycheck to paycheck. I worked from age 13 on up (paid under the table). Hey, I cleaned pools for a summer. I was like 15. It sucked. I grew up and got a real job. What's this guy's excuse? He couldn't find a job? Maybe he should get some qualifications if he wants a better career.

By the time I reached high school, I was not only still working a job, but also doing at least 4 extra curricular activities and getting straight As. I graduated top of my class, went to college on scholarships and grants, and went on to post-grad work.

Now I make a very good living. I could have a pool if I wanted one - and a pool boy.

I did this during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush era. That's 5/7ths jerkoff President time by my calculations.

Given my background, I am liberal and really don't like the conservative mentality when it comes to the poor. I don't think I've ever voted Republican, and I vote regularly. In other words, I'm not one of those poor turned rich turned conservative assholes.

But do I think I should bitch about the days when I had to have my teeth fixed? (at about 23 I had to have 4 impacted wisdom teeth out with no gas as I couldn't afford that luxury - it took 2 1/2 hours, one of the Novocaine shots hit a nerve which is VERY painful, and when it was done I drove myself home to save money on a taxi)

Do I deserve a feature article?

Nahhh. Blame these Washington fuckers for policy, but not for how life is turning out for you personally as a pool boy at 23.
posted by Muddler at 4:28 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


You're an idiot, and what's worse, you're a self-righteous idiot.

Steve... sometimes you're right, and sometimes you're wrong. I like that about you. But this thing here? It makes you sound like a self-righteous idiot.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:28 PM on September 24, 2007


Bill's share of MS (just his shares) are good for $80-85 per American.
posted by Mitheral at 4:29 PM on September 24, 2007


If we could just start developing douchebags that sounds like water running through a hose, rather than sounding trite and inaccurate, we could create enough wealth that no American would ever want.

Join with me, brothers and sisters, in my dream of creating a future in which douchebags sound like what they are!
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:32 PM on September 24, 2007


Chlorine Restrictions Due To Security Concerns Help Fuel Spread Of Cholera In Iraq

Cholera's one of those old-timey diseases (John Snow figured out the cause--shit in the drinking water--150 years ago) that's now "remarkably easy to treat." Assuming you haven't had your water treatment infrastructure and medical community destroyed, that is.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:34 PM on September 24, 2007


It's all bound to trickle down at some point.
posted by Sailormom at 4:36 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Quick, you're a middle-class franchised proprietor of a gas station. Your average profit margin is in the single digits (indeed, the highest profit-per-unit item you sell is candy, not gasoline). You need someone to work the overnight shift. You will pay this person's salary, not Exxon. How much do you pay him per hour?

Choose carefully. If you go over, you're out of business.


This isn't an either-or proposition.

The most realistic thing I could do would be to decrease my own salary so I could make room to hire an employee at a proper living-wage with health and dental insurance. Life insurance too, if he's going to be working the night shift at a stop-n-rob.

And yes, as a middle-class proprietor, doing this means I won't be able to get a new wide-screen plasma or a 2008 Tacoma. However, my lack of a new Toyota or TV will be offset by having a (hopefully) loyal and dedicated employee who will value his job as much as I value mine.

That, in turn, will benefit the company in the long run, as opposed to hiring workers below the poverty line and going through them like toilet paper once you discover that

1) They're stealing from you to feed their kids.

or

2) They don't make much effort to improve themselves for a job that will always keep them in poverty.

In a better America, however, industries with far higher profit margins would be taxed a little more to help provide dental, health and life benefits for industries with small margins. OH NOES ITZ TEH SOCALISMZ!!!!! Yes it is, and it'll help alot of people.

Taking care of your workers isn't easy. It's much easier to hire them for next to nothing, use them up and then find someone else. You can make a lot of money like that in the short-term. Long term in creates an economy and culture like ours today: a nearly Dickensonian nightmare where 40 million people don't have health care and where we continually work longer and longer hours for less and less.

In short, its the Republican Dystopia Project, and we're in the middle of it.
posted by Avenger at 4:37 PM on September 24, 2007 [21 favorites]


The thing is, $4,000 isn't that small of an amount of money. It would cover the healthcare costs for a year, for example.

Well, it would, as a matter of arithmetic, I guess, but it sure as shit wouldn't as a matter of practicality. Those 400 people don't actually consume resources in proportion to their income. Much of their spending goes to rivalrous goods, like beachfront real estate and impressionist paintings.

Another way to put it is that if the Bushes weren't rich, James Razsa wouldn't have work as a poolboy-- he'd be doing something else. Now, the world would be a better place if Razsa were picking up garbage in the park, or tutoring somethingorother, but freeing up all the James Razsas of America would not make the average person feel anywhere near $4000 richer.

I'd rather level every brownstone in Manhattan and replace it with high-density housing than strip the 400 of their wealth. It would do far more good.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:38 PM on September 24, 2007


The thing is, $4,000 isn't that small of an amount of money.

Hmm. Or what if that money went to the bottom quarter? 16k per person. Or 32k in cash or services to the bottom eighth--thirty-seven and a half million Americans. It could make quite a difference to a lot of people who could really use the help, or the things (education, heath-care, transport, housing) which that money, well-managed, could provide.
posted by washburn at 4:44 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


*guitars*

Wellllllll...

How many posts must a man read down
Before you call him a douchebag?
Yes, 'n' how many pools must a poolboy clean
Before he shakes George's hand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the comments fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is douchin' in the wind,
The answer is a douchebag in the wind.
posted by katillathehun at 4:47 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm spending my $4,000 on whisky!

(runs off to look in mailbox for check)
posted by Hicksu at 4:48 PM on September 24, 2007


posted by Sailormom It's all bound to trickle down at some point.

That explains the need for the extra chlorine--the Bush grandchidren have been trickling down in the pool.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:50 PM on September 24, 2007


No one's mentioned the airconditioner on 226. Hell, I live hundreds of miles south of New Gloucester and I don't have an air conditioner.

More to the point, though, I don't quite understand what is the point of this article. Except to rile folk, in which it appears to have succeeded. Other than that, it's pretty much a shrug. Even his tale of woe is pretty un-heartbreaking, and Maine is great place for tales of woe.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:54 PM on September 24, 2007


At least they'd have probably prioritized dental care over tattoos.

I Looooove that line!
posted by wafaa at 5:05 PM on September 24, 2007


the Bush grandchidren have been trickling down in the pool.

Jenna and Barbara?
posted by The World Famous at 5:05 PM on September 24, 2007


Just urinate in the pool and spare me your life story.
posted by fire&wings at 5:14 PM on September 24, 2007


I make $9.25/hr and I am represented by a union.

Also, a lot of Americans distaste for unions comes from the Hoffa years when they were more or less taken over by organized crime. That's a tough hurdle to get past. (and FWIW, I've tried my hand at labor organizing in the past and got my ass dragged into court for my trouble. Unions did a lot back in the day, but I wonder how effective they are now, which might be what makes people leery).
posted by jonmc at 5:18 PM on September 24, 2007


Also, a lot of Americans distaste for unions comes from the Hoffa years when they were more or less taken over by organized crime.

The UAW is giving Americans one more reason to hate unions today. Idiots.
posted by The World Famous at 5:19 PM on September 24, 2007


Quick, you're a middle-class franchised proprietor of a gas station. Your average profit margin is in the single digits (indeed, the highest profit-per-unit item you sell is candy, not gasoline). You need someone to work the overnight shift. You will pay this person's salary, not Exxon. How much do you pay him per hour?
Quick, you're a humonguous and vastly profitable corporation, that, in part, makes those vast profits by licensing franchises such that their employees cannot profitably be paid a living wage. Someone claims that you are vastly profitable, and that you should pay those employees a living wage. You do not want to give up a single iota of your profits. How do you distract listeners from the underlying essence of the person's technically incorrect statement?
posted by Flunkie at 5:19 PM on September 24, 2007 [6 favorites]


The UAW is giving Americans one more reason to hate unions today. Idiots.

Hoffa was the Teamsters, but whatever.
posted by jonmc at 5:20 PM on September 24, 2007


I know. I wasn't talking about Hoffa. I was talking about what the UAW did this morning. Sorry if there was confusion -- I meant to imply that Hoffa and union violence aren't the only reasons people don't like unions. The fact that certain high profile unions, particularly the UAW, act in such a way as to destroy the very industry that their members are employed by doesn't exactly ingratiate unions to Americans.
posted by The World Famous at 5:23 PM on September 24, 2007


I learned that rich people fart a lot. It was only later I learned that correlation does not equal causation.

They farted their way to riches, then?
Finally! Something to go between

1. decide to become rich

3. profit!
posted by dreamsign at 5:25 PM on September 24, 2007


Ok, I'm going to say what is on the mind of a lot of MeFites - this guy is a fucking loser. End of story, and not an interesting one at that.
I actually agree that the story lacks the punch expected from the "if you had seen the things that I have seen" blurb, that it isn't particularly interesting without it.

But "this guy is a fucking loser", and "not an interesting one"?

I don't know. I found the fact that a guy living in a trailer and making barely enough to scrape by knew what the School of the Americas is, and was correctly outraged about it, to be not only interesting, but (perhaps naively) a hopeful sign for the future.
posted by Flunkie at 5:26 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Steve... sometimes you're right, and sometimes you're wrong. I like that about you. But this thing here? It makes you sound like a self-righteous idiot.

What? I admitted that my $400 number was wrong. It was a simple error, and I owned up to it promptly.

nixerman decided to bust my balls over my supposed lack of understanding about this "age of the corporation" we're living in, and it was just too much, because the guy has proven himself again and again to have a grasp of economics and the corporate structure appropriate to a six year old.

If, based on that, you want to think I'm a self-righteous idiot, knock yourself out.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:27 PM on September 24, 2007


*knocks self out*

Mr. Steve, I am not without sympathy for the small businessman who is caught between a rock and a hard place much of the time, but paying a hard working employee enough to live on is not exactly a socialist conspiracy.
posted by jonmc at 5:31 PM on September 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


“Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.”

So, the 4-odd thousand aside - the consensus is we shouldn’t kill the 400 richest Americans?
Is it that we don’t know where they are?
I’m not seeing the hold up here.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:33 PM on September 24, 2007


I make $9.25/hr and I am represented by a union.

I've had union jobs in that range in the past. It would've been interesting to have learned what the salary would've been without the union, in terms of dues paid and opportunity costs in possibly structuring the contract differently.

My last experience with unions was at the Seattle Times, where a class of employees was represented by the Newspaper Guild. It was clear that these employees would never lose their jobs, no matter how incompetent, and there was a whole other group of employees that, because of contractual rules, could not ever be full-time employees. So you had a bunch of old farts that couldn't be fired and a bunch of young people that actually did all the work, but literally couldn't be paid for more than 39 hours per week.

That was 10 years ago, so I don't know if there have been any changes. But every person I've ever met that's been part of a union can tell stories about how tortured the relationship becomes, as both sides attempt to game the contract.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:33 PM on September 24, 2007


The whole thing will be a moot point soon enough. When the sea rises (global warming) Barbara's precious 82° pool, the Bush family compound and Walker's Point where it stands will all be a muddy underwater ruin.
posted by chance at 5:34 PM on September 24, 2007


I believe it was Napoleon who pointed out that religion was invented to keep the poor from murdering the rich.

Yes it was. (In a similar quote attributed to him, he also said, "Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.") Another nice quote linking religion and wealth comes from Dorothy Parker: "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
posted by LeLiLo at 5:36 PM on September 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


but paying a hard working employee enough to live on is not exactly a socialist conspiracy.

But what exactly is "enough to live on?" Must every job be enough to live on? Can we never offer low-paid jobs specifically intended to be transitory work with high turnover? In other words, must every employee working the counter at McDonalds be ensured of lifelong, fulfilling work at that job?

Just rhetorical questions. I don't have an answer.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:37 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know. I found the fact that a guy living in a trailer and making barely enough to scrape by knew what the School of the Americas is, and was correctly outraged about it, to be not only interesting, but (perhaps naively) a hopeful sign for the future.

Sounds like a typical liberal arts major.
posted by smackfu at 5:37 PM on September 24, 2007



I've had union jobs in that range in the past.


Well, in the here and now in NYC, it ain't shit. Just so you know.
posted by jonmc at 5:37 PM on September 24, 2007


Cool Papa Bell, though you state that your questions are rhetorical, I contend that they are not actually rhetorical, and are easily answered with a resounding "No." (except the first one, which is answered with a resounding 'that depends on what you mean by live.')

Well, in the here and now in NYC, it ain't shit. Just so you know.

Just FYI, NYC is a titch expensive compared to the rest of the country, but that is, indeed, a pretty low wage.
posted by The World Famous at 5:44 PM on September 24, 2007


I believe it was Napoleon who pointed out that religion was invented to keep the poor from murdering the rich.

Thank-you Jesus.
posted by docpops at 5:44 PM on September 24, 2007


Sounds like a typical liberal arts major.
What, I do, or he does?
posted by Flunkie at 5:45 PM on September 24, 2007


Every person I've ever met that's been part of a union can tell stories about how tortured the relationship becomes, as both sides attempt to game the contract.

All things being equal, in any given labor market it's better to work in a unionized industry than an non-unionized industry. However, it is usually better if you are, yourself, un-unionized, because you receive the benefits of the other unions pushing wages for your industry up, but get to avoid paying union dues and fussing with strikes, collective bargaining, etc. It's a classic free rider problem, just like taxes and most other libertarian hobby-horses.

Unions have kept more manufacturing in the US than we have any right to: our civil institutions, especially education, mean that we could be retraining and repurposing much of that basically low-skilled labor to more skilled jobs, which would also be more emotionally and financially rewarding.

That's the classical economic view, anyway. There's something to be said for keeping know-how domestically, though, especially as trade imbalances increase. The same thing goes for agriculture: Israel may make cheaper oranges than Florida, but I'd like to be guaranteed my supply of Sunny D regardless of conflicts in the Middle East.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:48 PM on September 24, 2007


I'll take that job if he doesn't want it.

The answer is a douchebag in the wind.
Wasn't there a movie about something like that?
posted by Reggie Digest at 5:52 PM on September 24, 2007


Sounds like a typical liberal arts major.

I would imagine that a "typical" liberal arts major usually ends up being an elementary school teacher rather than a poolboy/girl.
posted by Avenger at 5:52 PM on September 24, 2007


> I would totally be dropping pot seeds all over their property if I were their pool boy.

You have seeds to spare? If you don't have to smoke your seeds and stems you're not poor.
posted by jfuller at 6:03 PM on September 24, 2007


Don't kids on crack kill people for 20 bucks and change these days? Someone needs to get the word out to them about the bonanza that awaits those who cull the rich.
posted by Abiezer at 6:13 PM on September 24, 2007


Cool Papa Bell writes "Can we never offer low-paid jobs specifically intended to be transitory work with high turnover?"

I think it would be wise to look at the example of In-N-Out Burger:

From Wikipedia:

"In-N-Out pays its employees significantly more than the federally mandated minimum wage of $5.85 per hour and California's minimum wage of $7.50 per hour — currently starting pay is a minimum of $9.50 per hour.[19] For its full-time associates, the company offers complete employee benefits,[20] and provides 'fringe' benefits in the form of annual company picnic, gifts at Christmas, the opportunity to participate in a variety of other company-sponsored activities, as well as paid holidays and paid vacations. According to the company's website, on average, each of their 200+ store managers earn just under $100,000 annually, and have been with the company for 13 years. [21] The restaurants are closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. It is one of the few chains to receive a positive mention in the book Fast Food Nation."


This is a fast-food burger joint. If they can do it, so can most of these other businesses.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:15 PM on September 24, 2007 [14 favorites]


"There's also the fact that the ruling class consists of more than 400 people, as anyone who isn't a screaming retard is aware. I'd say "nice strawman" or somesuch, but I'm not sure what the hell you're trying to say."

I joined MetaFilter for the LOLCATZ links, but it's the total lack of self-awareness that keeps me coming back.
posted by Slap Factory at 6:15 PM on September 24, 2007


jfuller writes "You have seeds to spare? If you don't have to smoke your seeds and stems you're not poor."

You smoke your seeds? Christ, man, that doesn't even work. Might as well plant 'em, cause all you're going to get from burning them is a headache. Almost 0% THC or other psychoactives. Stems ... well, maybe you'll get a little. But you'll mostly be smoking cellulose.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:18 PM on September 24, 2007


washburn writes "Or 32k in cash or services to the bottom eighth--thirty-seven and a half million Americans. It could make quite a difference to a lot of people who could really use the help, or the things (education, heath-care, transport, housing) which that money, well-managed, could provide."

Were about to have a bit of a social experiment on this in Canada. The government will be compensating First Nations members who were forced into residential schools with an average of $28K (2 billion total). Statistically First Nations members are over represented as a percentage of Canadians living below the poverty line. I sure hope someone is planning a large scale study of what happens; though I can't imagine how to do that without invading people's privacy.
posted by Mitheral at 6:24 PM on September 24, 2007


Interestingly, if we killed the Forbes 400 richest Americans and distributed their wealth among the remaining US residents, we'd all get about $400 each.

And...?
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:25 PM on September 24, 2007


“Can we never offer low-paid jobs specifically intended to be transitory work with high turnover?”

Reminds me of the greek king (Postman’s “Technopoly”) presented with the steam engine who asks that if society starts using the steam engine - what would happen to the slaves?

Labor tends to fluctuate with the demographics and skills required but the big problem is the unsustainability. You create a larger and larger unskilled service class that needs to be supported by less and less people unless the low pay is mitigated by something like training (e.g. labor guilds in the middle ages). And indeed, many corporations seek to lower their taxes (such as those that go for education), so you get a bunch of unemployable 40 year olds working in burger joints making nothing trying to raise kids whos only option is to work at a burger joint.
Great if your objective is to make huge profits from your burger joint, but then, try and find a good heart surgeon, try and get your kids properly educated, try and get your local road engineered to proper specifications. Skilled labor costs go through the roof - so go overseas right?
That game can only be played so long.
+ what krinklyfig sed more cogently than me
posted by Smedleyman at 6:28 PM on September 24, 2007


I worked for four years at a grocery store, my second job ever. It was a union gig, and I had to shell out a few hundred in cash before I could start work, just for the uniform and nametag and up-front dues. When I started, I made (if memory serves) around 5-something an hour, and ended around 8-something I think (at the time, minimum wage was $3.85, THAT I won't forget any time soon!)

Here's what I did in those four years:

1. Finished high school;
2. Went to college for a few years, a subsidized commuter school with my costs around $600-$1200 a semester (not counting books, and rent, and transportation costs);
3. Worked a second job without pay -- hooray for the unpaid internship! -- in my chosen field while still attending classes full time and holding down the grocery store job part-time (and occasionally a third job for extra cash, doing whatever I could get.)

I never had spare money, and often had to fall back on loans from my parents to get me through a month. I had terrible roommates, roach-infested apartments, and when my car broke down friends had to drive me back and forth to different jobs until I had enough money to fix it.

Eventually I left college (unfinished) to work a more lucrative full-time job while still interning for free. That full-time job paid $19,000 a year, which isn't much.

So how old was I when I gained enough traction to make a decent wage and not life in a hellhole (or with hellish people?) Around 23-24, same age this guy is now.

I got lucky; it wasn't just hard work and talent that got me where I am, it was a lot of luck and good timing. The only difference between myself and this pool boy is that I worked for free a lot hoping to find opportunities and found them; whether he has done so and failed to have the same luck or hasn't tried isn't clear.

Living is expensive when you're trying to pay for your own education, housing, health care, transportation, and so on, even if you're single. Don't be so hard on the guy just because he has a crap job right now.
posted by davejay at 6:40 PM on September 24, 2007 [5 favorites]


For the record, I'm 36, with no degree. 25 years ago, mainly due to the work of the laborr movement, I could've gotten a job that'd pay enough to raise a family on. But these days, those jobs are long gone. Just so you know.
posted by jonmc at 6:43 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


It's unbelievable how short people's memories and myopic their grasp of history with regards to labor unions. The one thing that made the US the economic superpower it is is the huge and viable middle class that resulted from American organized labor.

No other country has been able to generate a middle-class like ours. It is the economic engine the rest of the world can only dream of. If the American worker had not risen up in the 20's, 30's, and 40's, and taken their share,we'd still be a country of robber barons and serfs.

Do you actually think that the Great Industrialists and their new corporations would have ever willingly given anything up? And with the declining force of labor unions, the middle class is losing ground back to the powerful. How much more obvious does it have to be? And yet people insist on defending the corporations that hold all the fucking cards.

Yes, please keep pointing out Hoffa and the Teamsters. For every crooked union you can mention, I can point to a hundred corrupt corporations.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:52 PM on September 24, 2007 [18 favorites]


Yes, please keep pointing out Hoffa and the Teamsters. For every crooked union you can mention, I can point to a hundred corrupt corporations.


Benny, I'm the one who mentioned Hoffa and I also have done labor organizing at risk to my job. yes, I agree that the corporations are much worse when it comes to crooked behavior. But when you say 'union' to a lot of people what comes to mind is people like Jimmy Hoffa and Tony Boyle; corrupt gangsters. and I can't really deny that's what those guys were. To a lot of people it may look like niether side is to be trusted is what I'm saying.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 PM on September 24, 2007


$9.00 an hour and (virtually) no risk of on-the-job death? For Maine, this guy's solid middle-class.
posted by rusty at 6:57 PM on September 24, 2007


$9.00 an hour and (virtually) no risk of on-the-job death?
I think that your faith in the inherent morality of Barbara Bush is unfounded.
posted by Flunkie at 7:00 PM on September 24, 2007 [6 favorites]


cool papa bell:Choose carefully. If you go over, you're out of business.

But if you get within $1000, you win BOTH showcases!
posted by dr_dank at 7:15 PM on September 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


He's only 23 He's only working 45 hrs a week, (at a job he says is the easiest he has ever had) has time to attend protests and hang out on the front stoop. What he needs is a SECOND job to pay for his teeth, or perhaps a third room mate, or maybe a bicycle instead of a car. If he REALLY wants teeth, maybe all three. Why not clean the dentists pool? or offer to clean the dentists office? SOMETHING besides panhandling on the internet. Sheesh!
I vote loser. And this concept of avengers "where we continually work longer and longer hours for less and less". is a bunch of BS. Once you factor in inflation our pool boy has it a whole lot better than past generations, as do most of us.
posted by HappyHippo at 7:24 PM on September 24, 2007


On further review I would also recommend he sell the gas powered mower in the picture as well as not trash all those aluminum cans piled up behind him in the other pic, and is that two vehicles parked in the driveway? Maybe they could car pool? I'm upgrading to Stupid Loser.
posted by HappyHippo at 7:34 PM on September 24, 2007


[$4,000] sure as shit wouldn't [cover healthcare costs for everyone] as a matter of practicality. Those 400 people don't actually consume resources in proportion to their income.

So, you are saying that moving that money from land into economic activity would be... I've no idea what you are trying to say, actually.

It seems obvious that injecting a trillion dollars into the active economy could only stimulate growth.
posted by Chuckles at 7:46 PM on September 24, 2007


Or maybe the two cars belong to his roommate and the guy taking the picture and they already borrow the lawnmower to cut their grass.
posted by Mitheral at 7:52 PM on September 24, 2007


it's pretty obvious they don't cut the grass
posted by HappyHippo at 8:10 PM on September 24, 2007


You have seeds to spare? If you don't have to smoke your seeds and stems you're not poor.

Who said I was poor?

And if you're smoking stems and seeds, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:10 PM on September 24, 2007


It seems obvious that injecting a trillion dollars into the active economy could only stimulate growth.

Sorry, but... it's already -in- the economy. It's being spent on things that the rest of us produce: books, computers, cars, and labor. Moreover, most of it isn't even being spent on consumer goods: it's being invested in companies that attempt to make a return on investment by producing more value than they expend.

The real problem with the idle rich isn't that they have more money than the rest of us: it's that they do less productive labor, and have fewer incentives to invest wisely or in net-positive ways. If they can extort money from tax-payers with no-bid contracts won through bribes and political connection, they will. Even then the money doesn't leave the economy, but it does shift our economic priorities so that we produce more yachts and fewer medical treatments for poor people.

When will people get it through their heads that capitalism isn't a zero-sum game, but rather a game of domination? It's not about haves and have-nots, it's about getting enough 'fuck you' lucre to hire some snot-nosed kid to clean your pool, wash your dirty laundry, and wipe your ass.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:10 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: angry liberals who suffered through poverty so no soup for you, loser.
posted by mecran01 at 8:14 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


And this concept of avengers "where we continually work longer and longer hours for less and less". is a bunch of BS. Once you factor in inflation our pool boy has it a whole lot better than past generations, as do most of us.

How do you define "a whole lot better"? More cars per person? More TV's per room? What measurement are you using?

In any event, when adjusted for inflation, the average weekly real wage is roughly the same as it was in 1982 (in 1982 dollars, and as of 2004, anyway).

So, inflation is up, productivity is up, corporate profits are up -- but the average American worker has the same purchasing power as he did when Cheers was in it's first season.

The whole situation is BS -- but its not mine. It's our BS, and we're reveling in it.
posted by Avenger at 8:16 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, inflation is up, productivity is up, corporate profits are up -- but the average American worker has the same purchasing power as he did when Cheers was in it's first season.

But you already adjusted your numbers for inflation, right? So inflation being up is irrelevant. As is productivity. As are corporate profits. Because you already adjusted for inflation to show that the average American worker isn't any worse off then he was when Cheers was in its first season. Except that now he knows that Cheers was a big waste of his time. I mean, according to you, that is.
posted by The World Famous at 8:21 PM on September 24, 2007


the average American worker isn't any worse off

And the average CEO is doing 10-20 times better.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:43 PM on September 24, 2007


And a bunch of those average CEOs are causing prices of everything to rise well beyond what that average worker can afford. Purchasing power may be the same, but there are a lot of things (like health insurance) that were not such a big percentage of family income in times past.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:46 PM on September 24, 2007


Because you already adjusted for inflation to show that the average American worker isn't any worse off then he was when Cheers was in its first season.

Well, HappyHippo implied that we're "better off" than people in decades past -- a statement that I find dubious as "better off" is a difficult quantity to measure. But in a purely financial paycheck-in-my-hands sense, we're no more "better off" then we were almost three decades ago.

I mention the fact that productivity is up because people are literally working more hours today than we were in the early 80's, but for roughly the same amount of money. We're working harder for less.

I included corporate profits because, according to Market Watch, corporate profits are at a 40 year high (and I'm assuming that they're smart enough to adjust for inflation as well), but oddly enough, real wages aren't at a 40 year high. In fact, they're at a 30 year stalemate!

Except that now he knows that Cheers was a big waste of his time. I mean, according to you, that is.

Cheers is unforgivable for making Woody Harrelson. But completely redeemed for making the "Morn" character on DS9.
posted by Avenger at 8:50 PM on September 24, 2007


So, inflation is up, productivity is up, corporate profits are up -- but the average American worker has the same purchasing power as he did when Cheers was in it's first season.

But prices for most consumer goods are way, way down, and quality is up, up, up across the board. You're typing your posts on a PC, and later, you'll get 500 channels on your dirt-cheap, high-quality television that you bought from Target, none of which was around in any meaningful way in 1982.

Have fun playing Halo 3 tonight on your Xbox 360. I'm going to drive out to pick it up in an average car that is 100 times safer and nearly twice as fuel-efficient than the average car in 1982. I might stop at McDonalds on the way and pick up something from the dollar menu (!), which was also unavailable in 1982.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:54 PM on September 24, 2007


Avenger - I would imagine that a "typical" liberal arts major usually ends up being an elementary school teacher rather than a poolboy/girl.

Libarts? Think cubical worker.

It's really interesting to hear "I was poor, worked my way up, now I'm comfortable (if not rich)." stories.

What if you were black or hispanic; I don't doubt that you'd work just as hard, but would you be in the same situation? I'm not saying that people of black or hispanic (or both!) roots don't make it, but what are the proportions? Or even if one's caucasian and from a very small town?

Very likely dealing with a different problem, but, still.

I think that there's a disconnect between the very rich, the comfortable, and the poor and it's mostly from the media. How do the people from "Friends" afford to live in New York? The poor, as a demographic, seems to aspire to be "rich" rather than "middle class" and the middle class aspires to he "mega rich" (McMonster Mansions, &c) instead of "more comfortably well off."

The extremism of wealth distribution should be lending heat to firebrands to ignite the masses into doing something about it; but I guess the public education system starting from around the 70's is paying dividends.

(I was talking to a coworker with young children about the Canadian public education system and it sounds like it's more and more like the American one, now, to my dismay.)
posted by porpoise at 8:56 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


How do the people from "Friends" afford to live in New York?

Chandler was always richer than he let on, and Monica's grandmother gave her the rent-controlled apartment.

Like, duh! pay attention! kthxbi.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:00 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


causing prices of everything to rise well beyond what that average worker can afford umm you named one so far........ I have something called catastrophic health insurance, and it's way less expensive than the $4000.00 yearly that was proposed earlier in the thread. Everything else healthwise I pay for in cash as I go. Funded through my SAVINGS. I've found that when your paying cash, healthcare (like most things) is negotiable. I'm also guessing some preventative maintanence in the pool boys teeth probably would have helped too, hmmm tatoo or dental checkup? Tough decision but really only one correct one in hindsight...
posted by HappyHippo at 9:06 PM on September 24, 2007


Cool Papa Bell, housing and health care consume far more of the same paycheck than they did in 1982 for a lot of Americans.
posted by maxwelton at 9:08 PM on September 24, 2007


Cool Papa Bell - the examples you listed (PCs, consumer goods) are a matter of technology (and offshore manufacturing - and the fact that non-American nationals have gained the engineering and manufacturing skills required to create said products)

McDonalds "food" is profit-driven rather than nutrition driven (almost everything on the menu has high fructose corn syrup in it - a highly subsidized agriculture product - despite the very damning evidence that it's contributing substantially to obesity in North America).

The quality of life, not the quantity of consumer goods, that can be purchased by the "average American worker" is a lot less than it used to be. Look at the price of quality* foods in local groceries supermarkets.

*fresh unpasturized milk vs. gatorade, or a chicken from a farm outside of the city vs. factory chicken, a little beef from the butcher vs. a 8lb. "family pack" of "ground" beef - shit, ground beef used to be chuck that's put through a grinder - when I lived in the midwest in the US going to most supermarkets, it's just waste meat pressure-washed off of carcasses.

The "rich" can still afford to eat quality food; the poor...? Growing up in Vancouver BC, I was used to fresh produce, and a great variety of it (yes I know, there's a large HUGE carbon footprint for imported foodstuffs; many of the more locally popular stuff can be found from local sources, though). When I was doing my undergrad in the midwest - ye gods, the supermarkets for the "poor" were horrible. The co-ops for the trustfunder hippies were hardly better. Poor nutrition impairs childhood development (but, but... how come midwesterner guys are built like beef cattle? Bovine hormones?.

posted by porpoise at 9:12 PM on September 24, 2007


Cool Papa Bell, housing and health care consume far more of the same paycheck than they did in 1982 for a lot of Americans.

That depends almost entirely on where you live and how you slice the data across time. In most markets, if you bought a house 10 years ago and sold it today, you made a tidy profit. If you bought a house in 1982 and sold it today, you made some serious bank.

Cool Papa Bell - the examples you listed (PCs, consumer goods) are a matter of technology

So what? My assertion is that by taking one slice of data out of context, you can make all kinds of statistical leaps in either direction. The bottom line is, for the most part, life is better, not worse. "Oh, woe is me. I'll never have it better than my parents. I better post this on my blog from my laptop with free Wi-Fi here at Starbucks, which charges $3 for a cup of coffee."

One of my favorite fun little factoids is the Mini Cooper. Yeah, the car. Did you know those new Mini Coopers you see on the road today are a little less than twice as heavy as earlier generation models? The additional weight is all luxury equipment and safety gear. And they get better gas mileage.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:24 PM on September 24, 2007


The additional weight is all luxury equipment and safety gear.

And that the car itself is half again as long, wide, and tall as the original.
posted by The World Famous at 9:26 PM on September 24, 2007


You're typing your posts on a PC, and later, you'll get 500 channels on your dirt-cheap, high-quality television that you bought from Target, none of which was around in any meaningful way in 1982.

Have fun playing Halo 3 tonight on your Xbox 360. I'm going to drive out to pick it up in an average car that is 100 times safer and nearly twice as fuel-efficient than the average car in 1982. I might stop at McDonalds on the way and pick up something from the dollar menu (!), which was also unavailable in 1982.


Earlier I had wondered aloud at what sort of standard one could use to determine how one is "better off". You seem to imply that the availability of cheap consumer products (Xbox, PCs, better cars, Cable TV, McDonalds) means that we're "better off".

I'm certainly not going to argue that you're incorrect for saying so. If thats your personal standard, fine.

A big, huge glaring problem, though, is the fact that we're working harder and longer for those things than we would have in the 80s. People (myself included, until very recently) are working 48, 56 or even more hours a week to pay for that awesome new car or a ~$600 PS3. So even if you argue that our stuff is "better" now than it was in the 80's [again, although it seems obvious that a PS3 is "better" than an Atari 2600, it's still a value judgment to say so] we're working almost twice as hard for it.

Also, most people can't actually afford those nice things (with the exception of McDonalds). I work with very hard working middle-class professionals who are still driving 95' Chevy suburbans. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but wheres their nifty new fuel-efficient car that all our enormous wealth is supposed to bring?

Saying that "all our stuff is better, therefore we are richer" is like bragging that America has the greatest amount and quality of cutting-edge medical science in the world (which I suppose is true) -- but the only problem being that a fairly large portion of us have zero access to said medical miracles. If so many of us can't afford it, do we really "have" it?

Not to mention our endless, ever-growing debt, both personal and national, which we are also working quite a bit harder to try and pay down. Once you factor everything in, it appears that the poor have gotten poorer, the middle class have gotten poorer, the rich have gotten richer, and the wealthiest have achieved a god-like amount of wealth.

But hey, we have dollar menus. Thats a good thing, because a big chunk of our population is going to be living off said menus if things continue to get worse.
posted by Avenger at 9:32 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a fast-food burger joint. If they can do it, so can most of these other businesses.

posted by krinklyfig at 6:15 PM on September 24 [5 favorites +] [!]


Your statement didn't ring true to me. When I was in San Jose, California recently, I noted that the In-N-Out was paying $10 an hour. In the poverty-stricken south, with a dirt-cheap cost of living (where I live), Taco Bell is paying $8 an hour.

I ran a comparison on this cost-of-living calculator. $8 per hour, full time, over 52 weeks, is $16,640. Plug that income into the cost-of-living calculator and compare my area with San Jose, and you'd need a $27,876.96 to maintain a comparable livelihood in San Jose (a 67.53% increase). The hourly wage would be approximately $13.40. So, In-N-Out Burger is paying below what Taco Bell pays in my area. Not exactly heroic.

(Oh, and my perception is that nobody pays minimum wage anymore except in the most godforsaken rural areas. If you're paying minimum wage, you are limiting yourself to barely-sentient people who you'll be lucky if they have the sticktuitiveness to last through the first day on the job.)
posted by jayder at 9:45 PM on September 24, 2007


A big, huge glaring problem, though, is the fact that we're working harder and longer for those things than we would have in the 80s.

For some things, sure. For all things? Nope. Not even close. And that's not factoring in qualitative improvements.

Face it. It's not all doom and gloom out there.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:49 PM on September 24, 2007


This seems like complete bullshit to me. Does anyone here really believe that Bush's pool boy would really be marketing himself on CafePress, with a t-shirt that says, "I support the Bushes' pool boy -- BECAUSE THEY DON'T!" This has got to be a lie that just wasn't fact-checked by the San Francisco Chronicle reporter.

Anyone who believes that this tattooed, goateed, bald-headed toothless moron has ever set foot inside the Bush compound needs to have your bullshit detector re-calibrated.
posted by jayder at 9:56 PM on September 24, 2007


Life is better not worse! I second that! My father at 12 years old worked in a coal mine. I did not. Both my grandfathers had small farms AND worked at the local PPG plant FULL time, they worked LONG hours, they could do 45hrs a week standing on their head. The pool boy has it easy. I have it easer still but it wasn't always that way. I lived on beans and rice for years and took a job that offered me housing upstairs so I wouldn't need a car. We all are capable of making sacrifices but it does appear that the majority of people would rather whine and complain then roll up their sleeves and get busy. We certainly live in a consumer culture where many things are not nearly as expensive as they once were. As for our pool boy and anyone else having financial difficulties especially the younger folk I would recommend the simple living network and a few books "Your money or your life" and the "total money makeover"
posted by HappyHippo at 9:56 PM on September 24, 2007


From the point of view of a foreigner ....

I would hate to live in the US. So many things I take for granted - (mostly) free healthcare, a decent work week (40ish hours), decent compensation for the work I do, superannuation, support for tertiary education - seem to be not part of american society. I pay a lot of tax, yes, but well, I enjoy the benefits every day.

With the exception of housing (median house price is now 8x yearly wage instead of 3x), I have it easier than my parents. I have a cushy desk job instead of doing unskilled labour, which I landed by completing my degree. Admittedly, I'm taxed more to pay back the cost of my education, but that's a tax - if I earn no money, I don't have to worry about being hunted down for the debt.

Housing, however, tips the balance a touch. It was a lot easier to own a house in a reasonable amount of time. My parents still have an outstanding mortgage. I could pay it off in a year, perhaps two. On the flipside, I am not at all sanguine about my ability to service a mortgage of the size required today to buy a house. I'm seriously considering simply saving my pennies until I can buy a house nearly-outright - or, like my parents, take out a mortgage for a total of at most 3x my yearly income. At this point, it's become a race between my ability to earn/save and the real estate market.

I'm not sure who's winning at this point.
posted by ysabet at 11:09 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


The most realistic thing I could do would be to decrease my own salary so I could make room to hire an employee at a proper living-wage with health and dental insurance. Life insurance too, if he's going to be working the night shift at a stop-n-rob.

the fact that you can say something this divorced from reality and get 11 favorites for it shows me just how much you guys know what you're talking about

i KNOW - i worked for a good part of the 90s as one of two night people at a gas station - the pay was a little over 6 bucks an hour - think it might have been as much as 6.50 by the time i left - no insurance - because of the way they did things, i worked 48 hours a week and my take home was around 300 a week

before i hear cries over how cruelly exploited i was, consider the following

1 - gas stations do not make money on gasoline, they lose it - the supplier has the owner call in the morning every day and tells them what the price of gas will be

the only time one makes money is when the customer walks in the store and buys something in it

2 - in spite of the rather high markups - (and believe me, i've seen the wholesale sheets, i KNOW), the simple fact of the matter is that in the convenience store business your profit generally works out to 3% to 4% of sales, if your business is well run - so, wow, this place got a million dollars in sales a year!! - let's see that's $30,000-$40,000 bucks salary - well, between the husband and wife owners - so that's $15,000 - $20,000 a year salary for both of them

now realize that they were working 10-12 hours a day, every day, including xmas and do the math

i was making 6.50 - THEY were making much less than minimum wage

yeah, those miserable rich people sure were exploiting me

and yeah, they do get a pay-off at the end - they can sell their business for quite a nice sum of money and THEN they're well to do - in the meantime, they have to deal with shit from the franchiser, who is quite dictatorial, the vendors, who not only will rip you off in a heartbeat, but can be quite dictatorial, too, the customers, some of whom will also rip you off in a heartbeat, and your employees, the least intelligent and honest of which actually think you're rolling in money and feel no guilt over letting their friends walk out with things and fill up their cars with your gas

so here it is, folks - the small, single business, mom and pop place proprietor can be just about as bad off as their employees - and if you want to get rich quick, for god's sake don't get into the convenience store business

you know, there's a reason why there's so many foreigners operating those places these days - you know, the old saying about foreigners taking jobs that americans don't want to do

think about that - if someone offered you your own business on these terms would you take it? - i wouldn't - and i KNOW the business, did it for 7 years and actually liked it!

well ... maybe out in the country somewhere ... i did a gig at a middle of the sticks convenience store for a few months, too, and that was great

unfortunately, they couldn't make a go of it

but anyway, you're asking an owner to decrease his already less than minimum wage salary to provide employees with a living wage, health and dental insurance and life insurance?

can't be done

(our life insurance plan? have two employees always there and offer the cops free coffee so they'd be coming by and keep the windows clear of all obstructions - it works)
posted by pyramid termite at 1:23 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


$9.00 an hour and (virtually) no risk of on-the-job death? For Maine, this guy's solid middle-class.

Forget that. In New Gloucester the guy's well-to-to.

Actually, it's painfully obvious that not many who post here have spent much time in Maine. I've lived in this state for over ten years now, and it's an interesting place. Before moving here I interviewed for a job at the local big hospital. I found it curious when one of the guys that interviewed me couldn't figure out why the hell I'd want to move to Maine. At that time I was also informed that employers in Maine "don't pay Boston wages." Once you're here for a while what you notice is that there are a lot of poor people, and a lot of rich. The middle class is practically invisible, and concentrated around the "big city" (Portland, population 65k or so). Also, the consensus in this state is that unions are bad. In my years here I haven't run into a single person who doesn't think that's the case.

The bulk of the jobs here are retail, flipping burgers or waiting on tourists. There once was a burgeoning call center industry, but that's gone offshore. Before that there were good jobs in clothing mills and shoe factories, but those are long gone. There are a few jobs on the water, but with fishing stocks depleted those are drying up. In the state with the largest concentration of trees there are still a few paper mills, but those are closing down. The few middle class jobs are in clean industries like insurance companies, but they're generally bailing as well. The attitude of young people growing up here is that you get your education and go somewhere else. And if your fortunate enough, you go somewhere else for your education and don't look back. Jon Stewart once referred to Maine as the south of the north, and at times that seems to be the case.

On the other hand, there's a lot to like about living here, but that has more to do with the beauty in nature that surrounds us. You make concessions where you have to.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:30 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


two more things - james rasza doesn't really want a revolution, he just wants his teeth fixed

and i don't have a problem with america being described as a "a nearly Dickensonian nightmare", as it is - but small businessmen are just as prone to suffer the consequences as others
posted by pyramid termite at 1:35 AM on September 25, 2007


small businessmen are just as prone to suffer the consequences as others

Small businessmen are not the idle rich. They are, by and large,
the middle class. In other words, getting screwed with the rest of us.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:50 AM on September 25, 2007


Agree so much with SteveInMaine. I would move back to Maine so quick if I thought there was a job there for me. (One that suited my experience and education, as opposed to scooping ice cream or waiting tables, which is what most of my old friends are doing).

Also, this guy doesn't really live in "rural Maine," unless you consider all of Maine rural. If he really lived in the sticks, he could probably own a house outright in a few years on that salary. Only problem is that there are almost no jobs at all in those places.
posted by lampoil at 4:51 AM on September 25, 2007


'douching dubyuhs pool' is a great band/blog name.
posted by quonsar at 5:10 AM on September 25, 2007


So many things I take for granted - (mostly) free healthcare, a decent work week (40ish hours), decent compensation for the work I do, superannuation, support for tertiary education - seem to be not part of american society.

Keep in mind that on the internet, all you hear is the bitchin.
posted by smackfu at 5:38 AM on September 25, 2007


He's making $2 above minimum wage for skimming bugs, "the easiest job [he's] ever had," and has money for bad tattoos but not dental care.

What a horse's ass.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:10 AM on September 25, 2007


ysabet, well said, you hit the nail on the head:
I would hate to live in the US. So many things I take for granted - (mostly) free healthcare, a decent work week (40ish hours), decent compensation for the work I do, superannuation, support for tertiary education - seem to be not part of american society. I pay a lot of tax, yes, but well, I enjoy the benefits every day.

I see from your bio that you're in Australia... I'm surprised that the housing/wage factor is as high as 8x...?
I would've guessed from your description that you were somewhere in Europe and then from the 8x factor guessed you were in England (factor there is about 10x).

Is the real estate down under overpriced in similar fashion as in the UK and US? If yes, then don't worry, wait a few years, save your money (or invest, don't speculate...)

I know Australia is one of the top UK emigration countries. But a few thousands of British immigrants each year wouldn't have such an influence on the real estate market... would they?
posted by umop-apisdn at 6:13 AM on September 25, 2007


If he really wants to make it, he can. The world is full of examples.
posted by Senator at 6:42 AM on September 25, 2007


+1 loser
posted by unSane at 7:02 AM on September 25, 2007


I believe it was Napoleon who pointed out that religion was invented to keep the poor from murdering the rich.

Whoever says that religion is the opiate of the masses hasn't been paying his cable bills.
posted by newdaddy at 7:12 AM on September 25, 2007


Whoever says that religion is the opiate of the masses hasn't been paying his cable bills.

So true. Football is the opiate of the masses. And beer.
posted by The World Famous at 7:44 AM on September 25, 2007


In most markets, if you bought a house 10 years ago and sold it today, you made a tidy profit. If you bought a house in 1982 and sold it today, you made some serious bank.

I appear to be missing something. How does this prove that housing and healthcare aren't more expensive now?
posted by middleclasstool at 7:48 AM on September 25, 2007


SteveInMaine: You're right on all counts. But, I actually see all of those things as (potentially) good signs. Maine is still a beautiful state, largely un-crapped-up by condos, planned developments, and the rest of the sprawl that has poisoned the American landscape. And why? Because of the poverty! And before this phase Maine's geographic isolation and lack of economic potential kept it from being home to too many factories or too many people.

What we have here in this state is a marvel. Maine's very uselessness has kept it beautiful, and kept it a desirable place to live if only you could figure out how to make a living here. I'm one example (and I know many others) of the middle class that is managing to return to Maine by working somewhere else. I work in New York, for example, but I hardly ever have to actually go there. So I can live here, and be back on vacation in Vacationland every afternoon at quitting time.

If our state congresstards manage not to screw it up, this will remain a great place for a long time.
posted by rusty at 7:48 AM on September 25, 2007


The real answer to how much you pay your overnight clerk at a gas/convenience store is to not be open during hours that you are consistently losing money. Either that or leverage your sunk costs (say, your time as the owner of the establishment) to remain open if you must. I know I'm no economist, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why that marginal revenue is so essential that a business will remain open in hopes of capturing it. If you cannot convert revenue into profit then you're just losing money...albeit at a slightly slower rate than if you were just lighting it on fire.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:13 AM on September 25, 2007


Maine is going to be THE place to be once the rest of the contiguous 48 are a scorched and barren post-warming nightmare-scape. I'm sure some of the 'ignorant rich' have already figured that out. "I will show you fear in a handful of dust."

My wife keeps telling me we should get ahead of the curve and buy a plot up in Nova Scotia right now (not that we have the money to do that, but hey, ya gotta dream.)
posted by newdaddy at 8:19 AM on September 25, 2007


I would hate to live in the US. So many things I take for granted - (mostly) free healthcare, a decent work week (40ish hours), decent compensation for the work I do, superannuation, support for tertiary education - seem to be not part of american society. I pay a lot of tax, yes, but well, I enjoy the benefits every day.

Heh. The evil conservatives have been pushing for superannuation, American-style, for a long time. If we did such a thing in the states, the equity risk premium would go to near zero, and it would be March 2000 all over again. Globally.

Furthermore, the Aussie model wouldn't work in the US. Take away the Pilbara, Olympic Dam, and a few other choice assets, and the sixteen-year-olds in Australia, having never seen a recession in their lives, would be absolutely horrified by what remained.

I absolutely love Australia. It's my favorite place in the world. But young Aussies need to stop mistaking a sustained resource boom for good policy.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:35 AM on September 25, 2007


Yes, please keep pointing out Hoffa and the Teamsters. For every crooked union you can mention, I can point to a hundred corrupt corporations.

Okay, here are a few hundred. I’ll be waiting for your list of thousands of corrupt corporations.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:38 AM on September 25, 2007


Yes, please keep pointing out Hoffa and the Teamsters. For every crooked union you can mention, I can point to a hundred corrupt corporations.

And point to a legal loophole allowing violence against corporate employees, since the Unions had that for a long, long time.
posted by The World Famous at 8:48 AM on September 25, 2007


newdaddy: Too late for N.S. now that our pesos are worth the same as their pesos. Just a couple years ago you could get a nice townhouse in old QC for ~$150-200k CAN. Probably not anymore though.

Also, once the rest of the contiguous 48 are a scorched and barren post-warming nightmare-scape, we're going to be standing at the borders with shotguns we looted from abandoned Wal-Marts in New Hampshire. So you better get in now while the getting's good. :-)
posted by rusty at 9:02 AM on September 25, 2007


You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a corrupt corporation, but it doesn’t appear to be corruption (unlike a union busting heads) because of the collusion with the government.
Remember when the unions spilled all those chemicals in Bhopal, India? Or the unions that paid millions in fees for falsifying claims on work done on missles? Or those unions putting all the lead in children’s toys? Or the unions that spilled millions of gallons of oil (twice as large as the Exxon Valdez spill) in Brooklyn in the 50’s, but didn’t tell anyone about it until the state of New York found out about it in 1978 - but the unions still haven’t cleaned it up?
Or those unions that screwed the government out of millions by overcharging millions for shipping one bolt? I know the monks in Burma are protesting the unions’ forced relocation, forced labor, rape, torture, and murder of peseants while they were securing an oil pipeline
Those unions are destroying the rain forests too.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:30 AM on September 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


The real answer to how much you pay your overnight clerk at a gas/convenience store is to not be open during hours that you are consistently losing money.

not a bad idea, but the franchiser may not let you do that and in some places you may not be losing money during those hours

the bar rush from 2 to 3 was pretty heavy - and after 5, there were all the factory workers

from about 3.30 to 4.30 am things might get very slow - the rest of the night, you usually had business
posted by pyramid termite at 9:40 AM on September 25, 2007


I appear to be missing something. How does this prove that housing and healthcare aren't more expensive now?

Because you missed the first sentence that explained that housing costs are more determined by where you live than any other factor. Housing costs in Manhattan skyrocketed. In Kansas, they're still giving away free land.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:56 AM on September 25, 2007


pyramid termite writes "not a bad idea, but the franchiser may not let you do that and in some places you may not be losing money during those hours

If you're not losing money, then I don't really care much about the sob story about not making margin on gas sales or what-have-you. In the original hypothetical the question was framed such that we're all supposed to feel sorry for the poor franchiseé who cannot afford to pay a living wage. Further, if you're ballsy enough to sign on with a franchiser that forces you to be open during hours that are not profitable then you're ballsy enough to take the counter yourself. Just MHO.

My larger point being that the original hypothetical was a load of sniveling, apologist crap.

"the bar rush from 2 to 3 was pretty heavy - and after 5, there were all the factory workers[.] [F]rom about 3.30 to 4.30 am things might get very slow - the rest of the night, you usually had business"

Believe me, I know from night rush at the convenience store. A bunch of smoked-out, drunken fucktards puking on everything they couldn't shoplift with the cops so fed up with the non-emergency calls to that address that they might actually respond before my shift was over if I could managed to restrain one of the assholes for that long. Then again, I also know what the drawer receipts were and I was able to calculate my wage/hour (at $4.25/hr) and see they weren't making money after shrinkage and utilities no matter the margin on a candy bar or box of condoms.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:55 AM on September 25, 2007


If you're not losing money, then I don't really care much about the sob story about not making margin on gas sales or what-have-you.

there's a large difference between not losing money and being rich, you know - they were making enough to stay open

. Further, if you're ballsy enough to sign on with a franchiser that forces you to be open during hours that are not profitable then you're ballsy enough to take the counter yourself.

except that as i've already pointed out it is profitable and the owners were already there 10-12 hours a day during the day time, when many of their vendors, shipments, etc came in

Believe me, I know from night rush at the convenience store.

we WERE making money - period

how your store did isn't really relevant to that
posted by pyramid termite at 11:27 AM on September 25, 2007


Because you missed the first sentence that explained that housing costs are more determined by where you live than any other factor.

No, I caught that part, and of course it's true, but bottom line is that the only places where housing prices have not moved or gone down are places where most people wouldn't want to live, like that town in Kansas. Look at what's happened to real estate prices in the heart of Detroit, for instance. They're practically paying people to take old houses there.

But that still doesn't refute the general truth that in most areas of the country where there are decent jobs and things to do, housing prices are at best holding steady with inflation. And I'm not talking about places like Chicago, I'm talking about places like Springfield, Missouri and North Little Rock, Arkansas. My neighborhood isn't one of the highly desired ones around here, but price per square foot has gone up 20-25% in the last four years.

Granted it rarely goes up way out of line with inflation except in places like Manhattan, but health care and education costs in the US have, in some cases at 2-3 times that rate. And that's regardless of where you live.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:44 AM on September 25, 2007


bottom line is that the only places where housing prices have not moved or gone down are places where most people wouldn't want to live

But real estate is a finite commodity. Housing prices will always go up in places where lots of people want to live, simply as a function of a growing population and supply/demand mechanics.

There are many things to rail against, then:

* NIMBY zoning policies that prevent the construction of high-density housing in cities.
* NIMBY zoning policies that prevent the construction of improved mass transit that facilitates construction in outlying areas.
* Various other NIMBY policies that prevent high-speed telecommunications infrastructure that would allow more work in home offices.

It's not always about evil corporations. Sometimes it's about stupid government.

Rising health care costs? Well, you got me there. Can't argue that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:00 PM on September 25, 2007


The one thing that made the US the economic superpower it is is the huge and viable middle class that resulted from American organized labor.

That's mostly true enough. Except that the unions went from fighting for safe working conditions and a living wage to striking every year for a payraise on already high salaries. Employers don't like that. They shake out their factories and move them to China. How do you like the wages now?

Certainly unions are a necessary force, but they have a tendency to get excessive and implode.
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:00 PM on September 25, 2007


Some unions do have a tendency to implode. I wonder if that’s a natural evolution or a result of external pressure or what. There must exist some organizational remedy for that. I mean if it’s a result of the heirarchy and pressure to maintain a position on top (on the part of leadership) or opportunism and a lack of clarity - that could be fixed.
Domination by one side of the equation (in labor vs. management) seems inherently unstable.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:28 PM on September 25, 2007


Very good point, Reggie Digest; from what I've seen here in Canada, many unions are incredibly top-heavy with bureaucrats who are less concerned with the well-fare of their members than protecting "The Union" and its socio-political interests, becoming an entity unto itself, ie: labour vs. union vs. management.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:48 PM on September 25, 2007


Okay, here are a few hundred. I’ll be waiting for your list of thousands of corrupt corporations.

The National Legal and Policy Center? You're kidding, right? The same NLPC that Rush Limbaugh lauds at every opportunity (that alone should set off alarms for most sentient humans)? The same NLPC that uses these criteria to pass judgment on corporations? (Walmart is bad because they "embrace the left"?)

There are bad unions, just as there are bad priests, or cops, or doctors. But if you can seriously contend that bad unions compete quantity-wise with bad corporations, I want some of what you're smoking.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:12 PM on September 25, 2007


Cool Papa Bell writes "Housing prices will always go up in places where lots of people want to live, simply as a function of a growing population and supply/demand mechanics."

Do you want to qualify that Cool Papa Bell considering the wide spread housing crash in desirable areas in the US?
posted by Mitheral at 4:02 PM on September 25, 2007


Do you want to qualify that Cool Papa Bell considering the wide spread housing crash in desirable areas in the US?

Yes, you're watching Economics 101 in action. Care to examine the historical trend? It's a bubble, doing what bubbles do. Bubbles are not automatically bad things.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:24 PM on September 25, 2007


jayder writes "Your statement didn't ring true to me. When I was in San Jose, California recently, I noted that the In-N-Out was paying $10 an hour. In the poverty-stricken south, with a dirt-cheap cost of living (where I live), Taco Bell is paying $8 an hour."

That may be true, but does Taco Bell offer benefits, paid vacation, and high earning potential? In-N-Out starts at around $9.50. That doesn't mean you will always be paid at that wage, unlike many fast food places which top out pretty close to your original pay. Also, some fast food places do pay their managers OK (but not great), though in exchange you work a hell of a lot of hours, and benefits are scarce. In-N-Out is substantially different, in that it offers a very good living as well as way of life for those who do stay.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:15 AM on September 26, 2007


umop-apisdn:

Believe me, I wish housing was different. I really, really do.

But compared to the median wage, we've got some of the worst housing markets in the world.

I've speculated upon this in a few theads; the problem is partially that there is no-where else to go. We have 7 cities. That's all. There was a 100 worst markets worldwide for real estate list floating around a while back - and 5 of our cities were in the top 10. The rest were in the 10-20 bracket. There is literally nowhere to live where real estate is affordable near a city.

How it happened, I'm not quite sure. A combination of a tax loophole, some relaxations in lending standards, and a couple of other things. But whatever the reason, a house which I could have afforded 6 years ago is now unthinkably expensive.


Kwantsar:

I assure you, I'm not 16. I know what a recession looks like, via being broadsided by the last one, and I know that by and large, a lot of the australian economy is based on resources. I'm not saying the good times will last indefinitely, and there's a good reason why my chosen profession is highly portable. There's also a drought on. In an export-based economy, that's already hitting some sectors quite hard. Throw in the fact that we don't have enough 16-year-olds (or at least, we have more jobs than 16 year olds), and well, the next decade is going to be rather interesting.
posted by ysabet at 3:28 PM on September 26, 2007


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