Monday, November 28, 2005

All I Want for Christmas is a Living Wage

Black Friday has come and gone and retailers are, all in all, happy for the few coins we tossed their way. Yet, many are still complaining:
It’s not fair! It’s not fair! Why did all those people go to Wal-Mart and Target and outlet stores and discount stores instead of putting $75.00 for our prime tee-shirts that promptly advertises our logo?????
Ah. The poor bastards. The sad saps. The bloody morons—we reap what we sow. The bastard, Henry Ford, had at least one brilliant idea. Well, depending on who you talk to, he was a capitalist god who controlled production, controlled the lives of his workers and controlled, well, everything he possibly could in his short yet long reach. Nevertheless, he did have one important idea . . . pay the workers enough so that they could buy the products they were making. The US is no longer an industrial nation but a service oriented nation. Nevertheless, the philosophy should hold regardless. Now, as my neighbor reminded me yesterday, the poor has it far better in the United States than almost any other place in the world. Except for, maybe, Canada . . . those crazy bastards who provide health care and other social programs for their citizens . . . what the hell are they thinking anyway???? Yet, I question if that really means anything in the grand scheme of things—being poor, even with a TV set, is still being poor and, thus, being screwed. The problem is that in the United States as living costs has continued to rise at a skyrocketing rate, pay has not—averaging $7-8.50 an hour for most retail and factory type positions. In my neighborhood, not the best in town as I clean up little drug bags littering the curb of our house—it is certainly much safer than the last place I lived—it costs about $950 a month to rent a small, often run down, two bedroom house. Across the street from me, there are so-called low-income housing, one and two bedroom apartments, without roofs, thanks to Wilma, renting for $850-950 a month. The people living there, soon to be kicked out as the unites are turned into condos—we hope with new roofs—are working minimum wage jobs and live several families to one unit. A different neighbor across the street offered these folks information on how to get government and FEMA help while, in the same breath, reminding me how the folks in this area has worked “very hard to raise the property values in this neighborhood.” Deciphered meaning: thank god those unites are being turned into condos! My husband and I spend $1050 on rent for our house, but it is roomier and, unlike other unites around this area, actually has a roof. Let’s be generous. Let’s say that the average pay for a working person working a retail job is $8.75 an hour. At eight hours a day, this works out to $70 before taxes. At a week we have $280 (before taxes) and for a month we have $1,120 before taxes. Take away the cost for rent at, again being generous, $850 a month and you have $270 left for food, electric, phone, gas, and other so-called non-essentials such as the emergency doctor visit, clothing, shoes and the like. Is it a wonder why several families live in a small two bedroom space? Is it any wonder that they shop at Wal-mart who is guilty as hell of perpetuating the cycle? Is it any wonder why the gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger everyday? Is it any wonder why people, feeling ignored and forgotten in New Orleans, behaved the way they did? Truly, is it any wonder? Please, take a moment and view how calculating a living wage works: Standards for Calculating a Living Wage. And the next time a living wage law is brought up in your elections, vote yes. It is for your own benefit that you vote for such propositions. Even if you absolutely believe in, and adhere to like a god, capitalism and liberal economics—it is to your benefit. Think about it, the affluent few can only buy so much stuff. If the gap between the poor and the rich increases, pushing out the middle-class as is happening now, who will buy the stuff? Capitalism needs consumers and so does the market. The living wage, then, is in, god help me for saying this, capitalism’s interest for survival. I have not become the biggest fan of capitalism and liberal (liberal my ass) economics, but even I can see that it will not survive without paying people a true living wage. Rebecca

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