Friday, October 19, 2007

America's Poor: Totally Screwed

Living paycheck to paycheck gets harder
An interesting article about people who are living hand to mouth.

I guess what I'm getting out of this article is that the rich get richer, and the poor skip lunch. Like some cute modern version of how when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

I am a little worried, not for myself- I've been in much more impoverished circumstances, but about America's so called global-dominance crashing down around our ankles, hobbling the poor. I worry about women on their own with kids and no diploma to prop them up. The elderly with no children who can help them. Migrant workers with no laws to protect them.


Drew said...

“Go back to bed, America, your government has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed America, your government is in control. Here, here's American Gladiators. Watch this, shut up, go back to bed America, here is American Gladiators, here is 56 channels of it! Watch these pituitary retards bang their fucking skulls together and congratulate you on the living in the land of freedom. Here you go America - you are free to do what well tell you! You are free to do what we tell you!” - Bill Hicks (1961-1994)

cymberleah said...

There are no economic issues.

Give the well-off, high earners larger tax breaks, and they will makes jobs. Do not worry about what those jobs will pay the non-rich workers. Money is created from nothing, right?

But whatever you do, don't worry about people in jobs like hairdressing, or retail sales ever being able to eat healthily.

Never raise the minimum wage. People working should never have a guarentee that they can work 40 hours a week and keep fed.

There is no inflation. Due to the drop in prices for things like plasma televisons and computers, the rise of prices in staples is inconsequential.

Anonymous said...

Well, actually, I do have some input on the subject. Not sure if it's meaningfull or not, but here it goes.

There's alot of clamoring on the left for a rise in minimum wage, but that's not actually going to help the problem.

First off, you have to view the demand for employment as you do any other commodity. It operates on a supply/demand chart. Economics 101 tells you that if you put an effective floor on a good, then you wind up with a surplus. This means that a rise in minimum wage correlates strongly with a rise in unemployment. So would you rather have more people earning less, or less people earning more? Also, you have to take into account that raising the minimum wage will drive up inflation, because domestic goods will be more expensive to produce. (More on this further down.)

Secondly, I would wager to say that most places that need unskilled labor are still paying well above minimum wage, unless your working for tips. When I was employed at B&N, I was pulling in 7.00 an hour. Here at the factory where I work, we're paying unskilled workers who speak very little english 7.50 an hour. It's still a miserable living, but I'd say that it's a fairly strong argument that market forces tend to balance this out. No legal worker in their right mind will work for 5.10 or whatever an hour that is the current federal minimum wage.

Where it gets out of wack is when you have illegal workers being exploited at minimum wage, because they don't have the position to bargin for their wages. Here, you have a doubled edge sword... Yes, your exploiting the 'poor', but by doing so, you're able to keep the prices lower. This combats inflation.

And all of this is before you even begin to consider the consequences with the trade deficit and valuation of the american doller. If we have higher labor costs, it's going to create an unfavorable trade deficit with other countries. Our imports will increase, and exports will decrease because foriegn goods will be cheaper. The side effect of this phenomon is less American jobs.

And if you want to combat the trade deficit and still keep American wages higher, you have to impose tarriffs and trade restrictions, which in turn works against the current globalization trends that the left tends to espouse as well.

My biggest problem with ultra-'liberals' (and god I hate using labels), is that they want to have their cake and eat it too. Minimum wage and inflation are inversly realated. You jack with one, and the other is going to react. Higher minimum wage = more inflation & higher prices, and bigger trade deficit & less american jobs. If you want lower prices, average joe needs to have less money, or their needs to be an increase in supply. An increase in supply means more consuption of natrual resources, which is horrible for the environment.

It's very very difficult ot have your cake and eat it too in the real world. Unfortunatly, sacrifices have to be made somewhere. Capitalism is an ugly, ugly thing.

Drew said...

That above post was me, btw....

qtilla said...

I used my Holmesian powers of deduction to determine that.

cymberleah said...

I actually agree with most of that.

I feel the issue is more, banks abetting the rise in the cost of housing (sure your place is worth $400,000! Refinance now, we love interest!) as well as the rise in, well, the prices of anything that can be financed ($20,000 cars? Yay!!) that lead to what should be a living wage (anything over $20,000 a year ought to at least keep you fed, healthy, and dry) not even coming close.

I think Washington's minimun wage is a bit high; I think the federal one is a bit low. I do think that if you work full time, you ought to be able to have a life (some food, 650+ sqft dwellings for a family of four, enough left over for heat, a birthday cake, doctor's visits, and library late fees).

Fiscally, America is really messed up, and it's only getting worse. What most people see as a decent minimum wage is only a panacea. But really, it should be raised at least once every five-ten years. You can't seriously expect me to believe that not raising the minimum wage will erase inflation, and if it does not, then you have to take inflation into account when figuring what the is the least figure that people's work is worth.

As it stands right now, paying people less for things like strawberry picking does no one any real good when the price for a domicle rises $100,000 in five years. $.60 more per pound of strawberries is less of an issue to me than $350 a month in increased mortgage/rent. Inflation *is* driven by the minimum wage, as are jobs. But jobs and services filled by minimum wage workers have not been the prime drivers of inflation over the past 10 years.

qtilla said...

I think that beyond predatory lending, beyond telling our kids to go to colleges that they can't afford to get degrees to do jobs that don't exist; I think that the entire American Culture shift that occurred during the prosperity of the post-WWII baby boom has ingrained a New American Dream.

Not that hard work is rewarded, but that hard work is for suckers. That we all deserve everything we want. The trend in "affordable luxury" from Starbucks to Coach handbags for teens goes hand in hand with this. I think the ultimate display of Lazy American Craptasticness is the huge boom in luxury dog items.

We've become a lazy country without leadership or direction. And I don't think that there is a solution. The thing that will most dictate change is a huge economic down-turn and hopefully some kind of government interference in the kind of banking that makes people think that they can afford a new house, a new handbag, and a latte per day. Absolute deprivation will teach us the lessons that my great granny learned during The Great Depression: waste nothing, do it yourself, and keep your money in your pocket.

Anonymous said...

I have been completely sucked in to this whole debate. While I can see where you are coming from, a depression will not do anything.

It will cause layoffs because it is not and will not be worth paying minimum wage to people because the minimum wage is too high already in this state.

It will lead to layoffs and unemployment because no one will repeal the asinine yearly increase in the minimum wage which occurs in this state, THANKS DEMOCRATS, driving our cost of living upwards, but, not driving our income upwards.

There needs to be a leveling off. Nationally, gas prices coming down would be the greatest factor, as everyone is using the excuse that shipping and hauling is what is driving prices upwards due to the higher cost of fuel as well as a repeal of the yearly increase in minimum wages here.

cymberleah said...

But... but... my hot chocolate!!

Although, that is more because I am a lover of the free music with the hot chocolate than I am addicted to the chocolate itself.

But you don't get to tell me I can't go to Jamba Juice. I tried making those suckers at home; they were totally more expensive and didn't taste as good.

I do agree that "affordable luxury" is insane. I have no need to spend $500 on a purse that will be old and unloved in under six months. I refuse to buy super expensive shoes because "I don't have a pair in that color yet."

However, I will spend twice as much for the Bose earbuds that make my ears happy and last three times as long (and counting!) as the Sony ones. I will spend more money on furniture I will keep for the rest of my life, and a matress that my back loves. However, you still don't need to spend $3000 on a sleigh bed, and then the extra 30% because you charged it, or $2500 on a matress with extra-super-doesn't-actually-matter on it.

Quality is worth buying. Names are not worth buying. Price is not worth buying. "Luxury" for the sake of status is the worst waste of money in the entire world. You worked how many hours for a Coach bag? Great for you.

I agree. Lazy country. Lazy leadership. "We'll get in a war, and your patriotic duty will be tax breaks and shopping." Excusemewhat? Can't I at least make care packages?

I agree that people are lazy and feel entitled. When was the last time someone wanted something and saved up for it? Now, it's you want a toy, you whip out your Visa, and it's yours! Of course, in the end it costs twice as much and maybe you stopped using it in three weeks because it wasn't that great after all, but hey, you have it! When was the last time someone needed a new pair of pants, and went to the sewing machine and made them? When was the last time someone needed a chair, used some wood glue, and made one? When was the last time someone wanted fresh veggies and planted a garden? It's easier and cheaper to let other people do that for us, isn't it? There is economy of scale, but it seems we're a bit beyond that these days.

qtilla said...

I agree, an economic downturn will not create more money, but it may teach a new philosophy towards money. Being in want- especially with no credit (come on liberal government, grow some nuts) will create better personal finance through necessity.

Just as Kim said, people are not trained to think of money in terms of the actual value. I love Coach handbags but are 15 Quiana work hours worth that? (Short Answer: no- Long Answer: unless it will last you long enough to even out.)

When you are living on government assistance you understand the cost of an orange. You save to buy big expenditures. -OR- you whip out your credit card and dig deeper because you *deserve* oranges or a vacation.

My mother has no concept of the difference between credit and money. Her concept of finance has no negative numbers. There is always more credit to purchase a PS3 with, because credit card companies want your delicious money/suffering-- even in Canada.
She deserves to play video games with the best game-play possible so she buys it. If money was tighter -AND- credit card companies were not allowed to abuse her naiveté she would learn that you can have food OR a PS3; that a PS# is something like 25 Quiana Hours and rent is something like 30 and what is it gonna be?

Drew said...

Er, firstly, the second anynomous poster was not me. :)

Secondly, your mother is getting burned even more, because the Canadian dollar is now about on par with the american dollar, but they're still charging the same amount in Canadian dollars that she was before... Which means it'd be cheaper to import them from the US.

And that is all.

qtilla said...

I assumed as much. :o)

Actually in an interesting twist, my mother gave me 40$ Canadian to cover my gas a few weeks ago when I visited. Normally I would just go and fill my tank in Canada. This time I deposited the Canadian and bought gas in the US when I crossed the border. Gas prices in Canada are ricockulous and at that time the Canadian Dollar was stronger.

Anonymous said...

While that is a lovely thought about people learning a lesson and changing their philosophy, I seriously doubt it.

It will lead to maybe, maybe, a short term inward look at oneselves, but, will revert back to old habit.

Just look at the depression we had following the '87 stock market crash and even the downturn a few years ago.

There is no long term change that will take effect. The majority of us are not wired that way and so, we will not change.

You can see it in your every day life, just look around at your co-workers. Maybe even yourself. :)

qtilla said...

B-b-b-but I work in the public sector, my colleagues are extra inadequate.

Perhaps you're right, but maybe if times were really really bad?

On the other other hand, I went with a medical team to the Tijuana dumps years ago and found even the simplest of shacks (read cardboard, duct tape, and maybe broken garage doors) had better cable than I did.