July 5, 2006

Following up on my previous post, in Time Magazine‘s June 26th issue we see yet another example of the dino-media’s mindset – in this case, that time-honored, revered progressive/liberal cause known as the minimum wage. Nothing makes a blue-state progressive/liberal’s heart beat so fast as the prospect of attempting yet another minimum wage increase in their misguided attempt to turn what is currently considered a basic (and necessary) wage for those entering the nation’s job market into some form of “minimum compensation” needed for people to make a “comfortable” living.

(Never mind the fact that “comfortable” is a relative term that no one on the progressive/liberal left has ever cared to define. What does “comfortable” mean? Affordable housing, including utilities and transportation, up to three weekly visits to McDonalds, plus that obligatory annual visit to Disney World for you, your partner and up to 3.1 children? Is that what “comfortable” means? You’re guess is as good as mine.)

Of course, that’s not the purpose the minimum wage was originally designed to serve when it was originally created back in 1938. But that doesn’t stop the typical progressive/liberal left coalition of advocacy groups, labor unions, and red-meat liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy from spouting their tired, heated rhetoric every now and then – especially come election years.

In Time’s June 26th issue, Jeremy Caplan writes an article focusing on the difference in wages received by janitorial workers in the Midwest, comparing the economic situations of one Robyn Gray, who earns $12.52/hour in Pittsburgh, PA and one Craig Jones, who toils in the same line of work in Cincinnati, OH for $6.50/hour. Caplan describes the bleakness of Jones’ employment situation as follows:

“Wiping spit is a tough thing to get used to,” he says. Jones, 27, earns $6.50 an hour without benefits, vacation time, or sick days. His employer, Professional Maintenance, a cleaning contractor, usually schedules him for just four hours a night, five days a week, so Jones’ biweekly paycheck amount to about $260, before taxes. The monthly rent for his spartan ground-level apartment in a once industrial part of town is $215, so there’s little left after phone, utility bills, and food. He hasn’t bought a new piece of clothing in years.

Less than 300 miles away, Robyn Gray [performs similar janitorial duties] in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. Although her work is equally grueling, Gray, 44, is paid well, compared with Cincinnati, Ohio janitors like Jones. For working a …40-hr.-a-week schedule, she earns $12.52 an hour and gets health insurance, three weeks’ vacation and three personal days a year. Her $26,000 annual salary has helped Gray and her husband …buy their own home, send their two daughters to college, and even go on the occasional family vacation – in May, they took their first trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.

The major difference between Gray and Jones, say advocates for low-wage workers, is that she lives in a city where janitors are unionized and have collectively negotiated salaries considerably above the miunimum wage, what they call a living wage.

Caplan’s aritcle goes on to trump the efforts of advocacy groups and labor unions under a mantle called Change to Win Foundation, working to “convince the public in 35 U.S. cities that all Americans who work hard deserve to earn a wage they can live on”. Caplan quotes Change to Win’s chairwoman (that’s the term he uses, BTW) Anna Burger, as saying, “Someone working full time should be able to support themselves and their family.”

Really. For those like Ms. Burger, Fantasyland is obviously not just another Walt Disney attraction, it exists in this complete, unadulterated progressive/liberal mindset clap-trap. Here we have yet another progressive concept that might – might – sound reasonable on its surface, but completely impractical to implement (see above) and completely at odds with a capitalist and market-driven society’s need to always encourage, support, and motivate people to want to better themselves socio-economically or face certain consequences if to do so is not a priority for them.

Consider the case of Mr. Jones. As Caplan notes, he’s only working 20 hours a week and scraping out about $400 a month. The article says he hasn’t bought a new piece of clothing in years. Again, like the case I mentioned previously of the woman who quit her job to go on welfare because (supposedly) she had no other means of support and wasn’t getting maternity leave pay, there are serious questions about Jones’ personal situation. Obviously, the young man lives at the lower rungs socio-economically, and we don’t know if there are contributing circumstances (i.e., physical, psychological problems) that are a contributing factor. Since Caplan doesn’t mention anything of the kind, let’s take Jones’ situation at its face:

You’re working only 20 hours per week at a crummy janitorial job that pays only $6.50/hour. You’re barely scraping by, to the point where you can’t even afford clothes. And you’re satisfied with this situation? Or worse, expecting society to come to your rescue by passing some ill-conceived legislation that would force your employer to pay you, say, double, what you’re presently earning? I’m sorry, but if that’s my work situation, I’m going to either: a) find a second job that can supplement my existing income (after all, I’m only working part-time, right?); b) I’m gonna try and find me another job that will either pay me better, or at least full-time; or c) if I can’t find such opportunities in my present locale, I’ll go somewhere else where my employment options are better.

Look, I don’t know Mr. Jones, and, regardless of my prose here, I only wish good things for him. If there are certain medical or psychological conditions that prevent him from doing any better than what he’s currently doing, there’s no shortage of societal safety nets in place – I know, my sister-in-law and her former husband have made a living off of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for the past 15+ years. But if there aren’t, for God’s sake, what kind of a future – let alone now – does he have staying in his present situation? The answer is none. And if he’s satisfied with that, fine – but let’s not use him and those like him, as poster-children for a cruel and heartless society that now needs to reward lazy and unmotivated people with a “living wage” forced upon their employers in the name of civic duty.

The main purpose of the minimum wage is to get people into the workforce and exposed to the responsibilities associated with working for a living, nothing more. It is NOT meant to be a “liveable” wage, nor something anyone should aspire to in life. The impact of continually increasing the minimum wage is that opportunities for those seeking to enter the workplace for the first time will gradually decrease – that is simple economics. Employers who have to fork out more salary or benefits at the bottom end will simply cut positions, thereby increasing unemployment amongst workers at the lower end of the employment chain and damaging the consumer engine that powers our economy from top to bottom.

Regardless of what the Jeremy Caplans, Anna Burgers, and Change to Win coalitions of the world think, there is nothing wrong (at least conceptually) with people working full-time and not able to support their families. In our capitalist, consumer-driven economy, those who do have two choices to make: either improve your employment/income situation, or scale-back your lifestyle. To be satisfied otherwise, or to wait for society to come to your rescue through mandated legislative initiatives involving progressive/liberal concepts like “living wage” and mandatory paid leave/job protection in the end benefits no one and smacks of creeping socialism. But what would you expect from once-formidable, now fading dino-media institutions like Time anyways? After all, they hate capitalism.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 14:20 | Comments (0)
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