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Aiming to Lift 'Starvation Wage,' Progressive Lawmakers Push for $15 Nationwide


Aiming to Lift 'Starvation Wage,' Progressive Lawmakers Push for $15 Nationwide

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

"We are here today to send a very loud and a very clear message to the United States Congress, the President of the United States, and corporate America," Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders bellowed before a crowd of striking low-wage workers in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.


This is a good companion piece to the adjacent article “When Human Consumption Slows, Planet Earth Can Heal”. Raising the minimum wage will lead to more consumption which is good for both the poor and the economy, but bad for the earth.

Who was it that wrote capitalism would collapse from its own contradictions?


Wouldn’t it be a whole lot better to have programs that educate people so they can get better jobs and lift them selves from low paying jobs? They would have skills, more self-esteem from accomplishing something, and a much brighter future for themselves. They would no have to depend on government handouts to survive.


Good. Workers should finally be paid a fair, living wage. But could we be honest about a couple of things? We don’t have “starvation wages.” Think about it. We are the generation that insisted those who were getting by on roughly $4,000 annual AFDC were living so well that they lost their will to find jobs, eating steaks and buying big screen TVs. Compare $4k to the minimum wage. Now take a look at the huge increase in the number of Americans who are effectively locked into working for far less than the min. wage – workfare labor, disability labor, many farm workers, all those who are subject to “special minimum wage” laws, etc.

But getting back to my first point: How much money is a “starvation” income if $4k annual provided such a comfortable life?


No, education and training cost, so they have largely been removed from what social services still exist. To understand the broader picture: The US shipped out a massive number of our jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s. We don’t have jobs for all who need one, and the closest we’ve come to wide-scale job creation is for infrastructure work – which almost exclusively goes to men (most US poor are women). The last I heard, there are 7 jobs for every 10 people who urgently need one. While that’s an improvement, think about what happens to those who are left out. You can’t get a job once you no longer have a home address, phone, bus fare, clean clothes. You’re out. Now think about how even liberals today (who should know better) regard our jobless poor.


I’m a liberal, have been my whole life. Yet I own four rental houses, one in Ferguson, MO. I rent the 3 bd for under the median, yet I still waited 6 months to find an applicant who made the required hourly wage which would result in only 1/3 of their pay going to rent; it was about $14/hour. I only found a tenant b/c a married couple applied, the first to do so during the vacancy, and their combined income met the $14/hour requirement.

Most of the people who applied were working low-wage jobs, often at fast food restaurants. If they were making $15/hour, they could afford the house. The neighborhood would be stabilized with occupants possessing a strong work ethic who were trying to better themselves.


This is a joke, right? Because the facts show a different picture. Suggest you read Piketty’s book on twenty-first century capital that makes the ugly picture absolutely clear.


Well I don’t about that particular quote, but Marx called it, " the contradiction in the capitalist mode of production." But what he was referring to was employers keeping their labor cost to a minimum and in the long run drying up the demand for their goods.
By cutting or keeping wages down they a create deflationary spiral, which is why at the current moment the economy cannot gain any real growth. Not enough income to create sufficient demand to cause growth.


Yes this is a good idea!

But won’t approving a nationwide push for a $15 violate the sanctity of heterosexual marriage? Or is it simply an attempt to take away our guns, especially in Texas?


While I support a long overdue minimum wage hike, free vocational skill training so people can support themselves combined with a basic minimum income would be the best situation. The minimum income would eliminate the worst poverty and, combined with job skills would encourage independence and raise living standards.


Yes, that was the germinal thought. It was David Harvey I was trying to recall and his recent book 17 Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. Here’s an interview from the Laura Flanders Show:


This country has thrown billions of dollars at poverty since Johnson’s war on poverty. What’s the result? Poverty has not changed. What the country is doing is not working. Clinton instituted work requirements, Obama cancelled them. A few years ago, a friend of ours had 3 computers and 2 large screen TVs while we had no computer and a 19" TV. So please don’t tell me how being on government assistance is living in poverty. These people live better than some ‘rich’ people in other countries. This person moved from one state to another because benefits were better. Keep in mind, I and two others got her 3 different jobs. She worked a week at one of them. They were all decent jobs with room for advancement. Some people just don’t want to work when everything is free. Why should these people enjoy all the benefits of working without doing anything other than collecting their benefits in the mail while those who work have less?
The park service says, “Don’t feed the animals, they will become dependent on you.” Yet people receive assistance and we think they will not become dependent.
Note: I’m not talking about those who are truly in need of assistance due to disabilities. Those folks deserve being helped.


So you really filter out prospective tenants based on inquiries as to their income? And isn’t it a but judgmental and condescending of you to claim to tell who is “trying to better themselves” and who is not?


There are many so-called “skilled” occupations that still only pay near-minimum wage. I was a skilled civil engineering-geotechnical technician, and I never made more than $8.50 - and years later such technicians still make barely more than that. My wife works as a phlebotomist for our local union-hostile hospital monopoly, UPMC. She makes only $11 per hour. And how can “getting an education and bettering oneself” possibly a just solution? Because, SOMEONE still has to do the so-called “unskilled” work - how can an economy work if everyone is an engineer, accountant, lawyer, doctor other “coordinator class” occupations. Are you suggesting that they be consigned to misery and disempowerment?

All education - through higher degrees and trade school should be free and compensation for ones labor in any enterprise should be based solely on effort and sacrifice and not “skills” or position in a hierarchy. And all work should be empowering - whereby all workers have a say in how the work is done and in the direction of the enterprise. There is no such thing as an “unskilled” job.


I think you need to expand your definition of “consumption”. There are many forms of “consumption” other than the USAn style of “consumption” of energy-consuming “stuff”- notably things that consume gasoline of large amounts of electricity. Higher incomes can also be spent on culinary and cultural activity as well as buying low or no carbon forms or energy or energy usage that are too expensive for people on a limited income.


► We’ll consume more? I don’t think we’re creating wealth by raising a wage. It’s gonna come out of investors pockets


Capitalism depends on ever increasing consumption and unchecked consumption means burning more fossil fuels, creating larger islands of plastic waste in our oceans, more soil degradation, more nitrogen fertilizer runoff, more landfills, more species extinctions. Every person should earn a living wage, but I happen to think that we must live within the earth’s capacity to absorb our abuse.