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Minimum Wage, Minimum Chance: On Being Nickel and Dimed in 2016


Minimum Wage, Minimum Chance: On Being Nickel and Dimed in 2016

Peter Van Buren

When presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talks about income inequality, and when other candidates speak about the minimum wage and food stamps, what are they really talking about?

Whether they know it or not, it’s something like this.

My Working Life Then


It has been about 12 years since I escaped from a few decades of precarious and minimum wage employment. My stomach tightens at the thought of returning to those conditions again.

What I remember from playing Monopoly is that as the game proceeds more and more players are forced off of the board until the last player owns all. Mostly well before that happens one sees the inevitability but continues rolling the dice and moving until the end. The inevitability of financial capitalism is most of us becoming miserably impoverished.

In "The Lost Tradition of Biblical Debt Cancellation" (http://schalkenbach.org/michael-hudson/Works-Michael-Hudson-Part1.html) Michael Hudson argues that many ancient civilizations had periodic jubilees and debt cancellations where property was returned to the people. Back then it was recognized that the inevitable result of financial capitalism is collapse and revolt, and it was recognized that periodically redistribution and the return of the commons is necessary. This is something that will be relearned.

Another point that Hudson makes in many of his articles is the distinction between industrial capitalism and financial capitalism. Financial capitalism has little to no need for those of us at the bottom. Basically financial capitalism is the capitalism of the monopoly board where everything is privatized and consolidated to generate rents --> those who cannot pay the rents are irrelevant. The workers are not needed and can be impoverished. However with industrial capitalism there is a somewhat symbiotic relationship between workers and capital that limits the extent to which we can be exploited. It is seldom all that fair but at least we are needed and cannot be ignored.

I mention this difference between financial capitalism and industrial capitalism because industrial capitalists are largely also being decimated under the onslaughts of financial capitalism. While it is gauche on sites such as this to see any redeeming qualities in any capitalism I wish to point out that workers and industrial capitalists are both under threat from financial capitalism. I wish to point out that we are much better off to be dealing with the industrial capitalists. Where the financial capitalists seek to privatize everything and reduce us to serfs and renters, the industrial capitalists tend to see the advantage of the Commons in reducing the costs of production. Industrial capitalists need roads, energy grids, healthy reliable educated workers, a stable future for long-term planning and investment. And they need customers to thrive, and customers need adequate income to be customers.

I detest immensely the form that industrial capitalism has evolved into, the huge bloated exploitative monopolistic structures that cause so much misery. I think that it can be argued that industrial capitalism has evolved as it has because of the increasing dominance of financial capitalism in shaping the world. The monopoly board models financial capitalism rather well. It does not model industrial capitalism all that well.