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Nickel and Dimed in 2016
You Can't Earn a Living on the Minimum Wage
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When presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talks about income inequality, and when other candidates speak about the minimum wage and food stamps, what are they really talking about?

Whether they know it or not, it’s something like this.

My Working Life Then

A few years ago, I wrote about my experience enmeshed in the minimum-wage economy, chronicling the collapse of good people who could not earn enough money, often working 60-plus hours a week at multiple jobs, to feed their families. I saw that, in this country, people trying to make ends meet in such a fashion still had to resort to food benefit programs and charity. I saw an employee fired for stealing lunches from the break room refrigerator to feed himself. I watched as a co-worker secretly brought her two kids into the store and left them to wander alone for hours because she couldn’t afford childcare. (As it happens, 29% of low-wage employees are single parents.)

At that point, having worked at the State Department for 24 years, I had been booted out for being a whistleblower. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me next and so took a series of minimum wage jobs. Finding myself plunged into the low-wage economy was a sobering, even frightening, experience that made me realize just how ignorant I had been about the lives of the people who rang me up at stores or served me food in restaurants. Though millions of adults work for minimum wage, until I did it myself I knew nothing about what that involved, which meant I knew next to nothing about twenty-first-century America.

I was lucky. I didn’t become one of those millions of people trapped as the “working poor.” I made it out. But with all the election talk about the economy, I decided it was time to go back and take another look at where I had been, and where too many others still are.

My Working Life Now

I found things were pretty much the same in 2016 as they were in 2012, which meant — because there was no real improvement — that things were actually worse.

This time around, I worked for a month and a half at a national retail chain in New York City. While mine was hardly a scientific experiment, I’d be willing to bet an hour of my minimum-wage salary ($9 before taxes) that what follows is pretty typical of the New Economy.

Just getting hired wasn’t easy for this 56-year-old guy. To become a sales clerk, peddling items that were generally well under $50 a pop, I needed two previous employment references and I had to pass a credit check. Unlike some low-wage jobs, a mandatory drug test wasn’t part of the process, but there was a criminal background check and I was told drug offenses would disqualify me. I was given an exam twice, by two different managers, designed to see how I’d respond to various customer situations. In other words, anyone without some education, good English, a decent work history, and a clean record wouldn’t even qualify for minimum-wage money at this chain.

And believe me, I earned that money. Any shift under six hours involved only a 15-minute break (which cost the company just $2.25). Trust me, at my age, after hours standing, I needed that break and I wasn’t even the oldest or least fit employee. After six hours, you did get a 45-minute break, but were only paid for 15 minutes of it.

The hardest part of the job remained dealing with… well, some of you. Customers felt entitled to raise their voices, use profanity, and commit Trumpian acts of rudeness toward my fellow employees and me. Most of our “valued guests” would never act that way in other public situations or with their own coworkers, no less friends. But inside that store, shoppers seemed to interpret “the customer is always right” to mean that they could do any damn thing they wished. It often felt as if we were penned animals who could be poked with a stick for sport, and without penalty. No matter what was said or done, store management tolerated no response from us other than a smile and a “Yes, sir” (or ma’am).

The store showed no more mercy in its treatment of workers than did the customers. My schedule, for instance, changed constantly. There was simply no way to plan things more than a week in advance. (Forget accepting a party invitation. I’m talking about childcare and medical appointments.) If you were on the closing shift, you stayed until the manager agreed that the store was clean enough for you to go home. You never quite knew when work was going to be over and no cell phone calls were allowed to alert babysitters of any delay.

And keep in mind that I was lucky. I was holding down only one job in one store. Most of my fellow workers were trying to juggle two or three jobs, each with constantly changing schedules, in order to stitch together something like a half-decent paycheck.

In New York City, that store was required to give us sick leave only after we’d worked there for a full year — and that was generous compared to practices in many other locales. Until then, you either went to work sick or stayed home unpaid. Unlike New York, most states do not require such a store to offer any sick leave, ever, to employees who work less than 40 hours a week. Think about that the next time your waitress coughs.

Minimum Wages and Minimum Hours

Much is said these days about raising the minimum wage (and it should be raised), and indeed, on January 1, 2016, 13 states did raise theirs. But what sounds like good news is unlikely to have much effect on the working poor.

In New York, for instance, the minimum went from $8.75 an hour to the $9.00 I was making. New York is relatively generous. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and 21 states require only that federal standard. Presumably to prove some grim point or other, Georgia and Wyoming officially mandate an even lower minimum wage and then unofficially require the payment of $7.25 to avoid Department of Labor penalties. Some Southern states set no basement figure, presumably for similar reasons.

Don’t forget: any minimum wage figure mentioned is before taxes. Brackets vary, but let’s knock an even 10% off that hourly wage just as a reasonable guess about what is taken out of a minimum-wage worker’s salary. And there are expenses to consider, too. My round-trip bus fare every day, for instance, was $5.50. That meant I worked most of my first hour for bus fare and taxes. Keep in mind that some workers have to pay for childcare as well, which means that it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which someone could actually come close to losing money by going to work for short shifts at minimum wage.

In addition to the fundamental problem of simply not paying people enough, there’s the additional problem of not giving them enough hours to work. The two unfortunately go together, which means that raising the minimum rate is only part of any solution to improving life in the low-wage world.

At the store where I worked for minimum wage a few years ago, for instance, hours were capped at 39 a week. The company did that as a way to avoid providing the benefits that would kick in once one became a “full time” employee. Things have changed since 2012 — and not for the better.

Four years later, the hours of most minimum-wage workers are capped at 29. That’s the threshold after which most companies with 50 or more employees are required to pay into the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) fund on behalf of their workers. Of course, some minimum wage workers get fewer than 29 hours for reasons specific to the businesses they work for.

It’s Math Time

While a lot of numbers follow, remember that they all add up to a picture of how people around us are living every day.

In New York, under the old minimum wage system, $8.75 multiplied by 39 hours equaled $341.25 a week before taxes. Under the new minimum wage, $9.00 times 29 hours equals $261 a week. At a cap of 29 hours, the minimum wage would have to be raised to $11.77 just to get many workers back to the same level of take-home pay that I got in 2012, given the drop in hours due to the Affordable Care Act. Health insurance is important, but so is food.

In other words, a rise in the minimum wage is only half the battle; employees need enough hours of work to make a living.

About food: if a minimum wage worker in New York manages to work two jobs (to reach 40 hours a week) without missing any days due to illness, his or her yearly salary would be $18,720. In other words, it would fall well below the Federal Poverty Line of $21,775. That’s food stamp territory. To get above the poverty line with a 40-hour week, the minimum wage would need to go above $10. At 29 hours a week, it would need to make it to $15 an hour. Right now, the highest minimum wage at a state level is in the District of Columbia at $11.50. As of now, no state is slated to go higher than that before 2018. (Some cities do set their own higher minimum wages.)

So add it up: The idea of raising the minimum wage (“the fight for $15”) is great, but even with that $15 in such hours-restrictive circumstances, you can’t make a loaf of bread out of a small handful of crumbs. In short, no matter how you do the math, it’s nearly impossible to feed yourself, never mind a family, on the minimum wage. It’s like being trapped on an M.C. Escher staircase.

The federal minimum wage hit its high point in 1968 at $8.54 in today’s dollars and while this country has been a paradise in the ensuing decades for what we now call the “One Percent,” it’s been downhill for low-wage workers ever since. In fact, since it was last raised in 2009 at the federal level to $7.25 per hour, the minimum has lost about 8.1% of its purchasing power to inflation. In other words, minimum-wage workers actually make less now than they did in 1968, when most of them were probably kids earning pocket money and not adults feeding their own children.

In adjusted dollars, the minimum wage peaked when the Beatles were still together and the Vietnam War raged.

Who Pays?

Many of the arguments against raising the minimum wage focus on the possibility that doing so would put small businesses in the red. This is disingenuous indeed, since 20 mega-companies dominate the minimum-wage world. Walmart alone employs 1.4 million minimum-wage workers; Yum Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) is in second place; and McDonald’s takes third. Overall, 60% of minimum-wage workers are employed by businesses not officially considered “small” by government standards, and of course carve-outs for really small businesses are possible, as was done with Obamacare.

Keep in mind that not raising wages costs you money.

Those minimum wage workers who can’t make enough and need to go on food assistance? Well, Walmart isn’t paying for those food stamps (now called SNAP), you are. The annual bill that states and the federal government foot for working families making poverty-level wages is $153 billion. A single Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year in public assistance money. According to Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, in many states Walmart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients. They are also the single biggest group of food stamp recipients. In other words, those everyday low prices at the chain are, in part, subsidized by your tax money. Meanwhile, an estimated 18% of food stamps (SNAP) are spent at Walmart.

If the minimum wage goes up, will spending on food benefits programs go down? Almost certainly. But won’t stores raise prices to compensate for the extra money they will be shelling out for wages? Possibly. But don’t worry — raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would mean a Big Mac would cost all of 17 cents more.

Time Theft

My retail job ended a little earlier than I had planned, because I committed time theft.

You probably don’t even know what time theft is. It may sound like something from a sci-fi novel, but minimum-wage employers take time theft seriously. The basic idea is simple enough: if they’re paying you, you’d better be working. While the concept is not invalid per se, the way it’s used by the mega-companies reveals much about how the lowest wage workers are seen by their employers in 2016.

The problem at my chain store was that its in-store cafe was a lot closer to my work area than the time clock where I had to punch out whenever I was going on a scheduled break. One day, when break time on my shift came around, I only had 15 minutes. So I decided to walk over to that cafe, order a cup of coffee, and then head for the place where I could punch out and sit down (on a different floor at the other end of the store).

We’re talking an extra minute or two, no more, but in such operations every minute is tabulated and accounted for. As it happened, a manager saw me and stepped in to tell the cafe clerk to cancel my order. Then, in front of whoever happened to be around, she accused me of committing time theft — that is, of ordering on the clock. We’re talking about the time it takes to say, “Grande, milk, no sugar, please.” But no matter, and getting chastised on company time was considered part of the job, so the five minutes we stood there counted as paid work.

At $9 an hour, my per-minute pay rate was 15 cents, which meant that I had time-stolen perhaps 30 cents. I was, that is, being nickel and dimed to death.

Economics Is About People

It seems wrong in a society as wealthy as ours that a person working full-time can’t get above the poverty line. It seems no less wrong that someone who is willing to work for the lowest wage legally payable must also give up so much of his or her self-respect and dignity as a kind of tariff. Holding a job should not be a test of how to manage life as one of the working poor.

I didn’t actually get fired for my time theft. Instead, I quit on the spot. Whatever the price is for my sense of self-worth, it isn’t 30 cents. Unlike most of this country’s working poor, I could afford to make such a decision. My life didn’t depend on it. When the manager told a handful of my coworkers watching the scene to get back to work, they did. They couldn’t afford not to.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during the “reconstruction” of Iraq in his book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A TomDispatch regular, he writes about current events at We Meant Well. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent. His next work will be a novel, Hooper’s War.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Minimum Wage, Poverty 
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  1. I’m sure that manager with the charge of time theft has a similar accountant troll over her enforcing that behavior on her. A grim, dehumanized world.

  2. JackOH says:

    Good essay, Peter. As a youngster, I worked in retail. I liked it, and had a knack for it, notwithstanding the lousy pay. I thought about advancement. The entry-level supervisory position in our region was 50 miles away. The commute was unreimbursed, and the work week was six days. I still recall wondering how a corporation could ask people to commit to a responsible career when the effective pay, after the cost of work was deducted, put you around minimum wage.

    I’m getting close to the end of my working life, and I think it’s safe to say many people keep an informal mental file on quality of work and cost of work issues. Rightly so, too, because there are a lot of crap jobs out there.

  3. I retired as quickly as I could, even though I took substantial hits on both my Social Security and my pension. I wasn’t earning minimum wage, but I usually wasn’t much more than a level or two above poverty level, getting by from paycheck to paycheck. Leaving the working world behind was a tremendous relief, and I’ve never regretted it.

    Why work and be poor when I can not work and be no poorer?

    • Replies: @JackOH
  4. I’m not sure I understand: The ACA -”Obamacare” – cost a putative minimum wage worker in NYC nearly $80/week in wages and yet the author is advocating that the very people responsible for this should be given more opportunities to meddle in the economy, What could possibly go wrong!

    Actually, the ChiComs had a rather neat, mirror-image solution for this problem: Back in the day, they capped the highest salary in a government enterprise at some multiple of the lowest salary; if I remember correctly the factor was something like 10 or 20. There’s no reason that a similar system couldn’t be legally imposed on all publicly traded corporations in the USA. Details like the maximum amount of hours various workers could work/bill per week and how to factor perks into the hourly wage should be easy to work out. I guarantee that managerial greed would probably double, triple or even quadruple the lowest hourly rates in most of these corporations.

  5. JackOH says:
    @The Plutonium Kid

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have had at times challenging work that engaged my talents, and good managements that drew the best from you. My current situation is unsatisfactory, so I expect to retire as soon as reasonably possible. (I’ve seen faculty and staff who’ve retired from my corruption-riddled state university, and they mostly seem a decade younger than when they were on the clock.) I’m agreeing with you.

    The workers at my local GM auto assembly plant will be receiving an $11,000 bonus. That’s the GM taxpayers were compelled to bail out barely a few years ago. An occasional practice where I work is for selected crony-hire staffers to be offered an early retirement incentive, after which they’re re-hired at entry-level pay while collecting their pensions. My point? I have strong doubts that today’s American workplace offers meaningful incentives for people to do their best work, when “gaming the system” is commonplace and unremarkable.

  6. JackOH says:

    Employers themselves distort labor markets with non-wage interventions that force their costs up without added productivity. Consider the forced charity scheme most people call group health insurance. When the janitor who’s single marries and has kids, and his group health insurance costs jump from, say, $6000 a year to $15,000 a year, does anyone in the executive suite actually expect him to mop faster? (BTW-the book on how group health insurance has radicalized American thought and feeling, and undermined other human collectivities, such as families and unions, has yet to be published. The academy is of little help, as there’s an informal code of omerta that bars faculty from clarifying the nature of Clarence Rorem’s awful product.)

    Twenty years ago I’d have probably bought the standard-issue libertarian line that minimum wage increases cost jobs. But, it’s a non-libertarian world. I have serious doubts about whether raising the minimum wage by 50% or more will have lasting good consequences, but I’m willing to listen.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  7. MarkinLA says:

    That “time theft” story reminds me of my days at McDonalds. I was the shit-shift guy. I was given all the crap jobs and crap hours and constantly called at home to come in when I wasn’t scheduled but there was an unexpected rush on. I was constantly pestered to leave early if the rush I was scheduled for didn’t materialize. I was the guy to clean up the filthy toilets, vomit in the parking lot, and stomp on the garbage in the trash containers to make more room. Obviously, it didn’t help my attitude toward the job.

    All of this was to save some of the 1/100 of an hour the time clock was calibrated on.

    One day I got tired of all the crap and did the crime of changing my clothes downstairs BEFORE punching the time card. When I came up and punched the card and the manager was right there and heard the clunk, the look on his face was like I had just threw hot fry grease on somebody. 1/10 of an hour was “stolen” at 1.65 an hour. I had to play dumb and let them write on the time card what it should have been.

    Luckily I was just some high school kid and that didn’t become my working life.

  8. Another (absolutely) harrowing anecdote that is beside the point.

    “Work” in the USA today is so regulated that pointing fingers at firms (big and small) is a waste of time. How much does a employee cost, per hour, to the EMPLOYER today?

    Have you compared that to the Nirvana of 1968’s Peak Minimum Wage?

    I don’t have the figures in front of me, but as I understand it, if you add the “employer’s share” of FICA, unemployment insurance, liability insurance, reserves for race/sex/etc. lawsuits, and the rest of the Kitchen Sink (you did allude to the burden of medical insurance mandates), the figure is absolutely double the “wage” earned by the employee.

    If you’re not willing to include those regulatory burdens, your position is invalid on its face.

    THIS is why self-serve kiosks are springing up in every retail establishment. THIS is why manufacturing jobs are not return to the USA even as manufacturing plants may do so.

    As far as I’m concerned, the utter destruction of decent jobs in the USA is a symptom of the astonishing level of economic friction now present in the form of the Medical-Insurance-Industrial Complex, the Higher Ed-Financier-Industrial Complex and the Law Firm-Industrial-Complex.

    A solid 80% of medical services exist only because of monopoly-systems and outrageous violations of price-fixing law condoned by Federal and State political systems. Denninger has harped about this incessantly, and he’s right. The same is true for Higher Ed and let’s face it, Lawsuit Trolling is elevated to a High Art Form in the USA; who do you think pays for all the race-based and sex-based legal extortion that stalks every employer in the land?

    All of these systems are dead-weight losses, a perfection of the Concentrated Benefit, Diffuse Cost robbery of our Corporatist political system.

    The wage/work/job system in the USA is broken. The damned GOVERNMENT did it (well, actually it is the demons and sociopaths and miscreants who populate the organizational flow chart of the political system, the lobbyists and the corporate and interest group managers involved) and I’m sorry but expecting the same people and perverse system that BROKE employment to FIX it is about as stupid as any notion on Planet Earth.

    Raise the minimum wage. Double it. Triple it.

    It WON’T FIX the problem. It won’t even paper over it (because firms will simply redouble efforts to get customers to perform tasks previously done by employees.)

    If you don’t properly diagnose the pathology, every attempt at cure makes the disease WORSE.

  9. @JackOH

    Raise the cost (to the employer) of employing a person and you axiomatically lower the threshold for automating the tasks and eliminating the job.

    That’s simply true. It does not require analysis or study to know.

    Self-checkout lines, self-serve ordering kiosks and DIY paths of every kind are springing up from restaurants to grocery stores and every other bastion of low-level employment.

    This isn’t a “libertarian line,” it is everywhere I look.

    Today’s job landscape is extremely bimodal; if you have the credentials, experience, etc. you can land a “good job” that pays $40k, $80k, maybe even $140k plus full benefits. If you lack any of the necessary attributes you’re offered a minimum wage, part-time job.

    That’s it. Feast or famine.

    How did that arise? Hint: only the federal government (with some additional “help” from states) can by legislative or regulatory fiat make employing people increasingly burdensome.

    After watching a minimum-wage black woman openly extort a small business with whom I had some dealings, playing the same race/sex discrimination game she’d used on at least one prior employer (the DoJ & EEOC were her allies in crime), I lost all interest I’d ever have for using my capital to open a business and provide employment for others.

    The USA is a toxic stew of corporatism and leftist gibsemedat factionalism. As those two “elephants” battle, it’s the grass that suffers. We’re the grass. And I find it ironic that those who suffer from this turn to the very people who instituted it for succor.

    • Replies: @bluedog
    , @unpc downunder
  10. MarkinLA says:
    @dc.sunsets

    What is irrelevant is your constant nonsensical libertarian drivel.

    We have decent working rules because people fought for them. Not because some benevolent employer graciously handed them out or some evil government bent on destroying everything willy-nilly did so. You keep thinking that is every law pertaining to working conditions were to be removed we wouldn’t revert back to what we were – the same as the third world is now.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  11. @MarkinLA

    What is relevant is your ignorance of the factionalism and Public Choice Theory insights into concentrated benefit, diffuse cost in a pluralistic system.

    What is it about commenting that brings out the nitwits who haven’t the slightest notion about rebuttal beyond, “You suck, and your mother wears army boots?”

    Try addressing a point. Pick one. Or do I have to walk you through it?

    Let’s try this one: How much is the average per-hour cost of the few regulatory burdens I cited? What effect do they have on employment? Are any cost-benefit studies done, using methods that actually worked in the past, to estimate the actual effect of increasing such costs? And lastly, is there an upper limit, all in, where you think maybe, JUST MAYBE, the burden starts to gut employment opportunities?

    Oh, and just for extra credit: When employment costs rise and demand for workers declines, what does a large pool of unemployed people do to wage growth?

    • Replies: @Drapetomaniac
  12. OutWest says:

    A while back a union boss (UAW if I correctly recall) stated that a business that couldn’t pay “fair”, i.e. union, wages should go out of business. Some did. Some moved production the China. And, more recently, some borrowed from the rent-seeking class to buy automated worker machines. These are the reasons for the demise of the middle class and the sequestration of wealth by those financing the worker machines. At least this wealth is in production rather than mansions.

    I worked in the factories of the 1950s and do not grieve their passing. But when our agricultural economy was mechanized there were factories to take the resulting excess workers. As the factories mechanize and computerize where do we go now? The politicians certainly don’t know.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  13. Nowhere in this is any word beginning “imm-” to be found. And, of course, no mention of what the minimum wage for foreign-born people should be.

    I suggest raising theirs to something like $35 an hour. And several dollars more, if they have kids to exempt. That at least will get them into the first income-taxpaying bracket.

    Also, all foreign-born should be required to purchase comprehensive health insurance on the open market with their own funds.

    This way, they’ll be subsidizing us, instead of the other way around.

    Oh, and another thing– “internships” should be outlawed. Rich kids get to work for free for the chance to make connections. Not every underpaid person is suffering!

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
    , @Anonymous
  14. …and commit Trumpian acts of rudeness toward my fellow employees and me.

    Hey, buddy… by keeping Mexicans and Mohammedans out of the workforce, “Trumpian acts of rudeness” are now working in our favor. So don’t knock them.

    It’s Sorosian acts of kindness that are killing us.

  15. MarkinLA says:
    @OutWest

    Well you don’t have to add to the problem by importing millions of immigrants and guest workers. I am not against automation. I am against off-shoring. The idea that you are saving anything because some barefoot peasant in Vietnam is making your tennis shoe is ridiculous. What is happening is Nike is making 50 dollars a pair for those 60 dollar shoes, the transportation company is getting 5 dollars, and the subcontractor in Vietnam is getting 5 dollars with one dollar going to the worker who made the shoes. There is no reason those jobs can’t stay in the US.

    • Agree: dc.sunsets, BB753
    • Replies: @hell_is_like_newark
  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Lazy bums.

  17. TG says:

    Well said. Kudos.

    ‘Minimum wage?’ Hah! Walmrt etc. is paying maybe 2 or 3 dollars an hour. Because they require you to be ‘on call’ all the time.

    I mean, imagine a security guard that has to be present 24/7, but only get paid when there is an intruder. That would be a rip-off, yes?

    People should be paid for being on call. Doctors are. If you have to sit by the phone waiting to see if walmart wants you to come in, well, you can’t be working another job. So walmart should bloody pay you.

    The solution, of course, is not legislation per se. The solution is to seal the border with the overpopulated third world. Shrink the labor supply, and the invisible hand of the marketplace will stop places like walmart from screwing workers. But not before.

    • Replies: @Daniel Williams
  18. EdwardM says:

    Working for minimum wage is no picnic, for sure. And your bosses seemed like jerks. But you are calling for the state to force companies to pay more than the economic value of the employee’s contribution, which is not moral or just in my opinion (and ultimately counterproductive anyway).

    There is something to be said in criticizing the system by which employers get to free-ride off of welfare programs that subsidize their employees, but a better solution would be to let the market operate, instead of layering one government mandate (minimum wage) to mitigate the effects of others, and on and on and on, as most of our government seems to work.

    Also, your citation of Yum Brands and McDonald’s as the second- and third-biggest companies paying minimum wage is misleading. Most people who wear these uniforms are employees of franchisees, who are often small businesses with low margins.

  19. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The “poverty line” is meaningless. 18k dollars per year is plenty of money.

    It’s ridiculous to claim it doesn’t constitute a living wage.

    You people should take a tour of the (American) frugality blogosphere. I’m not American myself, but plenty of Americans of middle class background live off 4 figures and save up the rest so they can retire early.

    If you think that you can’t live off 4 figures, you are spoiled by prosperity.

    18k is luxury.

  20. Lupa says:

    American culture is trash. So many people with bottled up anger, feel the need to act out on other people. I honestly don’t get it.
    It’s also funny how the US is supposed to be about egalitarianism and individualism – yet among Western nations, few have such a clear master-slave relations in the work place. Calling your boss “sir”, licking his boot if he asks you to, and then once you’re well-off you’re expected to treat other people like cattle yourself.

    When I was younger I worked several years as a store clerk. Not once did I get humiliated or looked down upon like that. I was able to buy an apartment, car, clothes, etc on my wage. And I worked selling groceries (then hardware supplies) in one of the most upscale areas, full of bankers, celebrities and the likes.
    That’s also the main reason I disapprove of immigration. Because it solidifies these class behaviors, and unlike a native worker – immigrant workers don’t even question it. And as long as unemployment is kept high – you don’t have a choice but to accept it.
    I understand why so many Americans glorify criminals. I’d rather rob and steal, than spend my life treated like a sucker, and not even getting properly paid for it.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  21. I remember crap like this from the minimum-wage jobs I had during my high-school years, when I was in it to earn a little pocket-money, and the feeling of utter bliss I had when Spring would roll around and I could earn a few bucks on my own entrepreneurial terms cutting the neighbors’ grass instead of taking crap from the bozo in manager pants.

    No one is supposed to earn a living, much less support a family, on the minimum wage, but where are they going to go? To even earn pocket money today, a kid (or anyone for that matter) is competing with imported semi- or un-skilled labor. Minimum wage jobs that would have been left for the marginally skilled domestic workforce are now subjects of far greater competition than they would be in absence of cheap foreign labor, and the pressure is worse still when one sees that what used to be the jobs some Americans would take at some price are now declared to be the jobs no American will take therefore we are told we need to import even more unskilled labor … ask yourself why meat-packing plants and small towns throughout the Midwest are starting to look like Somalia.

    And don’t get me started on robots, suffice it to simply ask the criminal elite if they will ever have enough armed guards once they’ve thrown all the unskilled and now unemployed labor, imported from some of the most violent cultures of the world, out of work with no way to get them out of the country.

  22. JackOH says:

    Based on Peter’s essay and your own observations, would anyone commenting here hazard a judgment on whether America’s been made better or worse by the workings of capital and government the past twenty or fifty years? (That’s not intended to be a smart-alecky question. I don’t have a snap answer other than, maybe, some things are better and some important things seem a lot worse.)

  23. @Reg Cæsar

    Internships are a great boon for young people trying to decide on an occupation.

    College internships often lead to jobs after graduation.

    Why you think this is bad stumps me.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  24. @dc.sunsets

    Back when I had small company with a very small payroll:

    For me to pay someone $13 per hour actually cost me $21 per hour. A higher degree of unemployment insurance and other costs are actually on the “employer” side of the paycheck. I didn’t even offer health insurance. If I did, I would be well over $25 per hour, which priced the service I did out of the market.

    The populous at large really don’t have a clue how government mandates have made employing a human being very expensive. With those costs increasing due to the ACA and the $15 minimum wage, I expect much of retail will be manned by machines in the very near future.

  25. @MarkinLA

    My wife works in fashion. The costs spread is actually much higher. Operating margins are very tight in the fashion industry. You pay far less for clothes now than you did 30 years ago (after adjusting for inflation).

    The cost advantage of the cheap labor has actually been disappearing of late (China’s labor is not longer that cheap).

    But back to your point on cheap labor:

    The USA, contrary to conventional wisdom, has been having a renaissance of sorts when it comes to manufacturing. We have had a lot of manufacturing capacity come back to the USA. The reason is because the USA has a major advantage in what I call “The 3 Cheaps”

    1. Cheap Labor
    2. Cheap government (taxes / regulation)
    3. Cheap energy

    Energy is ‘cheap’ here compared the rest of the world.

    Cases in point:

    A textile manufacturer in 2010 moved production back to the USA from Asia. Textiles pretty much disappeared in the 1990s as China and India opened up. This plant in question back in at its peak in the 1980s had over 2,000 workers. When it re-opened in 2010 for the same amount of yarn produced, the factory now has 140 workers.

    A few night ago I had a talk with a plant manager from a bottling plant. Their output has increased but they have eliminated 2/3rds of the workforce. Again, from automation.

    In both cases, the biggest cost concern is now electricity, not the cost of labor. Production is returning to the USA, but not the labor. The jobs that are there are going to be very low pay (which will continue to be replaced by machines) or high skill (high pay) such as engineers, millwrights, etc. The days of earning a solid middle class existence working on an assembly line are gone.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
    , @CanSpeccy
    , @Biff
  26. @JackOH

    The last 50 years has seen the full bloom of CORPORATISM.

    It has also seen public policy idiocy on a scale too colossal to describe.
    –pay people to sit on their butts and pump out babies.
    –throw the borders open to the world (both stupid and smart…both of whom drive down wages and add to the Welfare Burden.)
    –borrow and spend like teenaged sailors loose on shore leave at a whorehouse with a high-limit credit card.
    outright SELL legal privileges to corporate sponsors and the wealthy via cunning insertion of addenda into Omnibus Legislative Bills in the dead of night, bills thousands of pages long that are voted on by Congress before copies of the Bill in question are even distributed to Congressional Staffers, much less actually read.

    Is this not the definition of political crime? Yet where are the howls of rage? Where are pundits and our vaunted 4th Estate (the Press), spotlighting these high crimes (not misdemeanors)?

    The USA was fabulously wealthy and productive, while most competing nations were still recovering from the catastrophe of World War Two. Under these conditions of seemingly limitless wealth, people simply stopped making prudent choices.

    (Perceived) limitless resources produced limitless stupidty; it no longer mattered how much money CONgress squandered, or how many burdens on the citizenry they added year-in and year-out.

    So to answer your question, WORSE, by orders of magnitude. We have a society of infantilized, perpetual adolescents who elected whatever sociopaths promised to give them the most of their (long) Christmas list. Dyke psychotics got their misandry enshrined in Family Court Law. Sexual deviants got their deviancy enshrined in anti-discrimination law right alongside the race-baiters with their assault on Freedom of Association and forced integration. Financial con artists got a regulatory apparatus staffed by their pipeline for junior partners, insuring that no matter how blatant the lies and theft became, “government is their friend.” Corporations got a smorgasbord of tax loopholes, opportunities to hobble their competitors and endless “government contracts,” all of whose costs fell on SOMEONE.

    Everyone GOT WHAT THEY WANTED. The problem is that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, and there are no “mommy and daddy” footing the bill for all this.

    The bills are being paid by Middle America getting crushed. Our society is riven with utter corruption, from the Office of the President and Congress down to every home and apartment. Corruption costs…..and the bills are no longer invisible.

    Don’t worry about the rich, however. When this vast Ponzi Scheme finally comes unglued, most of those you deem rich will be kicked to the curb right beside you. It is they whose paper wealth inflated these past decades, and that paper wealth inflation will return to nothingness from where it arose.

  27. Three points:

    1. The minimum wage in Australia is $17.29 an hour. So yes, $15 an hour here is doable. This was recently implemented in a few American cities and chaos was predicted, but price adjustments were made and the world did not end. That would shed tens of billions of dollars in government assistance costs, and boost tax collections! As wages rise, so do social security tax collections and even income taxes since millions of low wage earners have higher wage spouses.

    2. Corporate sponsored Obama never made a serious effort to raise the minimum wage, even when his party controlled Congress. Walmart recently boosted wages around a dollar an hour, but this occurred just after a federal judge blocked Obama’s illegal attempt to grant work visas to five million illegals.

    3. Selfish and ignorant Americans love to blame low wager earners for their fate. They don’t understand that in our economy good jobs are limited, so it’s a game of musical chairs. Many of the best employees I encounter work in these low paid jobs.

  28. @Lupa

    Nothing sets up failure like success.

    America is like a guy who, for decades, everything he touched turned to gold. While most of it was luck, he thinks it’s all HIM. He feels so rich he can hand out money to anyone he sees (because it makes him feel sooooo superior.)

    Naturally, he overextends himself and makes a series of very bad decisions. The consequences come back at him, and he’s outraged!

    His past success embedded a sense of entitlement. He’s poorly prepared for any reversal so when one arrives, he doesn’t tighten his belt and slog on, he gets ANGRY.

    This is America in a nutshell. If you think Americans are angry now, just wait until the stock market detonates, interest rates skyrocket and all those “social safety nets” turn out to be made of tissue paper promises.

  29. @JackOH

    Based on Peter’s essay and your own observations, would anyone commenting here hazard a judgment on whether America’s been made better or worse by the workings of capital and government the past twenty or fifty years?

    Government? I think government has been more of an impediment than a help. I am not arguing for anarchy. However, I think much of what the government has done to try to ‘help’ has retarded economic growth and distorted the labor market.

    Has things gotten better? Yes… Compared to how my parents lived when they were young and raising a family (1950s and 1960s).. I spend far less of my take home pay on essentials than they did: Food, clothing, consumables (i.e. stuff like paper towels). Far more of my pay is available to spend and invest as a see fit, which at my age, I have a better standard of living when my Dad was the same age as me (even though I earn less than he did at the time).

    Without the advances in computers and automation, my job (we are not wanting for work) wouldn’t exist. In the past it didn’t exist. You couldn’t do it because without our computers, software, and the cloud, the labor costs to do it would be so high what I do for a living would never be cost effective.

    For people who are smart enough to do math and handle complicated electro-mechanical devices.. employment opportunities have gotten better. For those with barely a high school education and a 85 or lower IQ, without welfare (EBT card, Section 8) life would be damn near impossible for many today.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  30. macilrae says:

    Truth is in the old saying “any port in a storm” – nobody is physically forced to work for employers like this but ‘we’ do it because there is no other available work and we should be grateful they exist at all. The minimum wage has already been forced up higher than the economy can bear – the problem is not with employers like Target; it is a combination of diabolical governance and social decline (which latter is demonstrated by the increasing rudeness to which the writer alludes). We live in a society that is coming apart and which has forgotten what discipline means.

    We have this dog eat dog mentality where Target and Walmart are thriving because they sell (principally) Chinese manufactured goods at prices we can afford – we (all) have been taking advantage of China’s relative poverty short-term and are now reaping the consequences here at home. Put simply, now it’s our turn. Germany has ferociously preserved its manufacturing base and consequently their people are now more prosperous than Americans. Even more so the Koreans and the Japanese.

    The thing will reverse itself in a couple of generations – with Chinese society probably declining out of sheer glut, the way the American one has done: and Chinese buying cheap American made goods, maybe.

    There’s no immediate solution – just look at the lie being sold by the current line-up of presidential candidates: each and every one of them is going to make this all go away – and painlessly!

  31. Dave says:
    @anonymous

    Are you living off of 4 figures ?
    If so then please detail how you are doing this.
    If not then you’re just an idiot.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  32. Dr. X says:

    Great article, but I see two sides to this problem: 1) From the employer perspective, the labor pool is not typically former State Department employees, but rather, hordes of uneducated, surly, obese, tattooed, pierced, lazy lumps of excrement who will fail to perform the simplest tasks adequately and rip off the employer every chance they get, and 2) from the employee perspective, there is no job security, no opportunity for advancement, no benefits, no fixed work hours, no holidays, no sick time, no vacation time, and insufficient pay to live on — so why should they bother giving the employer an honest day’s work?

    The United States was founded in the idea that it was up to the individual to work to achieve his own success — but with a largely empty continent full of natural resources, there was always plenty of work to be done. That’s no longer true. Automation, offshoring and immigration have created a labor pool far greater than what is necessary for the amount of work that’s available.

    Unless this fundamental labor/work imbalance is addressed, raising the minimum wage to $15 will not solve the problem. Consumers, not corporations, will pay higher prices to cover the increased labor costs, while employers will cut hours and increase automation.

    People wonder why a third of the working-age population has dropped out of the labor force, and disability claims have been increasing. The answer is that the minimum-wage rat-race is simply not worth your time.

    If it is possible for you to do it, I advocate checking out of society as much as possible instead of participating in the low-wage scam, either as an employee or as a customer. Rather than have some minimum-wage employee fix my cars, I do it all myself. I do not patronize fast-food joints, and I rarely eat out at all. I eat a significant amount of venison I harvest and process myself. I do all my own home repairs as well. I do not patronize bars or attend entertainment such as concerts or movies. I do not have cable TV or a smartphone. My income is low but my quality of life is quite decent.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
    , @macilrae
  33. @Carlton Meyer

    The minimum wage in Australia is $17.29 an hour. So yes, $15 an hour here is doable.

    Two points:

    The pay rate for teenagers who do a of the retail work is much lower. Rates are dependent on age, job title, if you are a trainee, etc. It is actually a bit of a pain to look up the rates. One sample I did look up (17 year old, retail, not a supervisor, not a trainee, part time, not working late nights):
    $11.39 per hour. This (as of today) is equal to about $8.06 per hour in US dollars.

    Some prices (food in particular) is higher in Australia than in the USA. So your dollar for many items will have less purchasing power.

  34. @hell_is_like_newark

    The things that have gotten better that you describe occurred in spite of political policies.

    https://mises.org/library/democratic-leviathan

    Theory is no substitute for history, of course, yet without a firm grasp of theory, serious errors in the interpretation of historical data are unavoidable. For instance, the outstanding historian Carroll Quigley claims that the invention of fractional-reserve banking has been a major cause of the unprecedented expansion of wealth associated with the Industrial Revolution, while countless historians have associated the economic plight of Soviet-style socialism with the absence of democracy.

    From a theoretical viewpoint, such interpretations must be rejected. An increase in the paper money supply cannot lead to greater prosperity but only to wealth redistribution. The explosion of wealth during the Industrial Revolution took place despite fractional-reserve banking. Similarly, the economic plight of socialism cannot be due to the absence of democracy. Instead, it is caused by the absence of private property in factors of production.

    “Received history” is full of such misinterpretations. Theory allows us to rule out certain historical reports as impossible and incompatible with the nature of things. By the same token, it allows us to uphold certain other things as historical possibilities, even if they have not yet been tried.

  35. Single mothers deserve blame and shame more times than not. Birth control, abortion, adoption and, oh yeah, waiting for a good man to marry…. yeah how radical.
    I hate the left.

  36. Rehmat says:

    All American presidential hopeful are products of the Wall Street or the Shakespearean Shylocks. They have no understanding of the needs of the 99% of American crawling under their capitalistic system.

    Bernie Sanders is Zionist Jew con-man. His loyalty, like most of other candidates is to Israeli Jews and not to American Christians.

    Don’t be fooled by Sanders’ opposition to Iraq War. He didn’t agree with the pro-Israel neoconservative mafia, because he believed Iraq has no WMDs and Saddam Hussein was a US-Israel ally against Iran.

    On August 25, Margaret Kimberley at the Black Agenda Report said: “Bernie Sanders and his supporters claim he is different, a breath of fresh air. Yet he “won’t state for the record how his foreign policy differs” from Hillary Clinton and Republicans. “He doesn’t question why the US has the right to dictate policy to other nations, and “repeat the same discredited mantra” as Obama on the nuclear threat from Iran – a threat that even CIA has declared never existed. Socialism? He won’t even say the word.”

    Barnie Sanders, like the rest of the presidential hopeful, is against removing influence of big money from politics.

    When it comes to the Muslim world, Sanders is no different than Ben Carsons, who believes that every patriotic American must support Israel.

    Sanders supports Saudi Arabia’s proxy wars for Israel in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and Gaza to protect the US-Israel’s regional interests.

    https://rehmat1.com/2015/09/01/bernie-sanders-a-con-zionist-jew/

  37. @Dr. X

    Consumers, not corporations, will pay higher prices to cover the increased labor costs, while employers will cut hours and increase automation.

    Consumers will simply consume less. Extremely few economic goods have inelastic demand curves.

    Automation is coming anyway. The real question is, if no one is working, who is supposed to buy? The standard response today seems to be let the government tax the few working (and who own the automation) and hand funds to the not-working so they can maintain a supply-demand economy.

    This notion is so bereft of any grasp of the consequences that those who promote it should immediately be labeled imbeciles in favor of turning the movie Idiocracy into a documentary.

    Your position in favor of living small(er) is the only game in town. You’re an early-adopter of the Next Big Wave, of this I have no doubt. When the game is crooked and everyone is encouraged to join in the looting, the only sane action is to walk away as much as possible.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  38. @hell_is_like_newark

    The days of earning a solid middle class existence working on an assembly line are gone.

    The US Middle Class arose during the post-WW2 years when the rest of the world was bombed into dust leaving well-paying industrial jobs available for people of very, very modest aptitudes.

    People who could barely do basic math eventually developed living standards above all but the royalty of other nations. If this was not an artifact of that moment in history, what was?

    Masses of people don’t live in luxury, except in extraordinary circumstances (and those conditions are certainly temporary.) The destruction of the US Middle Class simply reflects the fact that when the rest of the world is included in an economy, any conditions that linger from before will disappear. I don’t think there’s any way back from that.

    I don’t know what’s to become of people who can’t compete with highly intelligent, highly motivated, highly capable, highly creative “knowledge workers.” I do know that extremely few, like <5% of the US populace, are competitive in this arena and can produce and see their production amplified by automation.

    This fact is going to run headlong into the Politics of Envy fueled by socialist democracy, which all but insures the mob will choose cannibal democracy in coming years unless the West lurches toward an autocratic political system.

    The best I hope for is that automation causes a collapse in the cost of maintaining a basic living, such that people adapt in ways not now obvious and life goes on.

    • Replies: @AndrewR
  39. pyrrhus says:

    You can’t support yourself without any job either….oh wait, you can make much more by signing up for government programs!

  40. Biff says:

    My wife comes from a poor third world country. The economic conditions of America now seem normal to her, because that’s the way it is back home.

  41. If you can have a minimum wage, why not a maximum wage?

    Everyone owning more then x million should not be allowed to work but spend or give away untill they drop below y.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  42. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @anonymous

    The “poverty line” is meaningless. 18k dollars per year is plenty of money.

    LOL

    The average earned income of the lowest paid half of the American workforce, that is the average earned income of 81 million Americans, is nowhere near $18,000: in 2014 it was just $12, 681. Try living well while raising a family on that.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
    , @Wally
    , @anonymous
  43. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @hell_is_like_newark

    the USA has a major advantage in what I call “The 3 Cheaps”

    1. Cheap Labor
    2. Cheap government (taxes / regulation)
    3. Cheap energy

    1. Cheap labor. Really?

    According to CNN the labor cost of producing a shirt in the US is $7.47 versus US$0.22 in Bangladesh. Looks like the Deshis have quite a competitive advantage still.

    2. Cheap government (taxes / regulation). Really?

    Surely not as cheap as Bangladesh, where they make shirts in collapsible factories that kill hundreds of what must be easily replaced workers.

    3. Cheap energy. Really?

    How many megawatt hours does it take to make a shirt?

    • Replies: @hell_is_like_newark
  44. @CanSpeccy

    What is to become of this predicament?

    A hundred million people conditioned to dependence and in many cases incapable of producing enough of anything in exchange for the basic necessities of life, but free to reproduce (and they do) in large numbers, their fruit falling quite close to the genetic tree.

    I don’t argue in favor of eugenics. I simply ask, in an incentive structure that literally pays the least capable people to do nothing but have sexual intercourse and watch TV, and who have the same opportunity to vote for politicians who pander to them, promising even MORE goodies next year (to be taken from the shrinking minority of people who are net taxpayers), what does the future look like after a few more generations?

    There can be no freedom without responsibility. The current system is a downward slope toward a complete abyss, the utter decivilization of Mankind.

    Our society is creating naught but an orgy of pets and perpetual adolescents. The future is dark indeed.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  45. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    The first comment to bring up immigration. That took a while. Here in Canada, my teenage kids make well above the $11/hour minimum wage. They choose their shifts, are treated very well by managers and are offered as many hours as they want. No teenager cannot not find work. The only adults I know who make minimum wage are seniors who work part-time at Walmarts and the like. And, of course, we have no need for medical insurance. There is significant demand in most regions for seniors to re-enter the workforce. A few years ago, during a severe labour shortage, the government of the day opened the doors to temporary foreign workers. When those jobs started drying up, the program was ended. Foreign workers went home. Jobs for locals were (to a great degree) restored. Easy.

    Apart from all the other problems in the US that have been identified above, the elephant in the room is the massive downward pressure on wages caused by tens of millions of Mexicans and Central Americans. As a Canadian observer, while Trump isn’t my cup of tea, one has to believe that a southern wall could do more to help low wage Americans than any other single policy.

    • Replies: @hell_is_like_newark
  46. @TG

    People should be paid for being on call. Doctors are. If you have to sit by the phone waiting to see if walmart wants you to come in, well, you can’t be working another job. So walmart should bloody pay you.

    Well, the first thing we need to do is to change the laws that compel people to accept that kind of treatment from Wal-Mart!

    Wait… There are laws forcing people to work at Wal-Mart, right?

  47. After reading the article, it sounds to me like the author can’t afford to live in NYC and drink lattes on his break. I weep.

    Hey buddy: Move somewhere cheaper. Buy a tin of Folgers and carry a Thermos. Or earn more. Life isn’t fair.

  48. @CanSpeccy

    Edit: I should have been more clear in my post. We have advantage in ONE of the ‘3 cheaps’.

    We don’t have cheap labor or cheap government. We do have cheap energy who’s supplies are reliable. In particular natural gas. Cogeneration (putting a small power plant in a facility and then using the waste heat to run heating / cooling systems) is big now in the USA due to we have some of the cheapest gas in the world.

    How much would it cost to make that shirt if a robot was doing it? I gave you an example of a textile mill that brought production back from Asia. Robots + cheap energy > cheap labor in India or China. Their main cost is not payroll but the electric bill. This is just one of example of what is happening with manufacturing since the price collapse of natural gas.

    How long do you think before robots go from making textiles to shirts?

    I am linking a NYT article below about the textile mill. Hopefully it won’t end up in moderation purgatory:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/business/us-textile-factories-return.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  49. @Anonymous

    Here in Canada, my teenage kids make well above the $11/hour minimum wage. They choose their shifts, are treated very well by managers and are offered as many hours as they want.

    That was my experience as well back in the boom time of the 1980s. We had a growing economy, yet my area wasn’t invaded yet by illegals. I got my first job at minimum wage $3.35 in 1986. Once I proved that I wasn’t a layabout and learned the basics of the job, I got a raise. We used to have customers walk into the store who ran their own businesses. It was pretty regular to have them try to hire myself or the other teenagers working there away. My boss HAD to raise my pay to keep me there.

    I worked that retail job and sometimes put in extra hours at the restaurant next door washing dishes. I never was abused. If I was, I would have walked out. At 16 years old I had a pile of cash in my wallet and put a fair amount of $$$ away. Even bought myself a car.

    Those crappy summer and after school jobs were probably the best education I got as a teen. What I learned there really helped prepare me for the adult world.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  50. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @dc.sunsets

    if no one is working, who is supposed to buy? The standard response today seems to be let the government tax the few working (and who own the automation) and hand funds to the not-working so they can maintain a supply-demand economy.

    This notion is so bereft of any grasp of the consequences that those who promote it should immediately be labeled imbeciles …

    … living small(er) is the only game in town.

    Agree with most of what you’ve said, but there’s surely something amiss with the line you’ve taken here.

    We live in an age of unprecedented technological capability, yet you’re saying poverty must be the lot of the 99%, who should take up deer-hunting or whatever to achieve economic independence.

    Deer hunting seems hardly a solution for the urban poor, although if they take up dog hunting, that would be a benefit to the environment.

    The challenge is to find a way to distribute purchasing power. That achieved, the economy will boom.

    Throughout history purchasing power was distributed via the labor market, but that no longer works for a growing proportion of the population for the reason that, in an advanced economy, a pair of hands is increasingly often not worthy of its hire.

    Raising the minimum wage isn’t the solution because, as you’ve indicated, water doesn’t flow up hill. Higher wages means more off-shoring to the collapsible factories of Bangladesh, the anti-suicide-netted assembly lines of FoxConn, the call-centers of New Dehli, the back office accounting services centers of the Philippines, and the IT powerhouses of India. And as pointed out by others, higher wages also mean more computerization, automation and robotization.

    So what are the alternatives? You say taxing the rich to pay the poor is not an option, but today government spending depend as much on the printing press as on the work of the tax department. So why not give helicopter money a shot, instead of giving free money to the bankers and billionaires by way of negative interest loans?

    True, helicopters are probably not the best means of delivering money to those who need it, and we should not encourage thriftlessness and idleness. What we should do, therefore, is to restore a free labor market, i.e., abolish minimum wage laws, and then supplement the income of those working for less than a living wage. The negative income tax, as advocated at one time by the late Milton Friedman, is one option. Another would be for the government to auction job subsidies, as I have explained elsewhere.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  51. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @dc.sunsets

    I don’t argue in favor of eugenics.

    Thing is, we already have it. That’s what ad lib porn, promotion of the homosexual lifestyle, “sex ed”, i.e., teaching kindergarteners how to put on a condom, transgenderism, etc., and state funded abortion is all about: suppressing the fertility of the lower orders who slowly die off, subsisting in the mean time on the crumbs from the bankers tables.

    This might not be so terrible if it were not combined with the mania for girls’ education, diversity, aka anti-white/Asian male discrimination to the benefit chiefly of the more intelligent and ambitious females, which severely depresses the fertility of the most competent women.

    We need to return to a world in which, to quote William F. Buckley, the role of a woman is not to distinguish herself, but to raise distinguished sons.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
    , @Anonymous
  52. @Willem Hendrik

    Cannibal democracy, the predictable child of socialist democracy.

    I once read a story about a prosperous factory in Argentina. The employees agitated politically and eventually the factory was taken from the private owners and given in equal shares to the workers.
    Worker squabbling ensued of course, and (surprise!) none of them had the actual skills exercised by the prior owners for operating the business as a whole.

    Within a few months or a year, the factory closed, all the jobs were gone and the capital value of the plant and equipment rotted.

    Cannibal democracy. Often followed (when conditions inevitably head toward Lord of the Flies) by Zombie democracy, the kind exercised by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge when they set out to eat (slaughter) every educated person in Cambodia.

    Many people clearly would prefer equal squalor to unequal low-middle-and-high wealth.

  53. Biff says:
    @hell_is_like_newark

    1. Cheap Labor
    2. Cheap government (taxes / regulation)
    3. Cheap energy

    The largest, and most expensive government in the world is now “cheap”?

    • Replies: @hell_is_like_newark
  54. a little perspective,

    a customer just hired an apprentice and if you compare his wage to what i made at his experience level it puts in perspective just how little most people make these days…..I know I’ve not been able to raise prices……well, since going into business for my self almost 30 years ago.

    me 1984 = $12 an hour, adjusted for the bogus official inflation rate = $27.50

    new hire 2016 = $21

    we have an economy based on falling wages and the morons in charge wonder why there is a fall in demand……..it’s juts math.

    • Replies: @notsaying
  55. macilrae says:
    @Dr. X

    Rather than have some minimum-wage employee fix my cars, I do it all myself. I do not patronize fast-food joints, and I rarely eat out at all. I eat a significant amount of venison I harvest and process myself. I do all my own home repairs as well. I do not patronize bars or attend entertainment such as concerts or movies. I do not have cable TV or a smartphone. My income is low but my quality of life is quite decent.

    Admirable – but all of that takes a lot of self-discipline. As somebody else said already, that has to be the way forward – probably as a result of natural selection.

  56. “You Can’t Earn a Living on the Minimum Wage”

    You’re not supposed to be able to “earn a living” on minimum wage.

    You earn minimum wage while you train yourself for some job you CAN earn a living with.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
    , @interesting
  57. Wally says: • Website
    @CanSpeccy

    Try not having children you cannot afford.

  58. @Biff

    I did a poor job of writing that. You can have manufacturing if you have one of the three. We have cheap energy.

    Sorry for the confusion

  59. ColRebSez says: • Website

    If we deport all the unskilled illegal aliens we won’t need to legislate a higher minimum wage. Wages will naturally increase due to scarcity of labor.

    I agree some of these employers treat their employees like crap, and it can certainly be a function of government to legislate better working conditions, in particular limitations on split shifts. But everything has a price, as the author has learned from Obamacare’s 29-hour work week.

    Most people with limited incomes find someone to live with to share expenses, as in a friend or a wife. If the author had put up with his jerk boss he would probably have been earning $10 an hour after a while. Two people working 50 hours a week (so a job and a part-timer) for 50 weeks a year at $10 an hour earn a gross income of $50,000. Not rich, but not dire poverty, either.

  60. @CanSpeccy

    Helicopter money is no different from taxing savings and capital directly. It is a fast trip to implosion (which is why the last 40 years of credit bubble formation is going to end in a collapsing money supply.) Negative income tax still has the utterly perverse incentives that, too, must yield implosion.

    There are no painless, durable solutions to keep everything as it is now.

    This is all not to mention that tax consumers already outnumber net taxpayers, insuring that political redistribution of wealth is like an airplane that only has aileron settings that lead to a left roll. A fatal spin is inevitable.

    Sooner or later some new equilibrium will be found, either humanity will backslide away from a robotic future or an entirely new way for people to be deemed “productive” will emerge. No one could see the Industrial Revolution coming during the 16th century, and we can’t know today what tomorrow’s actual solutions will be. They have to be discovered. The hard way.

    One thing is utterly certain: any solution that emerges from the political system will be false.

  61. @CanSpeccy

    Frankly, I argue in favor of Nature. In all her viciousness.

    Slow gazelles that over-produce fawns see both fawns and themselves served as lion lunch. The full cost of being stupid has to land on people, no welfare and only private charity (which when actually “private” means they eliminate their frequent fliers who won’t try to help themselves.)

    Get the political system out of the business of subsidizing decivilization. Give people one-way tickets to Somewhere Else. Let hardship sort out those who refuse to help themselves or produce kids they refuse to support. Have only private conscience manage true objects of charity, and stop trying to reduce the stigma of being such an object. Call things by their right names, honestly.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  62. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @boogerbently

    You’re not supposed to be able to “earn a living” on minimum wage.

    What’s this? Minimum wage as a state-mandated educational experience?

    You earn minimum wage while you train yourself for some job you CAN earn a living with.

    Yeah, like the 81 million Americans with a below median earned income averaging just $12, 681.

    Guess Americans are slow learners.

    What you’re saying might have made sense a generation or two ago, but it doesn’t apply today when the issue is this: agricultural, industrial, and service productivity has risen so high that only a rapidly declining proportion of the population is required to operate the economy, the situation being vastly aggravated in the high-wage (relatively speaking) economies by global wage arbitrage, driven by the global corporations that own the Jebs and Clintons, etc., who therefore studiously avoid seeing what is happening.

    So what is happening?

    Since labor is in surplus, wages fall, while a growing proportion of those of working age cease to have full-time or even any-time employment. Thus the paradox of widespread poverty despite the potential for unprecedented prosperity.

    Without political intervention, there is no end to the downward spiral leading to the point when those at the bottom of the social pyramid lead lives that are nasty, brutal and short. Unless, that is, a conscious political effort is made to distribute purchasing power.

    The emergence of Bernie Sanders is an indication of the direction in which this is leading, and should encourage those who fear the emergence of a USSA to think about the alternatives.

    The Bush/Clinton/Obama alternative, as we know, depends on FEMA camps, Homeland security, the NSA, and the prison gulag. But are there no are more enlightened alternatives?

    • Replies: @boogerbently
  63. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @dc.sunsets

    I applaud your candor.

    Trouble is, a return to nature, red in tooth and claw, is more than most can stomach. That is why many in the pre-WWII eugenics movement decided gas chambers would be the solution for those who couldn’t compete. So much kinder than leaving them watch their kids starve before their eyes, grandma cannibalized, etc.

    Here’s the great Anglo-Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, advocating euthanasia for the unproductive. Many supported him. H.G. Wells for example, a friend, or at least a guest, of both Stalin and FDR. Francis Darwin, the son of Charles, agreed on the desirability of euthanasia for the unfit, but felt that use of “lethal chambers” would be politically counter-productive.

    So I think we need to proceed cautiously here. But so much has been achieved (albeit undesireable) through political correctness, why not make it PC for clever, physically fit and beautiful women to have more children and poor people to have fewer?

    I think psychology might be made to do just as well as disease, malnutrition, hypothermia, etc. At the same time, there should exist ladders for those at the bottom of the heap to rise, e.g., aptitude-based entry to goods schools, such as the now destroyed English grammar school.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  64. @boogerbently

    LOL, you mean the jobs they sent to China? And the ones that can’t be sent to China they import illegals or HB1’s to do.

    i swear, some of you don’t really seem to have a clue what type of economy the USA has been turned into.

    it’s not the 1970’s anymore AND, as we’ve witness with this non-recovery, the vast majority of new jobs HAVE BEEN MINIMUM WAGE JOBS!!!!

    p.s. i’m not defending the minimum wage laws i’m just trying to explain reality which oh so many seemed to be lost on.

    • Replies: @boogerbently
  65. @anonymous

    You are so out of touch with reality that it’s embarrassing.

    For one thing, no matter how low your housing costs and state taxes, your luxurious $18,000 in wages won’t even be enough to SAVE FOR RETIREMENT, let alone SAVE FOR CHILDREN TO ATTEND COLLEGE without crushing debt.

    Those of us raising families and actually trying to provide for the future, rather than live like morons with no thought beyond the present, find it factually, mathematically impossible to live on anything near the salary you mention and fulfill our responsibilities.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  66. @anonymous

    Tell me, my wife, and our (so far) three children that we can survive on $18,000 per year in the USA, in a safe location and accessible to good, safe schools. Bullshit.

    If you are a perpetually single freak who never founds a family and raises children, then surely you will have at least more of a chance to live on the absurd number you mentioned. You sound like you might fit the bill.

    • Replies: @AndrewR
    , @anonymous
    , @anonymous
  67. Wally says: • Website

    Van Burren, you said:
    “I was lucky. I didn’t become one of those millions of people trapped as the “working poor.” I made it out.”

    Please tell us how you “made it out”.

    And if you did, can’t others?

  68. AndrewR says:
    @dc.sunsets

    I would dispute your implication that all of “the West” is part of a single political system, especially one exclusive of lands not in “the West.”

    I would also dispute your implication that the cost of living hasn’t decreased in obvious ways. Cheap computers, smartphones and internet access have obviated the need for probably a hundred billion stamps and ten trillion passenger-miles in the US alone, to say nothing of the obsolescense of the landline and a practically infinite variety of free or very low cost audiovisual entertainment. Then there’s Amazon… ebay I could go on for an hour.

    What we will see is a guaranteed basic income paid for by taxing the owners of the machines that have rendered so many millions of people unemployable.

    • Replies: @dc.sunsets
  69. AndrewR says:
    @RadicalCenter

    No need for the rudeness. Obviously 18k is not enough to support a family comfortably but there’s no need to call the single and childless “freaks.”

  70. notsaying says:
    @anonymous

    ” plenty of Americans of middle class background live off 4 figures and save up the rest so they can retire early”

    That does not compute.

    Now if a one or two person family had a house that was paid for, got rid of their car and relied on public transportation or others to take them everywhere they went, bought almost nothing, had no medical expenses or home repairs, and did things like use Food Stamps or use private charity like food pantries to “stretch” their incomes, that would maybe work out for a few years.

    However, that is not a middle class life in America.

    This couldn’t be done without getting major outside help, like free food and rides, charity medical care, etc.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  71. notsaying says:
    @interesting

    “we have an economy based on falling wages and the morons in charge wonder why there is a fall in demand……..it’s juts math.”

    I agree.

    Everybody in charge has assumed that Americans are going to continue to do nothing as their lives go from bad to worse and the rich get richer (literally; this is no longer a matter of sour grapes, the rich have rigged the game to make money from us to them).

    Will they take the warnings that the success of the Trump and Sanders campaign is giving them?

    Will they wake up to the fact that the natives are getting restless and want a return to the post-Depression deal that gave the rich the peace to enjoy their wealth and most of the rest of the country the ability to live comfortable lives based on adequate pay?

    Frankly I doubt it.

    I think there will be lots of social unrest in our future.

  72. @CanSpeccy

    “Guess Americans are slow learners. ”

    Truer words were never spoken.

  73. @interesting

    We have job openings for X-ray techs we can’t fill, for years now.
    2 years school, $50-70K/yr.
    We are being asked to subsidize the least productive segment of society, simply because they are too lazy to improve their skills.
    Quit blaming jobs going overseas. Quit blaming the inferior school system.
    Blame drug use and the nanny state for killing kids ambitions.

  74. bluedog says:
    @dc.sunsets

    Hmm perhaps the solution is to tax the robot the same as you would tax a worker.!!!

    • Replies: @Drapetomaniac
  75. monkey says:
    @Carlton Meyer

    $17.29 doesn’t buy much in Australia. A tall flat white at McDonalds this morning was $4.90 and petrol is 99.9c/ litre [$4.50/ gallon], for 91 0ctane unleaded, the cheapest in about 10 years.

    • Replies: @monkey
  76. Wayne says:

    As a retiree from a 6 figure job who substitute teaches on the secondary school level I can attest to the lack of ambition in the majority of the kids in schools today. I cringe when I think of their lives post “graduation” when reality smacks them upside the head. As one of their teachers says, “There’s only so many toilets to clean.”

  77. @boogerbently

    Half the population probably isn’t smart enough to be x-ray techs. Their jobs have been either sent overseas or taken by immigrants.

    • Replies: @hell_is_like_newark
  78. @boogerbently

    Blame drug use and the nanny state for killing kids ambitions.

    This…

    I had a major issue with drug use with some of the people I would hire. When they were broke, they were clean (nothing would show up on a piss test). However, after about three months of getting steady paychecks (enough time to get debt paid off) they would start to ‘party’. Each one was fired for showing up on the job stupid and wasted. It would start out with the guys paid of Friday and spending the entire weekend high. One guy I knew in a similar field started paying his guys on Mondays as they would be too busy working to get high. By Friday, their money was gone anyway, so they had to stay clean on the weekends. Finally he got tired of dealing with it and just hired illegals (who didn’t do drugs nearly as much).

    The guys who did a lot of pot in the past to present were the worst, even when they were sober. No ambition, serious lapse in logic, and a lack of control over their own emotions. These traits were universal among the pot heads.

    I wonder if pot legalization will make things worse. Will we eventually end up with pot so potent that we end up with legions of wasteoids? Sort of like China right before the communist revolution (heroin though). The commies fixed the problem by killing all the junkies.

  79. @Chris Mallory

    My cousin became one and earned enough for a wife and a family. He spent half his youth drunk, stoned, and in trouble with the law, but managed to pull his act together in his early 20s.

    He barely passed high school and frankly isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree of life. So being an X-ray tech can’t be too impossible for the majority of the population. If my cousin could do it, so can a lot of other people

  80. Dr. X says:
    @boogerbently

    Can’t find x-ray techs? Where? My wife works in the field… a lot of starting techs are in the $18-20/hour range and are often hired as per diem employees with no job security and no benefits.

    If you’re in Manhattan where rents are $4000/month and houses are $900k-$1 million, or San Francisco where houses start at $6-700k and up, $50-70k for an x-ray tech is practically poverty wages.

    In “flyover country” there are plenty of x-ray techs making a LOT less than that.

    • Replies: @boogerbently
  81. @AndrewR

    If you think taxing the owners of capital is a stable, sustainable system I have a bridge to sell you. The rate won’t be high enough until it kills the gold egg laying goose.

    • Replies: @AndrewR
  82. @CanSpeccy

    Shaw was one of the architects of Fabian socialism; Wells, too, was an avowed socialist.

    I am no fan of any political mechanism for murdering people, so I’m violently opposed to state murder of anyone deemed undesirable (since I might be on the list.)

    I simply would prefer the political system get out of the charity business. An increasingly inactive politics strikes me as preferable.

    Of course this is a ridiculous pipe dream.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  83. @bluedog

    The solution is not to have a minimum wage increase or even to tax robots.

    Cost of government day in 2014 was July 6th, 186 days of the work year. That’s the problem facing productive workers – a nine trillion dollar parasite.

    Of course that’s highly unlikely to change as the dupes really do love their government.

  84. @dc.sunsets

    One thing about the MerkinLAs of the world is that they would never allow people to organize a society that doesn’t coincide with their beliefs.

    They have absolutely no proof but they are certain that their way is the only way or the only correct way. They would rather have you die than be free from their desire to control.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  85. MarkinLA says:
    @Drapetomaniac

    No, I am just here to remind libertarians how stupid the fantasy world they have created in their minds is.

  86. While what you say about the misery of minimum wage workers is often spot-on, government artificially screwing around with the market creates more misery, as alluded to in your discussion about workers hours going from 39/wk to 29/wk when Obamacare hit the scene. Things would be even worse for the average min wage worker if they required employers pay $15/hr instead of ~$8-9/hr.

    Of course, there is a very clear solution that would dramatically improve the lives of the working poor: shutting off illegal immigration, deporting illegals, and reducing immigration overall. Consider how much of an impact millions of people coming into the US each year willing to do the work for less and less drives down the salary /benefits. If there is suddenly a big surplus of eggs on the market, does the price of eggs go up or down? It works the same way with employees. There is a reason Hillary earned a decent wage gutting fish in Alaska back in the good ol’ days, before the country became overrun with illegals. Guess she doesn’t want anyone else to be able to do it now.

    Instead of tossing in random disparaging comments towards Trump, perhaps you should be supporting the only candidate from either party who is speaking out against illegal immigration.

  87. monkey says:
    @monkey

    Aussie price gouging update:
    Packet of 20 Benson & Hedges Specials – $22.70
    Cheapest packet of 20 cigarettes – $17.00

  88. @hell_is_like_newark

    My 14 year old boy has been offered a job this summer by someone who’s known him for a couple of years and I’m guiding the boy through the morass of child labor laws so he can make it easy on the boss.

  89. @dc.sunsets

    “Today’s job landscape is extremely bimodal; if you have the credentials, experience, etc. you can land a “good job” that pays $40k, $80k, maybe even $140k plus full benefits. If you lack any of the necessary attributes you’re offered a minimum wage, part-time job.”

    There are still quite a number of semi-skilled jobs ( hairdressing, truck driving, plastering, tyre fitting etc) which should in theory pay at least 30 percent more than the minimum wage. No doubt in the US many of these jobs go to foreigners from low and middle income countries.

    In Australia, the big issue for the working class isn’t so much job conditions and pay rates (the minimum wage here is about 14 dollars US per hour) as housing costs, which are considerably higher than in most parts of America.

  90. AndrewR says:
    @dc.sunsets

    Then how else to deal with increasing automation?

  91. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @RadicalCenter

    Regarding college:
    1 – “college” and “minimum wage” should not belong to the same universe. If college educated families are living on the minimum wage, then college is useless.
    2 – The US have a real problem regarding college costs. Here in Western Europe, this problem does not exist. Therefore, the US are doing something very wrong. The problem does not lie in the minimum wage. The problem lies in the dysfunctional education system.

    Regarding SAVING FOR RETIREMENT, which you put in all caps, did you miss that I explicitly said that some people live on a 4 figure income, and save the rest for retirement? Did you even read my comment?

    As for the conflicting duties of raising kids and saving for retirement – remember that you only have to raise kids for half of your working life. Once your kids leave the nest, you should change your lifestyle and focus on saving for retirement. You ought to have a good couple decades left. And your wife should get her ass to work and help you save money. Once the kids leave the nest, she no longer has any excuse not to find employment. You should also downsize your house at that point.

    Remember, just like you can live frugally during your working life, you can also live frugally when you are retired. So you should drastically revise downwards the amount of retirement savings you believe you need.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  92. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @RadicalCenter

    You ought to take a look at a few frugality blogs.

    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/01/21/exposed-the-mmm-familys-2012-spending/
    The author supports a family of 3 (two parents and one child). Admittedly, he has his house paid off (I’ll talk housing later). Note the last row, where he computes what the “no frills” life would cost him. In 2010, it was 11.500 $.

    Other people who are into frugality do even better than that. A car, for example, is not strictly necessary. You may homeschool and thus spend almost nothing on education. Furthermore, if you are raising kids on the minimum wage, you should be able to rely on Medicaid.

    You may object that three kids are more expensive than one.
    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/threes-company-rooms-for-3-or-more-kids-roundup-168680
    As that link shows, some people with 3 kids have them share a single bedroom. Then, the chief inevitable expense is food, and if you adopt a frugal outlook you’ll learn how to feed a kid a healthy diet with two dollars per day. Even less if the kid is still young. People do that. It would take me a while to explain how to eat so cheaply, but if you ask, I will. But wait – what am I talking about? I forget that if you are raising 3 kids on the minimum wage, you probably qualify for food stamps. So there isn’t even any need for me to explain how to eat with two dollars per person. Still, if you ask again, I promise I’ll give a detailed explanation.

    On a 18k yearly income, all of this does leave room for rent or mortage for a two bedroom house in a part of the nation where houses are very cheap. Note that this doesn’t mean the ghetto. White, redneck small towns are safe and if you search carefully you can find cheap housing there.
    http://www.businessinsider.com/most-affordable-small-towns-2015-2?op=1

    Regarding education, I suggest homeschooling. If you are a single income family and your wife is not working, you have no excuse not to.

  93. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @notsaying

    Two answers:

    Number one – it may not be “middle class life”, but it doesn’t have to be. When I said “of middle class background”, I meant people with middle class jobs, people who could live middle class life if they wanted, but they choose not to, so they can retire earlier. The important insight is that just because your lifestyle isn’t “middle class”, it doesn’t meant it costitutes miserable hardship.

    Number two, there are ways to eat and move around town very cheaply which don’t rely on charity or food stamps (not that there is anything wrong with food stamps). People with an interest in frugality will learn those solutions. For example, you can move around town by riding a MOTOR SCOOTER. It’s almost as practical as a car and the costs involved are almost nothing. The costs of food are also MUCH lower than what everyone assumes. By relying on simple, raw staples and cooking their own food, many frugal people manage to eat a healthy, varied diet on 2-3 dollars a day.

    Here is a book that gives some advice on eating cheaply – even if I disagree with it, because you can eat MORE cheaply than that.

    If you are interested in knowing how to eat cheaply, just ask, and I’ll give you more information.

  94. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @CanSpeccy

    18k is what 40 weekly hours at the minimum wage earn you.

    At least according to the article author.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
  95. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Dave

    That’s right, I am living on the equivalent of 4 figures, but I AM NOT AMERICAN therefore my personal experience is of limited usefulness.

    Here is an American who lives on that budget:

    http://earlyretirementextreme.com/frequently-asked-questions

  96. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @RadicalCenter

    By the way, radicalcenter, read the FAQ on this frugal guy’s website. They are interesting.

    http://earlyretirementextreme.com/frequently-asked-questions

  97. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @dc.sunsets

    I’m violently opposed to state murder of anyone deemed undesirable

    My point was that during the last great depression — i.e., the depression before the one we are in now — the prospect of millions dying slowly and painfully from lack of food, adequate shelter, clothing, healthcare, etc., which is the fate to which you would consign those incapable of fending for themselves (unless preserved by charity), was sufficiently painful to many people, whether from the Fabian left or the fascist right, that they advocated euthanasia as a better alternative. I think many would follow the same logic today. There is a difference between then and now, however, in that we have the capacity to feed everyone adequately at minimal cost. Hence food stamps. However, that only kicks the can down the road, since it means even more useless eaters in the future.

    I think the root of the problem needs to be addressed directly. Huge resources are devoted to brainwashing young people via the kindergarten to middle-age, so-called education system. The obvious solution is to revamp the propaganda to inculcate a proper sense of responsibility about reproduction. Then, instead devoting so much emotional energy to denigrating as racist, xenophobic, nativist, etc., those who oppose the genocide of their own people by mass immigration and multiculturalism, young people would learn to denigrate both selfish high-IQ women who insist on careers rather than motherhood, and selfish low-IQ women who insist on having children as a means to obtain a free ride on the welfare system. (I use the term IQ, here, as a proxy for whatever characteristics we want to see in our posterity.)

  98. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @anonymous

    18k is what 40 weekly hours at the minimum wage earn you.

    That may be, but as I stated, according to the US Social Security Administration, the 2014 average earned income of the 81 million lowest paid Americans was just $12,681. And that does not include the 11.5 million (or is it 32 million) illegal immigrants in the underground economy, most probably earning well below minimum wage.

    Presumably, most of those low paid American workers were employed part-time (though most would take full-time work if available).

  99. @dc.sunsets

    Internships are a great boon for young people trying to decide on an occupation.

    College internships often lead to jobs after graduation.

    Why you think this is bad stumps me.

    Yeah, it’s good for them. It’s bad for everyone else.

    Besides the fact that it’s about the most blatant violation of minimum-wage laws around despite being perpetrated by the staunchest defenders of such laws for others, there’s the matter that only well-off families (or those willing to go even deeper into debt) can afford to put someone up in an expensive city for such a term. Paying the interns would help level the playing field.

    I’m not against paid internships, or unpaid ones at churches, charities, and other non-profits. The latter is called “volunteering”. Or even against “observer” internships that involve no work the company would normally pay for.

    But as it stands now, internships are just another élite scam, just one more way well-off progressives scratch each others’ backs, and stab ours.

    Those who support minimum-wage law should demand an end to this. Yet they don’t. Highly suspicious.

  100. @anonymous

    The US have a real problem regarding college costs. Here in Western Europe, this problem does not exist. Therefore, the US are doing something very wrong.

    It’s easier to make college “free” when you send a much smaller fraction of your people.

    And your wife should get her ass to work and help you save money.

    What are you talking about? How many American women with older children are Hausfrauen? Not many. The US work economy tends to favor women.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  101. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    And your wife should get her ass to work and help you save money.

    What are you talking about? How many American women with older children are Hausfrauen? Not many. The US work economy tends to favor women.

    I know; the reason I said that is that I was challenged to explain how a family can survive from the income of a SINGLE minimum wage earner.

    Of course, if we start with the assumption that the woman has been bringing home the bacon all along, everything changes.

    Indeed, I thought that it was bizarre to put it that way to begin with, given that, as you point out, here in the present day West women are expected to work.

  102. notsaying says:
    @boogerbently

    I find it hard to believe that you “couldn’t” fill those jobs.

    How have you been operating then?

  103. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Things aren’t what they used to be and what’s more it’ll never go back to that. Everything has changed including demographics where a third of the population is now non-white and growing. In the not-so-distant future half the country will be living in trailer parks where some will have these part-time servant jobs and the rest aspire to be approved for a disability check. A large part of the population will be considered redundant and the government will be busy trying to police them and lower their numbers by encouraging new and easier to use methods of birth control as well as rationing health care so that money isn’t wasted on useless eaters. America is just reverting to being a big plantation, higher tech this time around, where you’ll either be holding a whip or getting lashed by one.

    • Replies: @Tommy Hobbes
  104. @anonymous

    Just remember: but for the roll of the dice this could happen to any of us. With his almost three decades of employment the author can, when the time comes, at least claim a federal pension. Not all are so lucky. Long story short: ghd US is loosing it’d middle classes. This bodes ill for the Republic.

  105. @Dr. X

    I worked 3 years :” as per diem employees with no job security and no benefits.”
    I worked my way into a full time job.

    “If you’re in Manhattan where rents are $4000/month and houses are $900k-$1 million, or San Francisco where houses start at $6-700k and up”…..
    You can’t afford to live in Manhattan or SF, then !

    You can afford what you can afford, given your skill set and training. WHY do you think you deserve more ?

    Entitlement issues.

  106. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @CanSpeccy

    I think its dysgenic, not eugenic. The rich and smart are NOT reproducing at the rates that the poor and stupid are because they have kids merely for child benefits. Look at the white birth rates…..

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