One year out from the 2016 presidential election, fast-food and other low-wage workers are striking on Tuesday in hundreds of cities across the U.S., demanding a livable wage, the right to form a union, and attention to their cause from those seeking elected office.
It's rather sad to say this, but at $15 an hour, people would still live in poverty in the U.S. In more developed countries where higher wages already exist, the minimum wage hasn't transformed the country into a middle class paradise. What is needed in addition to the wage hike is a series of other progressive reforms including universal healthcare, dismantling of the military, increased corporate taxation, an end to 'money in politics', full employment, an end to mass consumerism and a national implementation of a climate strategy.
If we only focus on higher minimum wages, the 1% will simply allow inflation to eliminate those gains and low wage workers will find themselves in the exact same situation in a few months or years down the road. Those higher wages will not solve the low income housing crisis, bankruptcy from illness or the disappearance of public education. Though I support the higher wages, it is still only a small part of the solution to end poverty in America.
You make excellent points in your thoughtful and comprehensive post. There are many obstacles for low-wage workers to overcome, but a raise of over 100% is a great starting point, and re-unionization would help ensure that wages keep up with inflation.
Warren Buffett, one of our most perceptive capitalists, says we should increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to improve family incomes. We can pay for it by sharp increases in taxes on the wealthy. Here is an excerpt from an interview on the PBS NewsHour (May 9th):
“There is an American nightmare alongside the American Dream, where the bottom 20 percent of households have an income of $21,000 or less. America can do better than that. We can raise the minimum wage, but I think the Earned Income Tax Credit is by far the most useful tool to really minimize poverty in this country and to reward work. It does not interfere with the market system. With that supplemental income, people can feel good about what they do in life, and that means the dignity of a reasonable job.
“Everybody should have a first-class public education. In many cases you don’t have a good shot by the time they are four or five years old.
“The aggregate worth of the Forbes 400 has gone up by 2,300 percent since 1982, while the income of the bottom twenty percent has increased one percent per year. I would like to hear what any candidate feels about that and what they would do about it. It’s got to be a big issue.”
When you barely manage to get by working for $7.50 an hour, doing two jobs and feeding your family with food stamps and skimping on everything except the long hours you work... going from $7.50 an hour to $15.00 is like a miracle! Suddenly you have a life!
Yeah all those things
need to be done but not on the backs of people carrying that heavy weight ... that of trying to get by on $7.50 per.
The 1% know that they'll make more money from the profits generated by greater purchasing power. They don't control prices like you suggest. A quart of milk won't double in price suddenly because wage slaves can afford to buy milk when they couldn't before. The economy will benefit from people being able to afford more stuff.
All solid points-except for one: how do we achieve full employment while dismantling the consumer economy?
Kshama Sawant was re-elected to Seattle City Council last week.
Did Common Dreams report this and I missed it? I did not see it reported anywhere. I found out by going to her web site.
Will a little tweak here and there fix the problem of outrageous wealth distribution in America? Raise the minimum wage and lose jobs? Raise taxes and lose jobs while politicians direct tax revenues to their Wall Street patrons? Seems like a well planned scheme to keep the .01% hoarding wealth and the 99% ever nearer to poverty.
I agree. But how do we go about achieving these reforms when Republicans suppress the vote and Democrat politicians vote with Republicans as their Wall Street patrons want and FOX suggests?
Democrats already lost 2016 by alienating the masses -- both poor and working class -- who had voted for Obama on the chance that he could launch a legit discussion about our poverty crisis. He did raise the issue, Democrats and liberals aren't interested. Liberals continued to wave the banner of middle class elitism while Democrats continued to worsen conditions for the jobless, the elderly poor and the disabled.
Should have learned from Gore vs. Bush. Clinton/Gore targeted the poor. In Gore vs. Bush, the poor (and those who get why unrelieved poverty is a critical issue) voted third party or withheld their votes. The middle class picked Bush. Twice. Once again, the poor, etc., will vote third party or withhold their votes. We already see the efforts to explain-away the expected 2016 defeat, blaming anything from redistricting to flawed voting machines, voter suppression to voter apathy. "It's the policies, stupid."
From there, all we can do is watch as the rich do to the middle class what the middle class already did to the poor.
Can we get past the simplistic, "1% vs. the 99%"? Our situation remains: rich vs. middle class vs. poor. The middle class told the poor to, essentially, "go die." Do you think the masses of poor Stand in Solidarity to save the advantages of the better-off, the middle class?
No one earning $15 per hour is in poverty. Today's poverty means incomes of $0. Min. wage workers are paid far better than many other workers (workfare labor, disability workers, the masses who are stuck with short-term/pt. time temp jobs, etc.) They still have options, even if it means working two jobs or relocating. They still have food and shelter, even if they need to find cheaper housing -- and so much more, especially when they aren't the only worker in their family. Out in the real world, not everyone can work (health, etc.), and there aren't jobs for all (7 jobs for every 10 people who urgently need one, the last I heard). Have you ever wondered what happens to them? This generation got extraordinarily tough on the poor. Learn about it.
Rising real estate prices to at least a certain extent are due to "property flippers". This is why mobile home lots became much more expensive than they used to be. Owner sells out, pockets his profit. The new owner raises lot rents to cover his costs of buying the mobile home park. Then someone else comes along willing to buy and the present owner sells at a profit and rates get raised again. So the cost of housing rises faster than any increase in incomes. What was $45 in 1973 is $325 today. Factor of 722% over the period of 42 years. Minimum wage back then was $1.85. Today's is $7.25. A bit under a factor of 4. Had prices only risen as fast as wages, the lot rent would be $180 today.
Back when I started working in 1959, the minimum wage was $1 an hour. Today a dollar buys what a dime used to buy back then. So in relation to prices today compared to those back then, our current minimum wage is actually worth say 75 cents. Part of the reason for this is due to the Republicans refusing to raise the minimum wage from 1980 to 1990. However during this same time the price of almost everything continued to rise. Ronald Reagan did "whip inflation", but he did it by freezing the minimum wage during his total 8 years as President, as did Bush Sr. for his first two years. This is also "why" today's minimum wage is $7.25 instead of the $10 that it likely would have been by now if not higher.
I posted about her re-election last week. The post received very little attention.
REALITY: Kshama Sawant's re-election does not fall within the corporately-owned, two-party system. As with the mainstream media, most alternative media outlets, including Common Dreams, deems any political news outside the two-party system to be irrelevant. Left-wing third party successes, including those of the Green Party and Socialists, are not deemed to be noteworthy of any attention. In fact, publicizing any such successes would violate their ties with the Democratic Party.
The only leftist alternative news outlet that included an article about the 20 Green Party candidates winning elections last week was OpEdNews.com.
Common Dreams is nothing more than a mouthpiece of the Democratic Party.
Only rich conservatives say these two things. Trickle down works and raising the minimum wage kills jobs. You couldn't prove either of those two falsehoods if you tried. Trickle down is gushing upwards in reality. During trickle down the rich got richer and that was about the only thing that happened with trickle down.
As for raising the minimum wage, like $15 bucks an hour makes you rich? All it does is help stimulate the economy because millions of people will buy more stuff like food (a bad habit that eating regularly but what can you do?) and clothing or paying rent... the yacht on $15 an hour will have to wait for next year, I guess!
Local stores see a better economy and even big corporations see a better economy and guess what... they hire more people in the improved economic prospects ahead. No money = no purchasing = economic downtown = loss of jobs!
Two trillion in tax cuts saw a flood of job losses. Odd how that is never mentioned by the rich. But giving some poor soul enough money for food and rent will cause the end of the universe!!!
How does that work? Give more people a little bit more money which they will go right out and spend is not as good as giving trillions to people who had millions and billions already?
Feeling conned yet?
I guess I'm perplexed why Common Dreams covered Kshama Sawant when she was first elected, but not now. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.
What is to keep them from being replaced, either immediately or (as is more common) phased out, slowly replaced with super-cheap workfare labor, temp help, etc.? US workers put the noose around their own throats. The US shipped out a huge number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s, creating a massive surplus of job-ready people who are desperate for any job at any wage. Because of this, US workers no longer have any power.
It is hard not to notice that while Americans "stand in solidarity" with low wage workers, they turn their backs when those workers lose their jobs, becoming part of the truly poor.
Social Democracy includes a legitimate welfare system, which this generation of Americans oppose. Today, even US liberals so strongly believe in the success of the corporate state that they think everyone is able to work, there are jobs for all, therefore no need for poverty relief. This is a deeply anti-socialist generation.
Doubt it. Not so long ago, America decided that those who were trying to get on their feet on $425 welfare (AFDC) per month were living in such comfort that it destroyed their incentive to work hard, improving themselves, to work their way up. We decided that deep poverty provides the incentives for Americans to succeed.
Beyond this (and this is an open question): Any ideas of what we should do with the jobless poor and many of the unemployable? Liberals in particular seem to be afraid to address this.
News: The refugee crisis in Europe gets plenty of coverage on NPR, particularly on 'The BBC News Hour' that they rebroadcast. The death of Helmut Schmidt received coverage in many news sources. As for Fukushima, it has been some months since that was in the news. I dispute the scale of words like 'devastating' and 'epic'. Life goes on around Chernobyl, and downwind from the Nevada Test Range and Moruroa, with hardly any notice of damage done. I imagine that the same can be said of Fukushima.
-- You will have to ask the Common Dreams staff, and the staff of other sites, why they don't provide MORE coverage of these issues you think important.
As for a 'living wage', there is an oxymoronic element to that. We see people who are living on less than that $15/hour that advocates claim is the minimum living wage. And we see hordes of migrants coming to America who are willing and eager to take jobs that pay less than $15/hour. (Back in 1993 I read an article on the subject. It devoted more than a page to a woman who operates (at the time) a food cart in Los Angeles. Her yearly income was less than $5,000.)