Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Minimum Wage and the Caste System

The conservative fight against increasing the minimum wage shows their disdain for the working class, as evidenced by this study from the Employment Policies Institute. Part of their rationale for not raising the minimum wage says:

-- 86% of employees that will benefit from the hike either live with their parents, are part of a dual earning household, or don’t have a family to support...

This does not take into account that:

  • A student living at home, and trying to finance a college degree is facing huge increases in tuition, books and transportation expenses during the last ten years.
  • A dual earning household of low wage earners is still struggling just to put food on the table, a roof over the head and other basic expenses which increase each year.
  • Single people who earn the minimum wage cannot support themselves on $206 per week.

If the conservatives are against a living wage, they should give back their own gains in salary and perks from the last ten years, and it should go to homeless shelters to help the dispossessed.

The Forbes list of the 400 richest people in the U.S. was released recently. " This year, for the first time, everyone on The Forbes 400 has at least $1 billion. The collective net worth of the nation’s wealthiest climbed $120 billion, to $1.25 trillion." From the MSNBC report:

1. William Henry Gates III: $53 billion

2. Warren Edward Buffett: $46 billion

3. Sheldon Adelson: $20.5 billion

4. Lawrence Joseph Ellison: $19.5 billion

5. Paul Gardner Allen: $16 billion

6. Jim C Walton: $15.7 billion

7. Christy Walton & family: $15.6 billion

7. S Robson Walton: $15.6 billion

9. Michael Dell: $15.5 billion

9. Alice L Walton: $15.5 billion

The Walton family alone are sitting on a pot of gold totaling more than $60 billion dollars, while they systematically dismantle the fabric of the small business community in every town where they are allowed to do business. They thwart their employees attempts to unionize and pay them low wages and benefits. Wal-Mart is now the largest employer in the state of Missouri. Most of their employees make more than the minimum wage, but many do not have full-time positions and do not have benefits.

We are creating a caste system of workers who must take jobs with low wages and no benefits. This caste system is being fueled by the millions of economic refugees flooding across our southern borders who are willing to work for a low wage, with no shortage of businesses willing to hire them to improve their bottom line. Our manufacturing jobs have been sent to China, and now we buy low wage goods produced by people who make 10-30 cents per hour and labor 12-14 hours a day as virtual slaves.

We need to raise the minimum wage now, and restore the esteem for the working class. A system where the rich get richer while standing on the backs of the poor should not be tolerated.


The Libertarian Guy (tm) said...

Class envy won't solve anything; it never has. Capitalism may not be perfect, but it's better than any alternative.

Betty B. said...

Lib Guy,

Are you saying that the Walton's are actually envious of those lucky sales associates who have no health insurance and have to apply for medic-aid and food stamps?

The Libertarian Guy (tm) said...

It is not the Waltons'job to pay health insurance.

Let's take this down to the personal level: You hire a neighbor kid to mow your yard. Should the gov't be able to *force* you to pay him X amount plus health insurance?

Any gov't that can impose a minimu wage, could conceivably impose a MAXIMUM wage. Do we really want gov't to be that powerful?

Betty B. said...

Lib Guy,

I think a corporate citizen such as Wal-Mart and the monopoly it has become assumes a responsibility to pay it's workers a living wage, and not to treat them as serfs.

Corporations such as Wal-Mart have traditionally had the bargaining power to negotiate more favorable insurance coverage for their employees. More and more, the attitude of the ultra wealthy is one of disdain for their workers, thwarting them in any attempt to organize unions that will negotiate for the best interest of the employees.

With the rise of corporate monopolies and the reemergence of the Robber Baron mentality, workers must be accorded some basic right to be provided for by people like the Waltons who sit on billions reaped from the labor of people who are not fairly rewarded.

This is the fallacy in the trickle down theory. Wal-Mart is not going to do the right thing by it's employees unless it is forced to do so, either by employee organizations, by legislation or by boycott (public or employee). With the current stranglehold they have on commerce, especially here in the Midwest, this is becoming increasingly difficult to envision.

If you want to congratulate Wal-Mart for their brand of self-serving business practice, well fine. Personally, I choose to shop elsewhere.

John Stone said...

The Lib Guy writ:

"Any gov't that can impose a minimu wage, could conceivably impose a MAXIMUM wage. Do we really want gov't to be that powerful?"


The Libertarian Guy (tm) said...


So, you think it's a good idea for the gov't to tell YOU, how much YOU can make?

Why not take it a step further: Everyone makes the SAME amount? One man, one wage. Of course, this would also HAVE to apply to our elected officials... especially the limousine liberals, which would actually disappear as nobody can afford a limo at low wages, so I s'pose it's not that bad an idea.

OTOH, I'd love to watch Teresa Kerry have to try to live on the equivalent of ten bucks an hour... she'd go insane after a week of living like the common people. Same would go, of course, for any rich, snooty Republican equivalent of a Teresa Kerry, if there is such a creature.

BTW, if Wal-Mart is a monopoly, why haven't the local K-Mart and Target and Dollar General and other stores, shut down by now?

But let's face a fact: Any gov't big enough to GIVE you things, is big enough to TAKE... as Mrs. Bill Clinton said not long ago - "We're going to take things away from you for the common good". One wonders if she'd use the National Guard, or just armed IRS agents.

Betty B. said...

Lib Guy,

You asked:

"Any gov't that can impose a minimu wage, could conceivably impose a MAXIMUM wage. Do we really want gov't to be that powerful?"

Unless I'm missing something, our government does not impose, it legislates. Granted, Libertarians almost never get elected to the legislature. Wonder why?

I'm not aware of anyone ever proposing a maximum wage. In my view, that will not happen. I do think that the current Republican policy is taking us in the direction of entrenching an aristocracy that cares little for the rank and file worker.

We are seeing more and more legislation that benefits corporations and the wealthy, given their ability to monetarily influence the outcome of elections.

Capitalism as we in the U.S. practice it, does not survive if there are no protections and benefits for workers. Without a minimum wage,and/or unions looking out for the employee's interest, people like the Waltons just put another billion in the bank. One of my relatives worked for Wal-Mart a couple of years ago. They started her at $6 an hour and treated her like dirt. Another friend worked at Sam's Club, and her description sounded to me like the equivalent of working in Hell.

Unlike in the story book, Scrooge seldom sees the light without a swift kick in the rear.

The Libertarian Guy (tm) said...

There are several reasons we don't get elected:

1. Press bias towards the RepubliCrats (although, granted, some coverage of non-RepubliCrat candidates/issues does happen).

2. Lack of money. Third-party candidates generally hold day jobs, and can't go out and fundraise like the Brand X guys/gals. Plus, we don't want to be beholden to special-interest groups or PACs.

3. In the LP's case, we're "selling" the public a pretty alien product: Maximum personal and economic liberty, with a minimalist government. Most folks have been taught/programmed/led to believe that the government will "fix" all their problems and kiss all their boo-boo's. Just give them more money and more control of your life, because you're too stupid to do it by yourself.

Maximum wage: Google the phrase, it's been talked about. And it's a scary proposition. Just like "redistribution of wealth" and "from each according to his ability..." and other collectivist nonsense.

When you say "their ability to monetarily influence the outcome of elections", do you also include unions? BTW, should union members have the power to decide which party receives portions of their union dues? I do. It's only fair.

If gov't regulation "fixes" everything, why not put them in charge OF everything? They could tell you how much you have to pay the neighbor kid for lawn care, AND make you pay his health insurance.

Picking point: Okay, it's "legislate", given... but with our current crop of rich, power-hungry politicians - of BOTH parties - it's more like "impose". That's why I use the term.