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Peter Van Buren: Minimum Wage, Minimum Chance
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To say that we live on a 1% planet isn’t just a turn of phrase. In fact, it would undoubtedly be more accurate to speak of a .1% or a .01% planet. In recent years, wealth and income inequalities have grown in a notorious fashion in the United States — and, as it turns out, globally as well. In January, Oxfam released a report on the widening gap between global wealth and poverty. It found that, between 2010 and today, the wealth of the poorest half of the planet’s population fell by a trillion dollars, a drop of 41%, while that of the richest 62 people (53 men and nine women) increased by half a trillion dollars. Put another way, those 62 billionaires were wealthier than the bottom 50% of the world’s people, while the richest 1% owned more than the other 99% combined. The direction in which we’re heading is obvious. Just consider that, in 2010, it took 388 of the super-rich to equal the holdings of the bottom 50%; now, that number is 326 people smaller.

Keep that trend line in mind as you read about TomDispatch regular Peter Van Buren’s latest adventures in the minimum-wage economy. Back in 2014, he described for this site how, having lost his State Department job for being a whistleblower on the Iraq War, he fell for a time into the low-wage world. As he wrote, “And soon enough, I did indeed find myself working in exactly that economy and, worse yet, trying to live on the money I made. But it wasn’t just the money. There’s this American thing in which jobs define us, and those definitions tell us what our individual futures and the future of our society is likely to be. And believe me, rock bottom is a miserable base for any future.” His experiences in a big-box retail store inspired him to write his novel, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent. As last year ended, he returned to the minimum-wage world, now — thanks in particular to Bernie Sanders — part of the national conversation. And here’s what he found.

  • Nickel and Dimed in 2016
    You Can’t Earn a Living on the Minimum Wage
    Peter Van Buren • February 16, 2016 • 2,500 Words
(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Minimum Wage 
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  1. 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!

    • Replies: @boogerbently
  2. Repeal Taft/Hartley, declare a moratorium on immigration, apply tariffs to imported goods and then repeal the minimum wage and watch wages go up and welfare go down.

    Trumpites want work and wages not war and welfare.

  3. The economic ignorance is astonishing.
    People cannot be paid , for any length of time, at a rate above the economic value they add.

    The government schools are churning out millions who have negative economic value.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
    , @interesting
  4. The government schools are churning out millions who have negative economic value.


    People cannot be paid , for any length of time, at a rate above the economic value they add.

    This is what makes a citizen minimum different from a non-citizen minimum. If the non-citizen is priced out of a job, he can go home. And should.

  5. Rehmat says:

    “Anything that is good for Jews, is good for the world,” Gilad Atzmon, Israel-UK author.

    On August 5, 2014, Walter Williams claimed at the Capitalism Magazine that criticism of Israel’s war against Hamas is “antisemitism”.

    In December 2013, the kosher Pope Francis was accused of being a communist for criticizing Capitalism.

    Werner Sombart (died 1941), German sociologist and author in his 1911 book, ‘The Jews & Modern Capitalism’, claimed that Jewish elites were the dominant beneficiary of Capitalism.

    India’s famous human rights activist and author, Arundhati Roy, in her new book, ‘Capitalism: The Ghost Story’, examines the dark side of democracy in contemporary India, and shows how the demands of the globalized western capitalist banking system has subjugated billions of peoples to the highest and most intense form of racism and exploitation. Watch a videos below to understand the evil world of capitalism and the evildoers who benefit from this system.

  6. MarkinLA says:
    @Bill Jones

    at a rate above the economic value they add.

    Define that. Didn’t we just have an article about some poor farmer in Arizona who used to pay his illegals 10 dollars an hour and now has to pay his legal workers 14.70. I bet every time he sent a check to one of his congressmen he told them tales of woe about how he was just barely making it and needed to hire illegals at 10 dollars an hour or he would go out of business. Yet when he was forced to he paid people “above their economic value” and he still stayed in business.

    Economics creates all sorts of buzz words to try and hide the basic worthlessness of the whole field by making it sound sciency. The bottom line is there is no such thing as “economic value” as some kind of easily calculable entity.

    • Replies: @JackOH
  7. @Jus' Sayin'...

    The very large majority of the bad/negative/expensive aspects of Obamacare have been postponed……until after the election. The GOP should have worked, tirelessly, to ensure that the ACA was imposed, in full, as written, so the damage could have been felt early and entirely.
    THEN worked to repeal it.
    The Dems are just better at the game.

    • Replies: @interesting
  8. @Bill Jones

    “People cannot be paid , for any length of time, at a rate above the economic value they add”

    facepalm!!!! i find this part the most startling to say the least “The economic ignorance is astonishing” and i must assume the author must be talking about his own.

    the bankers have been siphoning (thank god for google as a spell check) off trillions for decades and THAT is the economic value being stolen from the rest of us.

    an economy can NOT function with $10 an hour jobs and $500K starter homes the math simply does not work and yet here we are……..and Henry Ford knew that in 1914.

    the economic nutcases on TV were debating on why there’s no demand ($10 an hour jobs $500K homes…it’s not rocket science) and one of these slimy cock suckers had the gall to say that “Americans just aren’t borrowing enough” now that is economic ignorance and finally the American people have woken up to the fact that debt does not equal wealth.

  9. @boogerbently

    the republicans are in on the swindle AND it’ll be much more fun blaming Obama for everything….that is how the game is played.

    pass legislation both parties really want, pretend to oppose it, do nothing to stop it, and when it blows up when it’s your turn, blame the other guy…….and Americans fall for this shit every fucking time.

  10. MarkinLA says:

    Somebody smarter than me tell me what is the economic value of paying people to write software so that when I put in an order to buy 1000 shares of stock at 10 dollars a share and somebody else puts in an offer to sell 1000 shares at 9.99 a bot comes in and buys it for 9.99 and a millisecond later sells it to me for 10.00 and send the ten dollars to a investment bank instead of me just buying it for 9.99?

  11. JackOH says:

    “The bottom line is there is no such thing as “economic value” as some kind of easily calculable entity.”

    Agree 100%. As a young sales manager in a tiny ad shop, I fiddled with product pricing and employee incentive compensation schemes. Ain’t no easy answers, and I got to be reasonably good, I think.

    (I offered a few comments under Peter’s essay that I hope are helpful. I’m not sure the best place to comment: under Tom’s intro, or under the relevant article.)

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