Posts Tagged ‘Minimum wage’

It’s been quite a while since we did one of these posts, so here ’tis — the best of the Internet: the sick, the perverse, and the marginally useful. (We’ll cover the sickest, most perverse, and utterly useless very shortly in yet another Religion Roundup.) Anyway, here goes:

  • First the useful. The destructive parasites known as patent trolls have become a plague in recent years. Now, someone is finally doing something about them. The crowdfunding platform Unpatent describes its mission as being to “eliminate bad patents.” We wish them luck.
  • The Intercept has a great article on how anyone, including those with virtually no computer knowledge, can easily enhance their online security.
  • In a study that should surprise no one, Cambridge University researchers report that, based on a study of 4,000 police shifts in California and the UK, police with body cameras receive 93% fewer complaints than police without them.  The reason? The researchers surmise that both cops and those they stop are on their best behavior when they know they’re being recorded.
  • In an incident that should surprise no one, police in Connecticut accidentally recorded themselves conspiring to frame a First and Fourth Amendment activist they were harassing. They had seized the victim’s camera, thrown it to the ground, and were unaware that it was still working and in recording mode. The victim, upon recovering his camera and discovering the video, posted it to the Internet and contacted the ACLU. As almost anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave or an all-white suburb can tell you, this sort of police misconduct is routine.
  • In a development that should surprise almost everyone, Priceonomics reports that Sorrento, Louisiana and a number of other small towns have had to disband their police departments in recent years. The Washington Post reports that these towns include Irwindale, California, Lincoln Heights, Ohio, and Waukegan, Illinois.  Why have they done this? Citizen protests? No. They’ve done it because their police departments operated in such a reckless manner that insurance companies refused to issue the cities liability insurance.
  • The major league baseball teams, the vast majority of which are major beneficiaries of public largesse (most notably taxpayer-funded stadiums costing well up into the hundreds of millions of dollars), are cheapskates taking public money but refusing to pay minor league players even the minimum wage. Of late, these corporate jerks and profiteers have found lackeys in Congress who have introduced legislation (the grotesquely named Save America’s Pastime Act) to allow the teams to pay minor leaguers a sub-minimum wage. Doug Buzzone, on our favorite baseball blog, McCovey Chronicles, has an admirably clear and short financial analysis showing that “every team in baseball could afford to [pay minor leaguers minimum wage]. They just don’t want to.”
  • Finally, need we do any more with this final item than reproduce the headline? “Clown porn has had massive boost thanks to killer clown craze.” (No, I don’t think we need to say anything more, either.)

Watch for the upcoming Religion Roundup. We’ve found some really choice items.

We put up our 1,000th post a little over a week ago. We’re now looking through everything we’ve posted, and are putting up “best of” lists in our most popular categories.

This is the sixth of our first-1,000 “best of” lists. We’ve already posted the Science Fiction, HumorMusicInterviews, and Addictions lists, and will shortly be putting up other “best ofs” in several other categories, including Anarchism, Atheism, Politics, Religion, Science, and Skepticism.

Best Economics Posts

The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations coverby Chaz Bufe, editor See Sharp Press

(Note: I wrote this in 1914, and the figures for unemployment rate, etc., have changed since then. But there have been no major changes, and the arguments here still hold.)

In what passes for political debate in this country, one of the current hot topics is whether or not to raise the minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour). Those arguing against raising the minimum wage express concern for low wage workers and speculate that paying them higher wages would somehow hurt them. Their argument is that higher wages would reduce the number of ultra-low-paying jobs.

Well, guess what. Wages have fallen drastically since G.W. Bush stepped foot in the White House, and that hasn’t produced a bonanza of jobs, nor income growth for those fortunate enough to have a job. In the period since Bush took office through 2011, median income fell a staggering 12.4%. And, since 1973, wages for the bottom 60% of working men have actually fallen. Especially since the start of the recession, almost all wage growth has benefited the top 1% of wage earners. According to the New York Times, in 1979 the top 1% received 7.3% of all wages; in 2010, they received 12.9%. As for the minimum wage itself, half a century ago it was $1.25 an hour, equivalent to $9.50 an hour today; a few years later, in 1968, it went up to its peak, $1.60 per hour, which is equivalent to $10.84 today. Today’s minimum wage of $7.25 is almost exactly a third lower than that peak minimum wage.

At the same time,  productivity per hour worked has been rising at a fairly steady rate of roughly 1.5% – 1.75% per year for over half a century. Increases in wages and productivity almost exactly matched from the end of World War II through 1973, when wages began to stagnate as productivity continued to rise. Since then, productivity has gone up roughly 80%, while wages have been nearly flat. As for wealth, the percentage owned by the top 1% has steadily risen since Reagan took office, and now exceeds 40% of total national wealth.

In other words, the “job creators” are doing just fine. So, where are the jobs? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official unemployment rate in February was 6.7%. The actual unemployment rate, counting “discouraged workers” and those involuntarily working part-time, is roughly twice that, and even that’s probably understating the matter. The percentage of working-age adults participating in the labor force is only about 63%, very near a historic low.

Given all this, let’s take a closer look at the argument that keeping wages at just above starvation level is somehow good for those looking for work.

Many on the right actually argue that there should be no minimum wage law, and that workers would be better off without it. They’re seriously arguing that wages already so low that many workers can’t even afford to rent a studio apartment (and instead must sleep in their cars or in homeless encampments) are beneficial to workers. And that workers would benefit from even lower wages.

They argue that earning $3 or $4 an hour is better than having no job at all. At the same time, they never argue against laws restricting labor organizing and tactics — Taft-Hartley, “right to work” laws, laws against boycotts and secondary boycotts, etc. In other words, they’re in favor of laws restricting the rights of workers, and against laws guaranteeing worker rights.

Let’s take the right-wingers’ argument a step further. If labor for any compensation at all, no matter how minimal, is preferable to unemployment, there’s an obvious solution to the jobs crisis. There’s a tried and true way to guarantee every able-bodied worker a job, food, and a place to live: slavery.

Some Republicans are already arguing for it.