Sunday, September 1, 2013

Minimum Rage! How Those Against Raising Wages Make The Case For It

For nearly a year now, fast food and retail workers have been constantly striking and protesting their respective employers for a higher wage. With the economy struggling to recover full force from the "Great Recession," the American working class has found it harder and harder to stay afloat. With jobs being outsourced to other countries, cut backs, layoffs, and hiring freezes due to low or lack of company performance, it seems that there is nothing that can be done to help stop or ease the bleeding. People have resorted to "low-wage" or "low-skill" jobs in order to make ends meet, and even then, ends aren't being met. This is resulting in people having had enough and joining the proverbial picket line.

During my debates and conversations, people who oppose the raising of the minimum wage usually have contradicting viewpoints. On one end, they are quick to call poor people "lazy," and exclaim that they should "get a job," or complain that "their tax money shouldn't go to people who don't want to work," and what not. On the other end, they say that people who work those "menial" jobs shouldn't get paid more because they don't "work as hard as me," or "didn't go through years of school," to make as little as they are currently making right now. (More on that point later.) My personal favorite is, "Those jobs suck anyway, those are just high turnover, temporary jobs." These sentiments, as well as others, are used to not only keep these workers oppressed and in need, but are the many reasons why our economy is what it is currently, and why something needs to be done about it. So lets break it down.

Poor People Are Lazy

While I will agree that there are lazy people in this world, I refuse to accept the idea that people are poor solely for this reason. There are so many factors that go into people not having enough or not "making enough" to appease the minds of those who are privileged to not have to go without. Lack of opportunity, municipal funding, education, just to name a few, are the real factors as to why people are poor. Ironically, the people who hurl out the "lazy" excuse are themselves mentally "lazy."

This reminds me of the "welfare queen" term coined by Ronald Reagan back in the '70's. The idea that people are pulling one over on the government to live extremely lavish lives has been thoroughly debunked many many times, but people still want to use this idea or anecdotal situations of fraud and abuse to attack poor people as a group.  

It Is Time For The ‘Welfare Queen’ Myth To Die

This article points out that this debunked myth still permeates through our society. Statistically, the "moochers" are a completely different demographic than what is stereotypically believed, and regardless of it all, the people who apply and are accepted into the program have a qualified and proven need for the assistance. They either have a job that doesn't pay enough or haven't been able to get a job at all and their benefits are contingent on them continuously searching for one. I guarantee the people who are on this program with jobs don't work in the finance industry, or insurance, or are branch managers, or own their own business, so on and so on. So where are they working and why do they need assistance?

Those question lead me right to my next point.

Workers Of "Menial" Jobs

When the fast food workers were striking this past week, the conservative media had a fun time talking shit about the people that work those jobs. They were basically saying the same common talking points that other people say regarding not raising the minimum wage. (This is probably where those people got the idea from to be honest.) Some of them even felt the need to use their own work history as examples to why and how getting paid low wages motivated them to the positions they have today. The funny thing about that is, they are going to make my point. So lets use the words of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.

Recently, I read an blog post on Media Matters about what these two douche bags where talking about. Starting off with Rush, he will have his audience believe that his job as a ticket seller was so "menial" that he couldn't even feed himself sometimes. Even though he mentions that he was married (so he should have had a two-person income), and was paying for a house that he "couldn't afford" and "had no business owning." He also actually mentions that if you calculate what his $12,000 salary would be in today's dollars due to inflation, he would be making $38,000! (Which is more than the average black family makes today!)

So, let me get this straight Rush. You mean to tell me, that because you and your one of many wives were being financially irresponsible back in '79, that the rest of the current society has to suffer and not even try to fight for the ability to have a little bit more economic mobility? Right! Gotcha!

What makes his logic even more egregious, is the fact that he even felt the need to invoke the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who himself was an advocate of raising the minimum wage during the 1963 March on Washington, which we just had the (dis)pleasure of celebrating a few days ago. Dr. King was advocating a raise of the minimum wage to $2, which when calculated for inflation would be a little over $15 today! That's funny, because the fast food strikers are demanding just that.

Now on to O'Reilly, who has been a gem of ignorance as of late. He also recants a tale of his younger days working at an ice cream shop. He knew that he wasn't going to work there forever or for long, so he  "Didn't complain about the low pay." He was making $1.25 in 1966, when calculated is about $9 an hour today. Not bad for a teenager in the '60's. Then, he said that he got a job at a beach that paid five times more! (Where the hell was this dude working at? Or, maybe he was just exaggerating! I'm going with exaggeration.) And then, he said he made even more money painting houses with his "thug" friends (Wait.. what? THUG?). Finally, he was able to land a job, after obtaining his cheap masters degree, that started off less, in the industry he wanted to make a career in. He then climbed the corporate ladder to eventually becoming the highest rated prime time opinion news talk show host on TV.(Unfortunately..)

So, let me get this straight. You are saying that people should stop whining about their menial jobs in 2013, where wages don't match productivity, or have kept up with inflation in the almost 40 years since you were a teenager, because you were able to make a shit-ton of disposable income in the 60's? Right! Gotcha!

It is documented fact that the average age of low wage fast food worker is 35 and 88% of them being over the age of 20. The cost of living is obviously higher since the '60's, the cost of tuition is obviously extremely higher since the '60's, and at the age of 35, people usually have other responsibilities that require money, not to forget to mention food, gas and other necessities. So, what you actually have done, whether you know so or not Bill, was make a convincing argument as to why we need to raise the minimum wage!

What Should We Do John?

I don't have all the answers, nor do I claim to. I'm just trying to make a point as  to what we could be doing or, at the least, discussing for the greater good of our society. If you do the math: 

$15/hr = $600/wk
$600/wk = $2400/mth
$2400/mth = $28,800/yr (Before taxes)

That isn't very much considering that at the average age of 35 you probably have a few mouths to feed. That's not very far above the poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four, which I thought was the point of having a job in the first place. Maybe, I don't understand what employment is for then, my bad. (Kidding!)

My solution is a theory. This theory would have to have the details worked out obviously, but it's at least a solution that doesn't involve starving people and making it even harder to survive, like the above mentioned assholes and the political ideology they subscribe to. 

Basically, I would raise the minimum wage to $15 or somewhere close to it. This is what the minimum wage would have been if politicians would have been taking care of their constituents instead of kowtowing to corporate interests for the past 40 years. If you think about it logically, $28,000 per year may not be that much, but it can damn sure comfortably buy the necessities without having to depend on Uncle Sam to foot the rest of the bill. (That ought to shut those fiscal conservatives up too!)

An argument that I hear all the time is, "If you raise the minimum wage then prices are going to skyrocket!" Really? Wages have been stagnant over the past 40 years, yet productivity, profits and prices have grown tremendously. It's a baseless argument to say that prices will skyrocket because people are making more, when prices have gone up and people are technically making less! Don't believe me? Ask your parents how much a brand new car cost or how much a gallon of gas was when they were younger. Then, compare it to how much they were making monthly. I bet the conclusions will shock you.

To those who like to complain that someone working in a fast food restaurant shouldn't make more than -insert whatever job you think is so important here- I'm going to have to agree with you. You're right! They shouldn't be making more. Therefore, you should be striking and protesting for a higher wage too! You are either making or just above the inflation calculated minimum wage and you've been duped into believing that you've made it to the big show. You have a stake in minimum wage being raised too. Don't be "lazy," fight for it!

When it's all said and done, unless you are a corporate executive or have a cash cow degree, you're getting shafted. Instead of taking your angst on the "class" below you, why don't you do something that is going to benefit everyone including yourself. The reason why you believe that paying people close to the same amount they produce is a bad idea is because the people who have taken the compensation for most of your work told you so. When you look at the facts, charts, and evidence, there is no way that you can conclude otherwise. So, why continue to let it happen? Why trash the people who have the balls to strike from that "shitty" job that pays them nothing to make it better for everyone else? What are you doing for your own economic mobility? That's right, nothing. So who are you to say what they should or should not make? Stop being lazy and demand the rest of your own compensation!

I stand in solidarity with those who are willing to sacrifice what little they have in order to lay a better path for those who will come ahead of them. All the arguments against paying people what they deserve are bullshit and proves how ignorant and lazy the complainers are when it comes to the facts. Rush and Bill prove this by actually being ignorant to the facts they literally provided! No matter what you think of those jobs or those people that work those jobs, they have a job, and they are demanding to be paid what they feel they are owed. That is politics in action when you don't have a lobbying group. They are making their voice heard to the people who have the ability to do what they demand. Are you?

For those who are on my side on this issue, I'm going to let the honorable Sen. Elizabeth Warren show you that there are politicians who have your back.

Before I go...

I don't know if you noticed but, Bill O'Reilly called himself and his friends "thugs". He either was friends with a lot of black people (highly unlikely) or he really called himself a thug. So, if I see him with a hoodie on in my neighborhood looking all suspicious, can I shoot him and get away with it right?

...Random thought. I'm just saying.


  1. $15 x 40 = $600 a week. $600 x 52 weeks = $31,200, not $28,800. Either you're horrendous at math, which is forgivable, or you purposely did botched math to prove your point. If it was the latter, shame on you.

    1. There are 12 months in a year. If you multiply 2400 by 12 it's 28,800. Fast food workers don't get paid weekly so multiplying by 52 would be inaccurate.