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Jan 17 2014

I take it back. David Brooks belongs on the NY Times op-ed pages

He serves the needs of the upper class so well — he’s such a perfect lickspittle. His latest column deplores all this leveler talk of economic inequities: don’t you peons realize that a widening gap has two parts, the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, and the two have absolutely nothing to do with one another? Oh, sure, there are some perverse compensation schemes on Wall Street, but mainly wealth is perpetuated because rich marry rich and pass on their money to their rich kids, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that, so let’s skip over that issue with one sentence and spend the whole column blaming the poor. Let’s focus on poor people! And that doesn’t mean raising the minimum wage, oh no. We have to resist the temptation to reduce everything to simple causes, therefore he proposes that the problem is simply a lack of social mobility. Just fix that. We can close the gap by closing our eyes to the sight of the 1% skittering off rapidly to the right and a world that laughs at obscene wealth and embraces pornographically hardcore wealth, and instead just tell all the poor people to start plodding off in that same direction. That’s how we’ll close the gap!

Shorter David Brooks: If the poor would just stop begging for bread and start eating cake, rather than blaming looters and exploiters and profiteers and that whole infrastructure of privilege, why, everything will be hunky dory in no time at all.

OK, let’s try it. How about giving Naquasia LeGrand a column in the NY Times, too?


Because somehow, a 22-year-old fast-food worker seems to have a better grasp of the problem of being poor in America than David Fucking Brooks.

84 comments

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  1. 1
    inflection

    Brooks’ column is a series of attempts to deflect by raising side issues. He tries to make the social-breakdown-causes-poverty argument, and then says social breakdown is too complicated an issue for the minimum wage to solve. “The problem you’re trying to address is part of a much bigger one! We should solve that one! And your proposed solution can’t solve that one! So we shouldn’t use it!”

    All of this besides the fact that Paul Krugman, citing William Julius Wilson, explicitly debunked the morals-cause-poverty argument just days ago. The causation basically goes the other way these decades: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/08/on-fighting-the-last-war-on-poverty/ . So a higher minimum wage would in fact help solve social breakdown, because it would help solve poverty.

    And polarizing. He calls income equality talk polarizing. Oh NOES, Heavens let’s not polarize people. Honest to God concern-trolling. News flash, if no one opposed a change we wouldn’t have to debate it, it would just get done. We don’t call that an “issue,” we call it “obvious.”

  2. 2
    numerobis

    Shorter yet David Brooks, summarizing his life’s work: “There are two types of people in the world. Those who agree with David Brooks, and those who are through no fault of their lazy selves, terribly deluded.”

  3. 3
    latecomer

    I don’t agree with raising the minimum wage as I believe it’s little more than a feel good solution that will do little to improve the lives of the poor. Instead we should invest in things like work retraining. It seems to me that the issue is that the economy has changed from manufacturing to a knowledge based economy, but our workforce has been unable to transition with it. This is in addition to our large percentage of people who are incarcerated, leaving families and neighborhoods devastated.

  4. 4
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Latecomer:
    Currently, there’s three people seeking work for every job opening. How is retraining going to solve that?

    This is obviously beside the point that no matter what kind of job training you offer, you still need people to work in the food industry, retail, childcare, etc. Why don’t they deserve a living wage?

  5. 5
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    OH MY GOD WITH THE AUTOPLAYING VIDEOS JESUS

  6. 6
    ChasCPeterson

    God and Jesus won’t help, but you can click ‘pause’.

  7. 7
    David Marjanović

    …Yeah, I was going to say. The video is on autoplay. Can you do anything about that, PZ? At least put it below the fold?

  8. 8
    David Marjanović

    I don’t agree with raising the minimum wage as I believe it’s little more than a feel good solution that will do little to improve the lives of the poor.

    Oh? And why do you believe that? It doesn’t look like you’ve compared any other countries to the US, the Land of the Working Poor.

  9. 9
    David Marjanović

    The pause button doesn’t even load till after “welcome back, everybody”.

  10. 10
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    What did I do to provoke that, Chas? You understand that autoplay is annoying to lots of people, and that you have to click pause every single time you refresh the Pharyngula page? Sheesh. You’d think I said something beyond the pale?

  11. 11
    moarscienceplz

    I’ve got a little list

    David Brooks
    Bill O’Reilly
    Roger Ailes
    Rupert Murdoch
    Charles Koch
    David Koch
    Sheldon Adelson
    Rand Paul
    Ron Paul

    Hmm, just how many can a tumbrel hold, anyhow?

  12. 12
    Mike

    I like it, PZ goes full driftglass on David Brooks. Is it just me or does Colbert always seem to find the perfect person to illuminate a narrative.

  13. 13
    latecomer

    Alexandria, obviously with unemployment high I think that it is a good idea for unemployment benefits to be extended until the economy gets to a better place. That said, even now part of the unemployment problem is due to a mismatch between the jobs available and the skills of workers, so retraining could still be at least part of the solution. I realize that there will still be people in the food industry. And retail, etc but I don’t agree with the notion that one deserves a so called living wage. To me its like trying to legislate poverty out of existence instead of doing things with a longer term benefit like retraining as I mentioned earlier.

  14. 14
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    latecomer:

    Higher minimum wage means more money in circulation. Which means more consumer spending. Which means more jobs. And it has worked that way every time the minimum wage has been raised.

    By the by, if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, minimum wage would be about $15 an hour. Which is enough to live on. Which was the point of minimum wage in the first place.

  15. 15
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    latecomer:

    And retail, etc but I don’t agree with the notion that one deserves a so called living wage.

    In other words, because someone doesn’t have enough (or the right type of ) education or lives in an economically distressed area or simply does not have the skills or intelligence to compete for the more skilled jobs, they deserve to be poor?

  16. 16
    chigau (違う)

    How would being less poor not be an improvement.

  17. 17
    latecomer

     ”they deserve to be poor?”

    You’re putting words in my mouth. I don’t think anyone deserves to be poor. In fact, I think this concept of deserving is irrelevant. We should focus on what we can realistically do to decrease poverty as much as possible. The fact is that in the free market capitalistic system we have, your wages are dependant on your skills, for better or worse. We don’t disagree that the poor need help. I just don’t agree that this idea of a living wage is the best way to help.

  18. 18
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I just don’t agree that this idea of a living wage is the best way to help.

    Yet you supply no evidence that any other method works as well or better at relieving povery. It’s all your unevidenced opinion. Think about that.

  19. 19
    grandolddeity

    I can relate. I work for AutoZone. Fortune 500. $12,000,000,000.00 in FY2013. I was hired for a full-time position. I got 40 hours/wk during the training period (3 months), 40 hours/wk during the set-up (new store) period (6 weeks) and when the new store opened I got 32-38 hours…a 5-20% reduction in pay weekly. When I talked with my SM about the hours, he said that’s what he had to work with. Screw me (my words). When I told him I had to supplement my income with a PT job, he said that’s okay, but you can’t change your availability (open to close seven days a week) for that unless you want to change to PT.

    Corporations and major shareholders don’t give a shlt about the people that make them their money, though they’ll put on one he11 of a show making it look as if they do. BTW, out of the corner of their mouth, they’ll tell you to eff-off if you don’t like it. It’ll end up in civil war and they’re too stupid to see that…when their cash will be worth less than the paper it’s printed on.

    Sharing is caring.

  20. 20
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    latecomer:

    The fact is that in the free market capitalistic system we have, your wages are dependant on your skills, for better or worse. We don’t disagree that the poor need help. I just don’t agree that this idea of a living wage is the best way to help.

    You do realize that we’ve had a minimum wage since 1935 and that (as Oggie pointed out) if it kept up with inflation it’d be around the $15/hour mark? And, wow, did that ever work to keep the economy healthy.

    Okay, fine. If people working in retail don’t “deserve” to be poor, what are the options for retail employees to not be impoverished? Difficulty: Don’t say “get a new job” because that will just shift poverty to a different person (if it changes the individual’s economic status at all) and not actually solve the problem of having a permanent class of people living under the poverty line.

    What would you suggest doing? Guaranteed minimum income for all citizens, something like that?

  21. 21
    WithinThisMind

    —Maybe now people will think twice before texting at the movies. Also, the dude clearly had it coming to him and was a hothead himself if he thought he needed to throw stuff just for being told to follow the rules and respecting the people around him.—

    Because working a 40+ hour week shouldn’t be enough to get you the basic necessities of life, right?

  22. 22
    WithinThisMind

    And apparently I accidentally copy-pasted the wrong thing and didn’t notice. Bleh.

    —-We don’t disagree that the poor need help. I just don’t agree that this idea of a living wage is the best way to help.—

    Was what was supposed to be there.

  23. 23
    chigau (違う)

    latecomer

    The fact is that in the free market capitalistic system we have, your wages are dependant on your skills, for better or worse.

    Maybe on your planet.

  24. 24
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Actually, scratch what I said. How is

    The fact is that in the free market capitalistic system we have, your wages are dependant on your skills, for better or worse.

    not saying that some people deserve to be poor?

    We will always need people to run registers. We will always need people to clean our offices and care for our children. We will always need people to serve our KFC. If the multi-billion dollar per year corporations refuse to pay a living wage, what are the arguments against government setting a wage floor? Why is this an inherently bad thing?

    (This is completely ignoring the fact that we don’t have anything close to a “free market” and haven’t in quite some time.)

  25. 25
    latecomer

    Disclaimer: I’m doing this on the phone at work, so it’s a little hard to respond to everyone. With that said I don’t disagree that the minimum wage has helped pull people out of poverty. Raising the minimum wage again within reason might even help some people now but I’m thinking long term we need to focus more on educating people for the economy of the future. I argue that education is more efficient and has less of a chance of negatively affecting businesses.

  26. 26
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Might? MIGHT?

    Jesus. I think giving service workers a $5-$10/hour boost in pay would do a shitload to help them out of poverty because they’d have money to spend.

    You haven’t really thought this through, have you?

  27. 27
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I argue that education is more efficient and has less of a chance of negatively affecting businesses.

    And your evidence that raising the minimum wage effects businesses and overall economy is where? You have been snookered by right-wing talking points.

  28. 28
    PZ Myers

    I’ve sent a complaint off to Ed about the autoplay crap — he’s been yelling at the advertisers.

  29. 29
    playonwords

    Autoplay video?

    Sob I wish, Colbert samples won’t play for people in the UK

    At least they have put something humorous on the announcement
    “Sorry but this video is unavailable from your location.

    It’s one of the detriments of living under a monarchy.
    But in case you can’t give up your silly accents and move to America,
    watch clips from the Colbert Report on ComedyCentral.co.uk”

    Bu-u-u-t it’s only available on i-player …

  30. 30
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Like, Hey. you work 40 hours a week and can’t afford your rent? Here, have a raise! How will that NOT help?

    And why does “business” deserve any preferential treatment?

    (I do agree with you on the long term– we do need to improve education. We need to fund public schools and we need to offer higher ed for either free or at ridiculously low cost. We also need to fund trade schools– masons, plumbers, welders, whatever. However, that does not solve the here-and-now problems of poverty.)

  31. 31
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    latecomer #13

    That said, even now part of the unemployment problem is due to a mismatch between the jobs available and the skills of workers

    Actually a large part of the problem is that there are three jobseekers per available job, nationwide. I was one of 150 applicants for a part time job at the ice cream parlour (I didn’t get it). The solutions to this type of problem include increasing minimum wage (which encourages people to spend more, which in turn requires that those who supply that spending hire more, thus creating jobs), building, repairing, and improving physical and social infrastructure (which creates jobs because people have to be hired to do those things, and then creates more jobs when they spend the money they get), and interest-free business loans attached to business incubators providing technical assistance (which provide jobs by, you know, creating businesses), and guaranteed minumum income (which creates jobs for the same reason as minimum wage increases above). For a wonder, all of these things increase tax revenues too, so you can afford to do more of them, and further still they also boost everyone’s quality of life, and lay the groundwork for further economic development. They are not, however, a floor wax or a dessert topping. Education doesn’t hurt, and indeed is a part of the social infrastructure mentioned above, but more of it is a long-term prescription, not an immediate one.

    In fact, I think this concept of deserving is irrelevant.
    What do you know, I agree with you completely. Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. The question is what realistically works to cut poverty, and the benefits of doing so, are objective questions with objective answers, and moral judgements have no relevance whatsoever. The problem is, objectively, the libertarian cant which you are about to come out with is harmful nonsense, and contrary to the practices that demonstrably do reduce poverty.

  32. 32
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Fixed borkquote; preview is your friend.
    latecomer #13

    That said, even now part of the unemployment problem is due to a mismatch between the jobs available and the skills of workers

    Actually a large part of the problem is that there are three jobseekers per available job, nationwide. I was one of 150 applicants for a part time job at the ice cream parlour (I didn’t get it). The solutions to this type of problem include increasing minimum wage (which encourages people to spend more, which in turn requires that those who supply that spending hire more, thus creating jobs), building, repairing, and improving physical and social infrastructure (which creates jobs because people have to be hired to do those things, and then creates more jobs when they spend the money they get), and interest-free business loans attached to business incubators providing technical assistance (which provide jobs by, you know, creating businesses), and guaranteed minumum income (which creates jobs for the same reason as minimum wage increases above). For a wonder, all of these things increase tax revenues too, so you can afford to do more of them, and further still they also boost everyone’s quality of life, and lay the groundwork for further economic development. They are not, however, a floor wax or a dessert topping. Education doesn’t hurt, and indeed is a part of the social infrastructure mentioned above, but more of it is a long-term prescription, not an immediate one.

    In fact, I think this concept of deserving is irrelevant.

    What do you know, I agree with you completely. Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. The question is what realistically works to cut poverty, and the benefits of doing so, are objective questions with objective answers, and moral judgements have no relevance whatsoever. The problem is, objectively, the libertarian cant which you are about to come out with is harmful nonsense, and contrary to the practices that demonstrably do reduce poverty.

  33. 33
    latecomer

    “what are the arguments against government setting a wage floor? Why is this an inherently bad thing?” I think that the research on the effects of a minimum wage have not shown a clear positive effect. Some say that it will help increase employment while others say there’s a negative impact. The lack of a clear consensus makes me wary of setting artificial wage floors. If the government is going to get involved in the economy then it should be through something with a more proven impact

  34. 34
    Rich Woods

    @moarscienceplz #11:

    Hmm, just how many can a tumbrel hold, anyhow?

    It doesn’t matter — we’ll just build more tumbrels. Consider it a job creation scheme.

  35. 35
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    latecomer:

    I think that the research on the effects of a minimum wage have not shown a clear positive effect.

    What? Did the 1950s-1970s not exist in your world?

    Some say that it will help increase employment while others say there’s a negative impact. The lack of a clear consensus makes me wary of setting artificial wage floors.

    So you want zero minimum wage? We tried that at the turn of the 20th century. It… didn’t end well.

  36. 36
    ildi

    Remember the Swiss?

    The Swiss Join the Fight Against Inequality

    The vote on a minimum income for every Swiss citizen may still be some time away, but it has already generated headlines around the world. Philosophically, the idea has a long history, drawing support from the likes of the English-American revolutionary Thomas Paine and the economist Milton Friedman. Every European country except Italy and Greece has welfare programs designed to keep citizens out of poverty, says Gianluca Busilacchi, a professor of the sociology of welfare at the University of Macerata in Italy. The most generous program is Denmark’s, which gives its poorest citizens roughly $1,800 a month, enough to pull the destitute over the poverty threshold.

    Generation Basic Income’s proposal represents a quantum leap. For starters, 2,500 Swiss francs per month is a substantial sum. Also, unlike with welfare programs, beneficiaries wouldn’t be required to document that they are unable to work. That the payments might discourage recipients from looking for a job isn’t a drawback in the eyes of proponents; it’s the whole point. “If unemployment goes up, that’s a great thing,” says Daniel Straub, the coordinator of the referendum effort and author of The Liberation of Switzerland. “Because we should see unemployment as freeing people up to pursue what creates meaning for them.” Adds Enno Schmidt, a painter and documentary film producer who’s campaigned for the idea since 2006: “It’s not societally very efficient if people are forced to do something that they don’t really want to do.”

    Obviously, the Puritans did not make it down to Switzerland.

  37. 37
    latecomer

    “So you want zero minimum wage? ” Ideally yes but of course that will never happen. Obviously it’s helped millions of people and I have no desire to take away minimum wages. I just wonder about the wisdom of repeatedly increasing it over time. My main beef is that it doesn’t adequately attack our long term issues. If we want to compete with the rest of the world then education is the way to go.

  38. 38
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    . I just wonder about the wisdom of repeatedly increasing it over time.

    Then why aren’t you educating yourself with real data instead of supplying the same inane opinion over and over? That is what we are trying to get you to do. If you do, the data doesn’t say what you think it does.

    Education doesn’t solve any problems for the unemployed workers at the moment. You just seem to want them to be underpaid if they ever do find a job.

  39. 39
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Obviously it’s helped millions of people and I have no desire to take away minimum wages. I just wonder about the wisdom of repeatedly increasing it over time. My main beef is that it doesn’t adequately attack our long term issues.

    How does paying people an adequate wage not help in the long term?

    You can talk about international competition (*eyeroll*) all you want, but that doesn’t eliinate our need for the service industry. Which is, by necessity, delivered domestically.

  40. 40
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Also: Why is the short term being ignored? There’s no reason why we can’t help people out of poverty now and fund programs like education now and in the future.

    You still have answered why we should be bending over backwards for business interests.

  41. 41
    ianduckles

    Alexandra (nee Audley) @24,39

    I don’t think we will need people to do these things much longer. We will automate it or get robots to do it. And this is just the low-hanging fruit of low-wage jobs. We will see this mechanization and automation creep into more and more “white collar” jobs. As the link below notes, this is a fundamental shift, and no amount of retraining or increase in wages will help those who lose their jobs, since there won’t be a significant number of new jobs to replace those lost to the machines.

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-economist-takes-on-problem-of.html

    Given these realities, an increase in the minimum wage is really just a stop-gap measure. If we want to avoid sci-fi dystopias a la Elysium, we will need to come up with much more radical solutions. I think a guaranteed minimum income is a good start.

  42. 42
    ianduckles

    Well that was a mess. Here is the passage from Alexandra (nee Audley) I was trying to quote:

    “We will always need people to run registers. We will always need people to clean our offices and care for our children. We will always need people to serve our KFC.”

    I don’t think this is true, hence my post above.

  43. 43
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Assuming that you’re correct and we’ll be able to automate everything (I have a hard time believing this, but you know, whatever), why does that mean we can’t or shouldn’t raise the minimum wage?

    Please note: I am not arguing against more, better, free education or a guaranteed minimum income or massive changes to the tax structure. Why is it impossible for the so called “wealthiest country” to do all the things?

  44. 44
    Nick Gotts

    The fact is that in the free market capitalistic system we have, your wages are dependant on your skills, for better or worse. – latecomer

    *chuckle*
    That’s a good one! Anyone would think you didn’t know about the vast increase in the ratio betweenm median pay and that of CEOs over the past few decades.

  45. 45
    PZ Myers

    Obviously, CEO skills have been improving at an amazing rate.

  46. 46
    ianduckles

    @Alexandra.

    I definitely agree the minimum wage should be raised. This will provide immediate relief to those in need right now. That being said we need to think more deeply about the dramatic changes that are taking place in society and the economy, and realize that a raise in the minimum wage is, at best, a short-term solution to a problem that requires much more radical thought. (I don’t think you disagree with anything I am saying, I just wanted to clarify my position)

  47. 47
    tacitus

    The most damning evidence that the corporations that use minimum wage employees aren’t paying their fair share is their workforce’s increasing dependence on government welfare just to make ends meet. In essence, these corporations are receiving a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy towards their labor costs.

    It’s time to ensure that corporations pay their workers a living wage. Hell, you never know, they might find that a better paid workforce is a more stable, more effective one. (Shocking, I know.)

  48. 48
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    latecomer

    Ideally yes but of course that will never happen. Obviously it’s helped millions of people and I have no desire to take away minimum wages.

    You just contradicted yourself in consecutive sentences; either the minimum wage is a good idea or it’s not (it is), and once you’ve agreed to that, there is no conceivable reason to not support increasing it at least at the rate of inflation (assuming, of course, that you have even a 101 level understanding of economics)

    If we want to compete with the rest of the world then education is the way to go.

    Do you mean those parts of the world that have higher minimum wages, better physical and social infrastructure, and consequently better economics and standards of living than the US, or the parts that are impoverished hellholes? ( I realize that this is somewhat simplified and there is wide variation, but it is broadly true.)

  49. 49
    latecomer

    I’m mainly focused on long term help, but when it comes to helping people now. Instead of increasing the minimum wage, I would prefer some other stimulus like tax cuts, increased unemployment benefits, or something similar. They’ll have a wider impact and they don’t have a negative impact on business profit

  50. 50
    Rey Fox

    grandolddeity: I just want to let you know that you can swear openly here. In fact, we encourage it.

    I’ve sent a complaint off to Ed about the autoplay crap — he’s been yelling at the advertisers.

    In this case, the autoplay video is the one you posted.

  51. 51
    Rey Fox

    They’ll have a wider impact and they don’t have a negative impact on business profit

    Business profit is only a concern for the small percentage of people who it actually goes to. Most of whom do little to earn it and don’t need any more of it.

  52. 52
    A Masked Avenger

    Just a minor side point: when the “great princess[1],” said, “Let them eat brioche,” she was actually referring to a social welfare program. There was a law that when a baker ran out of the cheaper bread, he was required to sell higher-priced bread for the lower price. If the bakers had no pain, then they were legally obligated to sell brioche for the lower price. Bakers responded to this mandate by shorting their stock of expensive breads, so they would not be forced to sell it below cost.

    [1] Not Marie Antoinette, who was also known for her avid support of charity.

  53. 53
    latecomer

    “Obviously, CEO skills have been improving at an amazing rate”
    I meant that generally speaking, wages are dependant on skills. I agree that some people get paid way less than they’re worth relative to other people. It does strike me as irrational that people who bust their asses doing manufacturing can make less than someone who’s just sitting at their keyboard all day.

  54. 54
    ildi

    The most damning evidence that the corporations that use minimum wage employees aren’t paying their fair share is their workforce’s increasing dependence on government welfare just to make ends meet. In essence, these corporations are receiving a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy towards their labor costs.

    Well, the Economist feels that this public money should be in the form of “a bold expansion of tax credits:”

    Coming to an office near you

    INNOVATION, the elixir of progress, has always cost people their jobs. In the Industrial Revolution artisan weavers were swept aside by the mechanical loom. Over the past 30 years the digital revolution has displaced many of the mid-skill jobs that underpinned 20th-century middle-class life. Typists, ticket agents, bank tellers and many production-line jobs have been dispensed with, just as the weavers were.
    […]
    The main way in which governments can help their people through this dislocation is through education systems. One of the reasons for the improvement in workers’ fortunes in the latter part of the Industrial Revolution was because schools were built to educate them—a dramatic change at the time. Now those schools themselves need to be changed, to foster the creativity that humans will need to set them apart from computers. There should be less rote-learning and more critical thinking. Technology itself will help, whether through MOOCs (massive open online courses) or even video games that simulate the skills needed for work.

    The definition of “a state education” may also change. Far more money should be spent on pre-schooling, since the cognitive abilities and social skills that children learn in their first few years define much of their future potential. And adults will need continuous education. State education may well involve a year of study to be taken later in life, perhaps in stages.

    Yet however well people are taught, their abilities will remain unequal, and in a world which is increasingly polarised economically, many will find their job prospects dimmed and wages squeezed. The best way of helping them is not, as many on the left seem to think, to push up minimum wages. Jacking up the floor too far would accelerate the shift from human workers to computers. Better to top up low wages with public money so that anyone who works has a reasonable income, through a bold expansion of the tax credits that countries such as America and Britain use.

    I assume this bold expansion refers to state and local taxes?

  55. 55
    Ze Madmax

    Regarding the idea that service jobs will be eventually be taken over by robots:

    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2014/01/13/roger-against-the-machine/

    Not only is it considerably beyond the capabilities of current technology (and therefore moot in terms of the short- and medium-term implications of minimum wages), but also not very cost effective, particularly if one takes into account the cost of maintenance staff, which would necessarily be more expensive labor (unless we using robots for that too, and then, who repairs the repair-bots?) and the need for parts and all that.

    Also, latecomer @ #49:

    They’ll have a wider impact and they don’t have a negative impact on business profit

    Consider Detroit’s Moo Cluck Moo, a fast-food restaurant which pays its employees $15/hour and is currently planning on expanding to additional locations.

  56. 56
    latecomer

    “Business profit is only a concern for the small percentage of people who it actually goes to. Most of whom do little to earn it and don’t need any more of it.”
    Your job is dependant on that profit so I wouldn’t be to dismissive of it. It’s about balancing the needs of labor with the need of a business to be profitable.

  57. 57
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re latecomer@49:

    I’m mainly focused on long term help, but when it comes to helping people now. Instead of increasing the minimum wage, I would prefer some other stimulus like tax cuts, increased unemployment benefits, or something similar. They’ll have a wider impact and they don’t have a negative impact on business profit

    In short: “Short term solutions aren’t good enough, so don’t do them! Long term solutions only!”
    Ever consider short-term things *while* doing the long-term thing? So people can survive while undertaking your long-term solution? The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Sounds similar to (in extremis), “Why spend time eating now, since we’re all gonna die eventually anyway?” ;-|

  58. 58
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Your job is dependant on that profit so I wouldn’t be to dismissive of it. It’s about balancing the needs of labor with the need of a business to be profitable.

    Any business can be profitable, especially if all the minimum wage jobs offer the same living wage. You can’t/won’t do basic math, and have failed the evidence test you are demand to produce to back your OPINION.

  59. 59
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    latecomer

    Your job is dependent on that profit so I wouldn’t be to dismissive of it.

    Quite the contrary, actually; those profits are coming out of my pocket, and if the business owners think they can get more profit from firing me, they’ll do that in a heartbeat. Increased profit is directly antithetical to the needs of labor.

    It’s about balancing the needs of labor with the need of a business to be profitable.

    What need? It is perfectly possible to run a business without any profit at all; so long as income is equal to overhead, the business continues to operate.

  60. 60
    Lynna, OM

    Compare job opportunities in states with higher minimum wages (higher than the federal standard) to states next door and you will find no statistically significant loss of jobs in states that pay their low wage workers more. In essence, the experiment has been done. There is no reason not to raise the minimum wage.

    […] In order to determine if higher minimum wage leads to a higher unemployment two economic professors at Princeton University (David Card and Alan Krueger) conducted a study on minimum wage hikes with a focus on the New Jersey minimum wage hike in 1990.

    Card and Krueger compared unemployment and wages in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In that comparison they focused on the fast food industry (the leading employers of low wage earners and an industry that enforces the minimum wage). The Comparison of New Jersey and Pennsylvania indicated, “employment actually expanded in New Jersey relative to Pennsylvania, where the minimum wage was constant” (Card and Krueger 1995, p. 66). In additional studies that they conducted using data from other states Card and Krueger actually found a positive correlation between a higher minimum wage and employment. […]

    http://www.uvm.edu/~vlrs/doc/min_wage.htm

    http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm

    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/01/13/3153521/rich-republican-minimum-wage-california/

    […] eliminating corporations’ ability to pay poverty wages could have saved taxpayers over a trillion dollars in five years. […]

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/19/the-u-s-has-a-7-25-minimum-wage-australias-is-16-88/

    Minimum wage advocates love to point to Australia’s $16.88 an hour minimum as evidence that a very high wage floor needn’t stifle a country’s growth. After all, Australia hasn’t had a recession in 20 years. But Australia is hardly an outlier. Most developed countries have a higher minimum wage than we do […]

  61. 61
    Raging Bee

    …even now part of the unemployment problem is due to a mismatch between the jobs available and the skills of workers…

    First, there is no shortage of able workers standing in line for just about all of the jobs that are currently available, so that kinda blows your “mismatch” theory to hell.

    And second, there’s also been a bit of technological change that allows more and more work — and not just unskilled work either — to be done by machines and software. How is retraining supposed to help with that?

    And how is retraining supposed to help with all the jobs that have been outsourced to China and India? They already have plenty of workers with the skill to do those jobs — that’s why all those jobs got outsourced there in the first place.

  62. 62
    Lynna, OM

    Following up on my comment at #60: for emphasis, “Card and Krueger actually found a positive correlation between a higher minimum wage and employment” Translation: raise the minimum wage and employment opportunities will increase, the job market will improve.

    There are charts and more details at the link.
    http://www.uvm.edu/~vlrs/doc/min_wage.htm

  63. 63
    K E Decilon

    Once in a while, I get to educate someone on the small ways we can fight back. Yesterday, I was patiently waiting in a long line at the supermarket with a single item.

    A guy waiting in the next line told me, “Sir, there is no one at one of the self-checkout lanes”.

    I pointed to the front of the line I was in. “See the young lady up there at the cash register?”

    He looked sort of quizzical. I said “That young lady needs a job. She has kids in our schools, she pays taxes, she buys things in the local businesses. That self-checkout machine and the seven others that are full are doing the jobs of eight of her friends. I have time to wait.”

    He had his wife move the cart in line behind me, and we had a great talk while waiting our turn. I think he left with a better understanding of automation vs employment, and our own role in acting like sheep and accepting it.

    In “Man without a Country” Kurt Vonnegut tells how he would take his manuscripts down to the Post Office, and stand in line to have them help him package and address them. His wife chided him, as he could have Fedex pick them up at his door. I love his quote –

    “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

  64. 64
    Geral

    “I meant that generally speaking, wages are dependant on skills. I agree that some people get paid way less than they’re worth relative to other people. It does strike me as irrational that people who bust their asses doing manufacturing can make less than someone who’s just sitting at their keyboard all day.”

    I sit at a keyboard all day but it does not mean I work any less hard than someone who works a physical job.

    What strikes me are custodians. These jobs are typically treated as low wage menial jobs but they are required positions and I know many custodians who work hard every day. Why shouldn’t they have a living wage? Why do we have to let an economic system determine who ‘deserves’ to have a living wage and who does not?

    Trust me. We can afford it.

    FDR said in 1933 Inauguration, “…a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

    And yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply…”

  65. 65
    Al Dente

    latecomer @49

    I would prefer some other stimulus like tax cuts

    Dribble down economics didn’t work under Reagan and didn’t work under Bush Jr. Bush Sr. referred to them as “voodoo economics.” We’ve had tax cuts in place for 20 years. The 99% are still waiting for the stimulus to happen.

  66. 66
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    . Instead of increasing the minimum wage, I would prefer some other stimulus like tax cuts, increased unemployment benefits, or something similar.

    Yes, I’m sure tax cuts will be very helpful to people who are making next to nothing in the first place. Idiot.

  67. 67
    Raging Bee

    I would prefer some other stimulus like tax cuts…

    We had EIGHT YEARS of tax cuts, and look at where our economy ended up near the end of it. Been there, done that, didn’t work…got any other ideas?

    We have plenty of experience proving that tax cuts don’t “stimulate” jack shit. Maybe you should back out of this debate until you’ve caught up on recent history.

    “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

    I always suspected Kurt Vonnegut was a damn commie trying to destroy our American way of life.

    PS: Happy Birthday to Michelle Obama!

  68. 68
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Latecomer: “Instead of increasing the minimum wage, I would prefer some other stimulus like tax cuts, increased unemployment benefits, or something similar.”

    OK. Deep breath. Another. Now count to ten. Ok, better.

    Uh, dude, does it not bother you that companies hire these people for less than peanuts, knowing they will not be able to live on what they are being paid and fully expecting them to go onto public assistance?

    Does it not bother you that the system as it is currently structured robs young people of the ability to save while rewarding old farts like me who have income to invest in stocks?

    Does it not bother you that the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation is not $0.32/hour in 1950′s dollars?

    If you don’t have the ability to pay a living wage to an employee, then you don’t have an economically viable job to offer him or her. The reason the economy is starting to implode is fewer and fewer people can afford the goods and services necessary for them to simply live.

  69. 69
    unclefrogy

    one of the things that I find most interesting about the discussions that concern how much money in wages workers should receive is it is always about the business and the needs of the workers are never addressed in fact workers or labor is often referred to in the abstract they are not part of the discussion. The workers are human beings just and just like all other human beings have needs and wants. They also have the ability to act in their own interests and do when they are ignored and abused as they themselves perceive it. It is may be wise to listen to what they are saying and make some rational compromises before they start acting
    I wont be holding my breath waiting for any great change the status quo, wisdom has been very rare in recent times.
    uncle frogy

  70. 70
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Uncle Froggy, This is a relatively recent phenomenon. The post-depression, post-war business folks at least knew that they needed consumers to consume what they produced. The export-driven economy views workers as a “cost” not a customer. The customers are overseas–except once everyone starts playing that game, you have a race to the bottom–and that usually ends with a splat.

  71. 71
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Shit, latecomer . You have no idea how shit works on the bottom floor of poverty do you?

    You read like a smug asshole who, because of their own education, just assumes that’s the roadblock to getting out of poverty.

    Prepare to have your world rocked.

    I’ve been in and out of homeless shelters since I was 14. First, with my mother and later as an adult. Sure, there’s programs to help you get a job and save money. But, there’s that whole “IF” you get hired bit. And IF you make enough to support yourself and your family. IF you can find a job around your shelter area because the bus takes forever to get anywhere. Then there’s how long it takes to save money up. After that, if you still have your job and move out all it takes is one, little tiny thing to mess up and you’re screwed. Bus late too much? Fired. Kid gets sick? Fired. Where do you go? Back to the shelter because you barely make enough to survive with food stamps, let alone enough to put in savings.

    What does it take to get out of poverty? A livable paying fucking wage is one. The big one because hey, who needs the money? The poor people. Who has enough? Businesses! The livable wage would put people in apartments, instead of shelters. It would mean they would buy groceries with their own money instead of food stamps. It means they could get dental care which pays the dentists. The clothes they could buy, which they desperately need goes to stores. Not to mention buying bus passes instead of needed state assistance to be able to get to work. Hey, they might even be able to spend it on some nice things once and a while which makes life bearable like a pizza and movie family night.

    There’s all the other factors too. Sure, education is one. A big one, but not nearly the end all be all. No dental insurance, which isn’t covered by the state here, and you’re ability to get hired is shot. There’s the health issues because jumping through everyone’s hoops and the stress isn’t good for anyone. Plus dental problems can cause other heath problems. Plus your diet isn’t going to be any good whether you’re eating the shelters food or living off the microwave they allow in your room. There’s the fact if you get pregnant, you’re fucked because hey, you’re just an incubator and you don’t have the means to buy the right to control your body.

    I mean the causes of poverty are known. We can fix it. Yes, we need to work on a bunch of things but no matter what you do, if you take out the livable minimum wage, you’ll only see minor changes to the poverty level. Do you know why? Because once you’re born in poverty, it’s damn near impossible to get out unless you get really, really lucky. A good education isn’t going to get you that far when you can only get a food service job – like most of the food service employees who have collage degrees.

    I mean dear god, who doesn’t the livable wage help? Businesses? They are a shitty business if they can’t balance their budget and a livable wage shut them down. I’m sure they will be thankful for the wage increase when they are out pounding the pavement again. A livable wage means more customers and people who can spend more at your store, FFS.

    You’ve swallowed too much of the Republican koolaid.

  72. 72
    Inaji

    A_Ray:

    Uh, dude, does it not bother you that companies hire these people for less than peanuts, knowing they will not be able to live on what they are being paid and fully expecting them to go onto public assistance?

    I don’t imagine it bothers latecomer at all. Their attitude is one of pure idiocy, with the added bonus of classism stench. The sort of attitude that makes certain people hold their nose as they look down from a lofty height, gazing upon the servant class. Why on earth should servants make a living wage? What would they do with it, besides waste it on frivolities? Let them have a little money, yes. They have no need for living outside small quarters, and really, they shouldn’t be sleeping much, they should work! And be happy with a pittance, by god!

  73. 73
    vaiyt

    It’s about balancing the needs of labor with the need of a business to be profitable.

    Well, if business NEEDS to give people inadequate pay in order to be profitable, then fuck business. It’s clearly something that’s not working well for society.

  74. 74
    Ingdigo Jump

    Disclaimer: I’m doing this on the phone at work,

    I hope you get caught and fired you lazy moocher

  75. 75
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    How are you, Caine, my dear? I’ve started to wonder how much of the current scramble to screw the workers might be attributable to the coming wave of retirees trying to desperately scrape together a sufficient nest egg to retire without having to dine on cat food on a daily basis. Yes, the CEOs and bankers are screwing everybody, but we have a lot of folks who will be living off of equities rather than wages in the very near future.

  76. 76
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Iandunkles:
    I suspect that you’re right– we’re pretty much in agreement. Start by offering a living wage, then radical reform from there. I’m still not convinced that everything will be automated in 20 years (robots in nursing homes? Come on), but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be restructuring all of our labor laws and tax codes.

    Latecomer:
    I tried to give you the benefit that maybe you were just thoughtlessly ignorant (the fact that you consistently contradicted yourself kind of convinced me of this), but it’s pretty clear to me that you have never been nor have you ever listened to someone who can’t make ends meet.

    So take your probusiness bullshit and shove it. I am so sick of listening to asscandles like you.

  77. 77
    anuran

    I love Colbert and Stewart. But is there any way you can embed the videos without autoplay?

  78. 78
    enki23

    So… Mr Brooks first lays out a mechanism that is partially responsible for lack of mobility, endorses it, then says the problem is actually due to a lack of mobility? Fucking seriously?

    It’s like saying “White people marry other white people and have white people, which is of course their perogative, and perfectly understandable from social factors. That isn’t our problem. The problem we need to focus on is racial mobility. Black people need to just ignore the white people way out there, put their nose to the grindstone, and work toward getting into the whites only country clubs. Because mobility.”

    But I’m being disingenuous. That’s not what he means. We aren’t supposed to try to parse his stupid fucking pretend-thoughts, when we know perfectly well what his actual thoughts are. What he really means to say is “Why would you want to pick on the aristocracy? They aren’t like you. They aren’t even in the same category of life as you. Ignore them., and instead go after your neighbor who has nicer shoes than you. Because if you work really hard, and put your whole life into it, one day it might be you wearing the nice pair of shoes and your neighbor walking around in ratty Reeboks. “

  79. 79
    Inaji

    A_Ray:

    How are you, Caine, my dear?

    Quite well, I hope you are the same.

    I’ve started to wonder how much of the current scramble to screw the workers might be attributable to the coming wave of retirees trying to desperately scrape together a sufficient nest egg to retire without having to dine on cat food on a daily basis. Yes, the CEOs and bankers are screwing everybody, but we have a lot of folks who will be living off of equities rather than wages in the very near future.

    I’ve wondered about this too, as it seems actually being able to retire is something a lot of people aren’t going to be able to manage, and picking up 10 to 15 hours a week at walmart or McD’s isn’t going to help at all, given that it’s the new strategy to get out of paying a living wage and not providing benefits. It’s horrible on both ends, for young people starting out, and older people wishing to retire, with everyone in the middle constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  80. 80
    Al Dente

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space @70

    The post-depression, post-war business folks at least knew that they needed consumers to consume what they produced.

    Henry Ford knew that if he didn’t pay his employees enough to buy his product then he’d go out of business. His contemporaries told him his wages were too high and his response was:

    There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.

  81. 81
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Caine,
    A few years ago, I read that the average retirement savings for people over 50 was less than $50K. I estimate that to retire comfortably, one will need $1-2 million–and that will likely rise significantly due to inflation. The boomers have dug themselves a very deep hole, and they have the demographics to distort the government and the economy to sort of get them out of it at the expense of their children and grandchildren. With no pensions, the only way to get money quickly is the casino we call Wall Street, and that means taking money out of wages and putting it into profits so we can see the sorts of obscene equity gains we say last year. Expect to see more pressure to not tax capital gains and dividends, as well.

    Of course, the demographic trend benefits those who are already wealthy, and they’ll sell before the whole house of cards collapses. We are cursed to live in interesting times.

  82. 82
    Danny Butts

    Playonwords @29

    If you would also like to be able to complain about Autoplay but unfortunately live in a monarchy like erm the French, have a quick read through these.

    http://xtremisreaction.wordpress.com/tag/how-to-watch-the-colbert-report-in-the-uk/

    http://xtremisreaction.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/how-to-watch-hulu-and-us-television-in-the-uk/

    I have both work arounds running but I think the “hula” is all you really need.

    PZ sorry if this isnt allowed, i dont think its illegal or anything but I’l understand if its deleted.

  83. 83
    Anri

    So, latecomer, do you typically try to make a better living by asking your boss to cut your earnings?

    Because that’s exactly what you’re suggesting.

    But, hey, give it a shot! Experiment! Try it for yourself. Ask for a 10% pay cut and see if meeting your financial obligations gets easier or harder.

  84. 84
    Inaji

    A_Ray:

    A few years ago, I read that the average retirement savings for people over 50 was less than $50K. I estimate that to retire comfortably, one will need $1-2 million–and that will likely rise significantly due to inflation.

    :shakes head: To be honest, I’m not sure we’ll be okay. Mister is 60, I’m 56, and we’re both working. I don’t have job security, I’m an artist. Mister will have a pension, but…well, you know. The moment he stops working, covering our health insurance alone is going to be nightmarish.

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