Man, there’s a ton of young people in this town. Squadrons of them, moving in with no visible means of support. They’re all interested in making a life in a beautiful place full of other people who foreswear piracy and ill will, and I think they’re swell. Of course, I was a total old fart about them at first. They don’t have jobs! I thought. They’ll founder and die! I thought. They were just like we were. When you haven’t tethered your happiness to your financial prospects, you’ve got a much better shot at happiness. But it only works for a while, I thought. Eventually something like the 1980s comes around and it’s raining money from who knows where and before you know it we’ve all forgotten how to be happy without it. And it isn’t real money–it’s gambling money–but you get it while you can, and pretend your $20,000 bungalow really is worth closer to a million bucks, and you find yourself looking at the stock market page as if it weren’t the racing form, and when something tanks for a few nanoseconds you lose some of your pretend joy.
But these kids aren’t even going to get the pretend joy, because there’s no money anymore, I think. Look at them. They’re going to die. They’re all drinking coffee, and serving coffee. They’re either drinking or serving coffee. That’s all there is.
But somehow you can still navigate around here without tripping over a dead twenty-five-year-old. In fact, they look pretty hale. They’re stacked on sofas and tanked on lattes and they wheel happily down the street with their laptops tucked in their bike bags and good will tucked into their smiles. Is it possible they can make it on selling coffee and buying coffee?
I’m starting to think it’s possible. I’m not acquiring much anymore. But I do love to go out to a good restaurant now and then. Or walk a dozen miles and stop somewhere for an IPA and something off the happy hour menu. Sometimes it seems like an indulgence when we already have a good cook at home who is not me. But here’s what happens. Every dollar we spend out there goes in someone’s pocket. It’s a waitron’s or a cook’s or a farmer’s or a vintner’s or a mushroom gatherer’s pocket. And then they all go out and buy a latte or a bike light or groceries or a haircut. And then the people they give the dollar to–the very same dollar–go out and do the same thing. Our dollars are making the rounds, and everyone’s making out all right.
Any economy based on making out like a bandit is doomed to have victims, but if we all provide a reasonable product or service we can hold each other up. That’s why I’ve started paying close attention to the latest movement to raise the minimum wage. Not by the usual four cents, but to something a person might be able to live on: $15 an hour. But that can’t last, they say. Eventually all the prices go up and then no one can afford anything and you have wage inflation and pretty soon everyone’s poor again. Really? Apparently you can offer $15 an hour to everyone working at Burger Barn and it will inflate the price of a standard meal by seventeen cents or so. Sure, prices might rise a little, but if we can’t afford to buy things unless someone is forced to work all day long and not make enough to live on, then we’re profiting off slavery, or something close enough to it. Is it any better if our slaves are an ocean away, and eight years old? Is it okay if we just don’t bother to think about it?
I think there’s plenty of work to go around and plenty of honest wages to be made. What is unconscionable is that some people–not many–have all our money. It is our money, or it used to be. It was our pension funds, it was our wages before they were depressed, it was our health benefits. Arrr, ye scallywags! Here’s the deal. Four hundred people in the United States have more money than the combined net worth of 50% of us. They have it: they have not earned it, because it is impossible, in any moral sense, to have earned that much loot. Apparently we can’t tax these people, because they’ve bought the get out of taxes free card. And no, I am not envious, because, like most sensible people, I would be mortified to be in their condition.
So fuck them. Let’s raise the federal minimum wage to $15. We’ll agree to pay a tiny bit more for what we need or enjoy, and we’ll pass all our dollars around the community until they come back to us.
Looks like it's beginning to happen here in Washington state, Murr. Seatac is passing that proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 by about 48 votes, but it's passing. I agree with everything you say here. I will enjoy my latte even more today, because of this post.
I heard it was ahead. It's a lovely little test case. Can't wait to see if it spreads.
You are way too practical for this greed culture in which we live.
Hey. I'm happier if everyone's better off. I'm only in this for my happiness.
I'm with you! And the "usual four cents"? There are those who would begrudge the workers even that. Sad, sad, sad.
What are they afraid of?
Yes! Let's hear it for living happily without huge amounts of money. Maybe we'll remember how to do that.
You get enough money, and then you're all worried about how to hang onto it. Bleah.
But that can't last, they say. Eventually all the prices go up…..
You can't give poor people a couple extra bucks an hour because it will cause inflation and destroy the economy. But those 400 super-rich people have to be made ever richer with endless tax cuts (remember how Warren Buffett said he now pays a lower tax rate than his secretary does), because if we don't, it will be bad for the economy, somehow.
Funny how that works.
It will be turrible, turrible bad for the economy of four hundred people. Fortunately for them, they wrote the tax code.
Huzzah, Murr. Would that someone with your common sense – in a position of power – existed. Unfortunately, only the rich ones get to the positions of power and they couldn't give a sweet bippy.
I don't know how it works in the US, but the other point on the devil's pitchfork of minimum wage in my Canadian province is that generally the hours available to most employees are just short of the number required to access certain health and dental benefits. And their working schedules are not regular, so it's hard to fit in a second job in their off hours.
Yup! Worse here, probably, because our health care is so much more expensive.
Hear, hear from here too. And we need to think on a wider scale too. I suspect that four rather than 400 rich countries have more wealth than the rest combined…
Hear, hear! I'm beginning to think my wonderful commenters are strutting their spelling prowess. Strut on!
Hear, hear! Shop and buy locally. Screw those bastards on Wall St.
Uh oh. I just bought a foreign rug. But I hired a local floor installer…
Amen. They got a better idea about how to reduce wealth inequality, we're all ears. But it's time for this to stop.
I'm not sure that reducing wealth inequality is high on their lists.
Thanks for the pitch. It's important to listen to the whiners and boycott their stuff, too, if we eat at McDonald's or think Papa John's pizza is good for us. I bet all the latte makers already know this; it's up to those of us who have a disposable dollar to pass the word to the person behind us in line at the coffee shop.
Ooo, I forgot! Tattoo artists. They're local, too!
And, in the same country as EC… Joe Hockey (whose parents clearly never considered Spoonerisms!) is hell-bent on raising our debt ceiling. Now that IS a case of giving kidddies a truckload of money and not allowing them beyond the candy store!
The way I understand that, raising the debt ceiling is just allowing us to pay whatever we owe to our creditors, and it's in the budget process where we're supposed to be reining things in, if we want. So you do want to raise the debt ceiling (the horse is out of the barn, but you still owe for it). Maybe it's different where you are. I've not heard anything nice about Mr. Hockey.
Well, that's how it should work, but the reality would seem to be that we just add to the debt.
In the US, raising the debt ceiling is congress' way of spending freely and making the president look bad by so doing.
Well put, as always, Murr, and I couldn't agree with you more. This current situation is how most "empires" fail. You reach a tipping point where there are a crapload more "have nots" than "haves" and you can't run a country like that. Raising the minimum wage is not only moral and necessary, it's freakin' patriotic!
At least you should be able to live on a full-timer's wage. Not live high–but live.
Yep, agree with everything you say, Murr. Economists have calculated that every able-bodied person in the world, between the ages of 18 to 60, would only need to work 3 hours a day if the profits of labour were equally distributed. Plus, the living standard of ALL except the rich would rise. We are or were all wage slaves continuing to get ripped off by the few for the benefit of the few. It makes my blood boil.
I do believe in the young; those of Occupy, Anonymous and change.org ilk. The times are indeed changing. Check out what the young people did in Boulder, Colorado:
I'm so proud of them (and a little bit proud of me for donating a few Aussie dollars to their campaign) and know there is hope for my grandlings' future.
That's terrific! There isn't always good news coming out of Colorado, sorry to say.
There have been times in my life when I worked for minimum wage – and it is not fun. Let's raise the minimum to $15.00 – I'm with you.
I distinctly remember working my butt off for eight hours and getting $18, INCLUDING tips. Of course, I was a shitty waitress.
Founder and Die! Sort of sounds like something you'd see on some flag somewhere…
Not necessarily the flag of an extant state.
From your lips….er…. keyboard….to G….er….Congress.. Well, hell, that's not likely to work. The only way to get this done is to do it ourselves. I like the idea of passing our money around amongst ourselves. I try as much as possible in this little town where I live. Unfortunately, many of the big corporations have left behind only corpses of the small businesses which used to be available options for spending my money.
This is the main reason to not shop at Walmart. Way over and above the way they treat their employees.
Fuck them? All 400? That's going to take a lot of KY jelly.
Only you, Roxie. Only you.
Minimum wage here in Australia is just over $15 per hour. It doesn't seem to go very far with the cost of things. Our utilities costs for example are way past sky high. you want to be hoping that doesn't eventuate along with the raising of the minimum wage. I'm not saying don't raise the minimum wage, of course you should and quickly too.
I can't see how the minimum wage affects utilities pricing much. I do remember when I visited New Zealand that everyone had a similar decent wage, that tipping was not expected anywhere, and that mostly people seemed to be doing all right.
Oh it doesn't, that's a government problem, they privatised the national telephone company, the national electricity company, they said it would create competition and bring down costs or some such rubbish. I'm just saying that minimum wage needs to be a reasonable amount for young people to be able to cover their living costs.