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Posted by on Dec 2, 2015 in Economy, Politics, Society | 69 comments

“You Don’t Know How Good You Have It”


A plurality of American twenty-somethings support common-sense public policies like Medicare-for-all, a living wage, and tuition-free public universities. As a result, we frequently receive chastisement from the older generations—the sort that impugns our work ethic and questions whether we appreciate the value of the Almighty Dollar.

The logic seems to go something like this:

“In my day, people had to scrimp and save to go to college. I don’t believe in free rides.”


“Minimum-wage jobs were never intended to support a family.”


“If you give somebody something for free, they’ll never appreciate what it is to earn. They’ll never understand the value of hard work.”

Consider, though, that at one point in time, virtually every human being spent their entire day struggling with the tasks of gathering food, tending the fire, and caring for the young and infirm. There were literally no other roles available to these primitive humans. Every moment in life necessarily had to be an all-encompassing struggle for survival because resources were scarce.

But eventually, modern technologies made life’s necessities more widely available to the population. This enabled them to turn their attention from mere survival toward more important pursuits, such as developing new technologies.

For our primitive ancestors, the resources necessary for survival were little more than food, water, and shelter. These days, we’ve expanded this list to include economic dignity, access to healthcare, and a decent education. In plainly written English, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes each of these as an essential human right. 48 nations formally adopted this charter, including the United States. But for some reason, we never bothered updating our Constitution to reflect this new consensus.

Perhaps it’s time to make good on our promise. It just so happens that the one survival resource we use to acquire all the others (Dollars) has never been less scarce.

The United States is the richest country that has ever existed. Our nation’s current GDP is $17.914 trillion per year. But our “personal consumption expenditure,” which takes into account the basic necessities of each person in the US, only comes to about $12.39 trillion per year. That’s according to data aggregated by Wolfram Alpha. I’m sure it’s not perfect, but it’s a good-enough ballpark figure.

In other words, there’s absolutely no excuse for letting even a single one of our citizens go without food, or potable water, or shelter, or medical care, or an education. There is no reason to withhold life’s necessities, because we now produce not just what we need for survival, but a great deal more than that. To put it another way, resources are no longer scarce.

And consider this:

“Conventional wisdom” says that if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

In other words, the solution to poverty in America (a problem that persists only because we choose to let it) is not to provide ongoing welfare, as it’s currently understood, but instead to provide opportunity.

And in the year 2015, opportunity looks a lot like economic dignity for all, unconditional access to healthcare for all, free access to the minimum required level of education (college—not high school), and a minimum wage that at least keeps pace with inflation and the cost of living. There’s nothing radical about any of this, is there?

Demanding these things of our government, and our captains of industry, does not mean we have a work ethic problem. We are not categorically lazier, more arrogant, or more entitled than any previous generation. We ask that you not judge our generation according to our least flattering specimens. Trust me: you want us to extend you the same courtesy. You really, really do.

You needn’t have been born into poverty to appreciate the value of hard work. You also needn’t have pillaged your life’s savings to pay for college, or a medical operation, or gone without either of these, to have learned that same lesson.

It’s precisely because my generation has a deep respect for education, and modern medicine, and economic dignity, that we want to make them more widely available to each member of the next generation.

Is this not, in fact, the very purpose of Civilization? Is this not the moral imperative that each generation owes to the next? To see to it that our children have it better than we did?

If a society does not create opportunities for success, we cannot be surprised when people do not achieve it.

This also appeared on Medium.

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  • Rcoutme

    Given the realities of MMT (Modern Monetary Theory), your requests would be fairly easy to implement–provided that there is some sort of political will to do so.


      It’s a real shame that so many people who speak of economics have never taken the time to actually examine the various schools of thought in the subject and most especially anything past the simplistic Keynes versus Chicago School vision. So many who support Austrian School economics apparently only follow Mises and Rothbard, knowing nothing about its earlier history. And too many, in my opinion, assume that economics is some kind of objective science instead of the subjective subject that it is. The failure of adherents of these schools of thought to acknowledge that just maybe our modern economic environment of massive international corporations, easily hidden or transferred profits, capital movement at almost the speed of light, super-freighters that can transfer over 100,000 tons of finished goods or raw materials between continents in a couple of weeks, a world population of over 7 billion people and the information provided to all levels of society by modern communications just might make a lot of their assumptions useless makes it difficult to have real conversations. MMT is the concept that none of the schools like because of its willingness to look at reality instead of abstract theories rooted in centuries past.

  • KP

    Good to hear from you, Dan.

  • JSpencer

    “There’s nothing radical about any of this, is there?”

    Nope. Makes perfect sense. But we need to get more people who think like this into the voting booths or it will never happen.

  • Sean D. Burnham

    You can teach a man to fish, even lead him to water, but you cannot make him cast the line. There are too many people today, both of my generation and millennials, who think that just because they only have a fishing pole and someone else has a net, they are somehow at a disadvantage and therefore the one with a net should be obliged to give them a portion of their catch. There seems to always be an excuse for expecting something from someone else. What is missing today is a sense of personal responsibility, and with that, personal development. What is not missing is a sense of entitlement.

    Let’s talk about wages for a moment. No where in the Constitution does it say you have the right to have the job you want. When you accept a job you enter into an informal agreement which is leveraged by the employee, not the employer. Under this agreement, the employer has a position available which they have assigned a value and set a wage. When the prospective employee accepts the position, they are accepting the terms of the employment and thus agreeing with the set value of the wage being offered. If not, the prospective employee is certainly free to seek employment elsewhere where a different employer places a greater value on their talents and both agree to that.

    A minimum wage is not a living wage. It is entry level in the workforce. If you wish to earn more, than the onus is on you to better yourself and make yourself more valuable. Just because you think you are worth more does not mean the employer agrees nor should they be forced legally to do so.

    • dduck12

      I give this a half and half.

      • Sean D. Burnham

        Okay, I’ll bite; Which half?

        • dduck12

          Good: that people should try and make their way with out too many expected handouts.
          Bad: the world is not a level playing field, and some start out in a hole. So, some helping hands are warranted, even if they are governmental, IMHO. Some employers, for example will take advantage, so a modest floor on wages and safety are OK.

    • kritt11

      The employer would pay less than the minimum wage if he could get away with it, and that wage has not kept pace with inflation. This creates the working poor who rely
      heavily on social programs, which
      the rest of us end up being on the hook for. Someone in a minimum wage job is often not in a position to better himself, and nobody is out there teaching him to fish.

      • Sean D. Burnham

        The employer decides what the requisite duties and tasks are worth to their business (value), and what the business can afford for such services. If no prospective employees agree to those terms, the employer must determine if those services are essential, and if so, have they undervalued those services and must review the internal need for them. If the employer determines that services provided by a new employee are essential, then the market (employee) has dictated the value. Simply put, if one does not wish to work for a low wage, do not accept the job.

        Just because you overvalue your worth to an employer, don’t for a second think that translates into raising the value of the responsibilities and requisites of the position.

        • Lorie Emerson


          In my Inaugural I laid down the simple proposition that nobody is going to starve in this country. It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By “business” I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living.

          Throughout industry, the change from starvation wages and starvation employment to living wages and sustained employment can, in large part, be made by an industrial covenant to which all employers shall subscribe. It is greatly to their interest to do this because decent living, widely spread among our 125, 000,000 people, eventually means the opening up to industry of the richest market which the world has known. It is the only way to utilize the so-called excess capacity of our industrial plants. This is the principle that makes this one of the most important laws that ever has come from Congress because, before the passage of this Act, no such industrial covenant was possible.

          • Sean D. Burnham

            —–>It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for
            existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right
            to continue in this country.<——

            So if you disagree with functional finances of a private business, you can determine their right to operate?

            Now that would seem wholly unconstitutional.

          • Lorie Emerson

            Yet, that speech was in response to law passed by congress and held up by the SCOTUS, so it is ‘constitutional’. It was also in response to an increasingly pissed off citizenry who was tired of dying for the rich (kinda’ like those revolutionary founding fathers).

          • Sean D. Burnham

            Speeches are platforms for the presentation of ideas and do not meet the threshold of constitutional law. does that mean that volunteer work and unpaid internships are unconstitutional as well?

          • roseyrey

            If you can’t come up with a business plan that can make a profit while paying for the labor you need to make your business run, you are not owed a place in the market. It’s not that any given person decides the business isn’t allowed to run, it’s that you pass laws that give rules for business, and the companies that can make a profit while following the law continue to do well, and those who cannot do not.

          • Sean D. Burnham

            Your point actually made my point. Higher wages will likely preclude most business plans from being executed successfully.

            However, no one is owed a place in the market, they must compete for it. BTW – very few business plans of which I am aware can accurately predict profit and loss. Far too many market variables economic conditions. They are templates for which to start a business platform.

          • roseyrey

            No, it doesn’t. Will some businesses fail if the cost of labor goes up? Yes, just as are businesses who have failed to account for other costs of doing business. In a simple example: if I figure I can sustain my business only by using dog food grade beef in my hamburgers, I should not be selling burgers to humans for a living. In another example: if my business plan requires a pool of labor for $2/hr, I am not owed a business by the government, who will then have to make up the difference between what I pay them and the amount these people need to live.

          • SteveK

            If you can’t come up with a business plan that can make a profit while paying for the labor you need to make your business run, you are not owed a place in the market…

            Absolutely! The difference between Walmart and Costco is a great example.


            According to “The Motley Fools”… Costco vs. Wal-Mart: Higher Wages Mean Superior Returns for Investors

            Whether we consider sales, earnings, or stock market returns, Costco (NASDAQ:COST) is outperforming Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) by a considerable margin in recent years. This is probably due to a multiplicity of factors, since both companies have important differences in areas such as business model and size.

            However, there could be some important lessons to be learned from the competition between Costco and Wal-Mart when it comes to employee compensation and its relationship to business profitability. While many people tend to think that higher costs in segments such as salaries and benefits are necessarily detrimental for shareholders’ returns, this interpretation may be far too shortsighted.

            Over a period of years, attracting a more talented workforce and keeping employees incentivized has undeniable benefits for productivity and customer service, among many other business aspects, and this is probably one reason why Costco shareholders are receiving superior returns than investors in Wal-Mart.


          • Lorie Emerson

            Also, you seem to ignore that poverty is coercive. If you have no choice, you have no choice. There are plenty of third world countries that show what happens without an enforced min wage. Peoe die from poverty. Its the same as not having workplace safety standards. People die. Its not theoretical. Its reality.

          • Sean D. Burnham

            The poverty and starvation in third world countries can be attributed to countless factors including culture, overpopulation, disease, lack of education, poor agriculture, lack of water, lack of resources, corrupt and ineffective leaders, lawlessness, and basic cultural corruption. Even those countries abundantly blessed with energy rich resources are plagued with what is known as the resource curse. I promise you, a minimum or living wage is meaningless to someone who has no job.

        • kritt11

          Let me guess, Sean, you are an employer. You are not taking into account that many of the jobs that have not exited the country are service industry jobs that are by nature low-paying and which offer very little opportunity for advancement.
          Poverty is a trap with consequences not just for those entrapped in it but for society at large when it becomes extensive enough.

          • Sean D. Burnham

            Good afternoon Kritt
            Yes, I am.
            I started delivering newspapers when I was 10, mowed lawns and shoveled snow from driveways, and worked at an Uncle’s warehouse when I was 11, summers, weekends, and holidays. I was a tradesman from the union hall working in steel mills, fossil fuel, nuclear, and co-gen facilities, to pay my way through college. I accepted a position with a defense contractor in Foreign Military Sales after the first Gulf War for several years and left that position the day my daughter was born because I did not want to be an absentee father. That was over twenty + years ago. I started my first business in 1994, and a few other since. I am headquartered in the US but conduct business around the globe. I only share this with you so you know I appreciate what it is like to work in a labor environment, for government and private sector, and as owner and employer. Not sure that gives me any qualifications, but maybe just some insight I suppose.

            You are correct, many of those jobs are in fact service industry jobs. They don’t pay much but do not require much in the way of skills. Many are held by students working part time. The jobs can be difficult for sure (that’s why they are called jobs), but the positions tend to turn over with such a high degree of regularity that many places keep help wanted signs in the window as a matter of practice. Not because they have not filled the position, but because turnover is constant.

            And no the position offers little in the way of advancement, that is just the nature of the position. That is not the employers fault or obligation.

            I agree with you that poverty has become a trap, or at least allowed to become so within certain cultures. I can assure you, there are plenty of folks who emerge from disadvantaged backgrounds only to succeed to accomplish great things – just look at your President. He grew up in poverty raised by a single mom. I am not a huge fan of his ideology but I respect he never made excuses for failure.

          • Obama was raised largely middle class by his grandparents and went to a prep school. He got in to Harvard because he was a legacy student – his father went there. Not that he hasn’t obviously greatly suceeded, but there is also a reality behind that.

    • roseyrey

      Dude born with a hundred nets calls the peasants who actually do his fishing for him “lazy” for being born without even a pole.

    • Lorie Emerson

      Min wage was intended to be a living wage. Read the historical argument put forward by FDR.
      In prior generations, HS was considered the basic level of education needed to succeed in our society so we provided it free to all. This is no longer true.
      In prior generations, employers provided training for most jobs, now you pay for your own training/ certifications. Look at HVAC or Pharmacy Tech.
      In prior generations, unions provided a leveling of the power structure between labor and management that is now hugely diminished.
      If you are looking at jobs solely through a supply/demand economic view, you are ignoring the much larger picture. People with jobs and wages create demand. Low wages create a cycle of low demand in the macro perspective leading to lower wages… Then you have the human factor if supply of labor exceeds demand for labor, what do you do with the excess supply? Drown it in the ocean (like they did with excess produce in the depression)? Its people so you either let them die from poverty, or not. These are the actual choices that go beyond the rights talking points that would lead us to being a third world nation. I find the lack of concern for our society and fellow citizens extremely disturbing. capitalism has been tempered with the needs of the nation from the beginning look at land grants, militia, etc. Healthcare provisions benefit all of society. Look back at prior epidemics as an example- TB, Polio, the Spanish Flu…then look at current disability rates for diseases and injuries that could have been dealt with if caught at an earlier stage. The people who don’t work because they literally can’t afford to lose government health benefits under the current system.
      Maybe I am misunderstanding, but there seems to be some idea that its perfectly okay for us to allow people to die from poverty in the US that I am not comfortable with. Study after study has shown that we are becoming more and more of an Ogliarchy- we have a new aristocracy.
      To Teach a man to fish- he still needs a pole or net and some bait, a teacher, a place where fish can actually live, and to be healthy enough to reel it in- plus, in most places here, enough money to pay for a license. Reality doesn’t fit these simplistic solutions proposed. It is much more expensive and time consuming to “teach a man to fish” than just give him a fish, and that requires societal resources And actually caring about our fellow citizens in a substansive way that requires that we actually want them to succeed and not just have someone to look down on.

      • roseyrey

        Brava, Lorie, to the whole thing. I love the point that these libertarian types who talk about fishing never want to actually teach anyone to fish (give them the knowledge to be self-sufficient and successful in our society).

        • Lorie Emerson


        • Sean D. Burnham

          So we must give them a tackle and a pole, and bait their line? Are they then entitled to a fully stocked pond as well? You can teach someone to fish, but you cannot make them learn it.

          • roseyrey

            No, but you don’t claim all poles, all nets, all ponds, all fish, and every mode of learning to fish actually belong to you, then call people lazy or takers for wanting to eat. You don’t get to control every aspect of the fishing industry from the oceans to the tackle, and then only pay the actual workers enough for half the fish they need to survive, while calling them lazy.

          • Sean D. Burnham

            Please forgive as I am not trying to be antagonistic. What do you mean by claiming all poles, nets etc.,and every mode of learning to fish belong to me? And also, I do not recall accusations of laziness, just entitlement.

          • roseyrey

            Do you even understand your own fishing analogy? At the risk of being obvious: poles and nets would be like capital equipment or other physical resources needed for business. Modes of learning how to fish would be like college or whatever training and schooling are required for a particular job. Water would be natural or public resources (roads, water, electricity, air, etc). Fish could either count as the product produced or the money made.

            It’s maybe not a great idea to use an analogy if you’re not able to think through what that analogy means.

          • Rcoutme

            You are completely ignoring the monopolization of land and production by corporations. Yes, it is possible to start up a corporation (or business), get it to succeed, and get rich. However, it is increasingly unlikely to happen. Meanwhile, I can teach a person all there is to know about running a family farm, but if he is living in E. Los Angeles, he’s going to have a fairly hard time trying to survive.

            As the author stated, HE ISN’T LOOKING FOR A HANDOUT! He is looking for companies and corporations to have to compete for labor. When women entered the workforce in huge droves (started in the 1970’s and probably peaked close to 1995–then began to level out), businesses decreased the wages they paid, while still increasing the cost of their products. Law of supply and demand: demand either stays the same or goes up slowly; supply increases (hugely), prices go down (i.e. wages in this case, since the item is labor).

            Now, many families are discovering that it takes two incomes just to try to make it into the middle class.

          • Sean D. Burnham

            Good afternoon Rcoutme
            I was unaware that land ownership was monopolized by corporations. I believe most of the US is owned by the government, but it is far from monopolized by anyone. I am unsure as to the what kind of “production” is monopolized but it stands to reason that large manufacturing facilities are commercially operated.

            I do concede that the current state of the economy, coupled by over regulation and far reaching and over-imposing government levies have handicapped small business and have created a barrier of entry for new startups.

            I can think of no greater hindrance to this than imposing a burdensome living wage to the mix.

            As far as competing for labor; Okay, that is happening now. If your theory holds true, then the labor force will hold out until they receive what they believe they are worth, and the employer will have no options but to pay higher wages in order to fill positions.

            Wages have stagnated and declined in this country because there is no longer incentive to generate wealth. It is taxed, re-appropriated, and redistributed. It once held true that risk was rewarded in the event that a company was successful.. That seldom proves to be the case anymore.

            Many families rely on two incomes because today’s generation is very acquisitive of new technology, comfort items, brand luxury, and indulgent of life experiences. They are certainly not a generation of sacrifice and self denial. That is not to say that families don’t struggle. I know they do. Many do. But some of today’s generation don’t really know struggle in the true sense.

          • Do some research into the transfer of wealth and property following the housing bust- it’s really pretty frightening.

      • Sean D. Burnham

        Good afternoon Lorie
        Just a thought —->In prior generations, HS was considered the basic level of education
        needed to succeed in our society so we provided it free to all. <——- It ends at this point because as a nation we invest into our youth. We educate them until such time as they are legal adults, which is generally the end of high school.

        "Society has gotten to the point where everyone has the right an no one has a responsibility."
        Author unknown

        • Sal Monela

          Part of the problem is that High School isn’t enough education anymore to get a decent paying job like it was in our father’s day. You need a college or a good vocational education in order to get a decent paying job and for many at the low end of the economic spectrum that is a tall order. Making sure that everyone has that opportunity should be a larger priority than it is now. The other half is getting everyone who needs an education sufficiently motivated to do so.

        • Responsibility would be actually attending and passing the classes. Not being able to afford to attend is another issue. Unless you have family help, it is extremely difficult and even then you come out of school in deep debt for most. It really wasn’t always that way and there are plenty of studies/ documentation of the increased cost.
          I have thought and promoted for awhile that part of our education issue needs to be changed at the HS level and actually believe we treat our young adults poorly in this country in many ways. It makes way more sense to me to have them finish HS at 16 and move on to a college system like many European countries. You could be teaching an HVAC certification, or completing an Associates in those two years. Our system is not serving us very well at this point.
          When I broached these ideas with school boards, PTAs, etc, I got some pretty strange arguments that all seemed concerned with social issues vs preparing our young people to be successful. Football, prom, etc… odd.

      • kritt11

        Great comment, Lorie!

      • Sean D. Burnham

        —->but there seems to be some idea that its perfectly okay for us to allow
        people to die from poverty in the US that I am not comfortable with.<—–

        I don't believe anyone subscribes to the idea that poverty is perfectly okay, and any stats that indicate that people in the US die from poverty is purely speculative although i am sure it happens. That is why there are so many social services such as SNAP, WIC, EITC, TANF, and the school lunch program (breakfast lunch, and dinner). People most certainly care. I care.

      • Sean D. Burnham

        Does the youth of today have no appreciation for being resourceful? What ever happened to innovation or the development of ideas? What happened to independent learning and taking a risk? Why the need for such hand holding because life is difficult and seemingly unfair? It’s not attributed to laziness per se, but the prevalence of an entitled generation and a culture that enables it.

        • Slamfu

          Yea, what’s with the kids these days with their long hair and rock’n’roll music!

          Seems to me every generation loves to take a swipe at the new generation like they are some heretofore unseen pack of lazy degenerates that will undo all that has come before with their…whatever. But the fact is things aren’t all that different in terms of what people are doing. We are still inventing things. Still innovating. But the thing about that is a small percentage of the population does the innovating, the rest do the sweat and labor of moving society. Always has, always will.

          Take your average “socialist country”, like Denmark. They have a thriving economy, a favorable business climate, and good productivity, and yet they have one of the most socialist safety net program out there, and yet it works. Really well in fact. Saying things like we’re teaching people to be dependent or lazy or entitled, those are just words meant to confuse the issue, when a look at the results of those who have put them in place will show that it is a large net positive for any nation that does it. I’ll take results over rhetoric, every time.

          • Sean D. Burnham

            There is a difference between taking a swipe and a basic observation. I have two adult children, both millennials. And I assure I make them accountable because of how I am raising them. They are better people than I and far more intelligent than I would ever hope to be. And they have unparalleled work ethics. But in a strange way they are still products of their culture and I find myself in a role of guidance, but not one of taking them by the hand. They have to figure things out on their own.

            I was enjoying Thanksgiving with my wife’s family. We are on complete opposites on the political aisle, but I have enormous respect for them. My Bro-in-law is an exec who hires many millennials and explained they are brilliant, well educated (academically), and quite capable. I cannot disagree with that assessment – it is the same I have of my own children. But he confirmed that they cannot deal well with failure and real world expectations of their performance and professional behavior. And they seldom accept ownership of their actions and are eager to quickly blame others for their failures. He gave me far too many instances to mention here and they were basically harmless but good for conversation and a few chuckles.

            But you are right on one thing, not a lot has changed. I can give you countless instances where people of my own generation were not that dialed in and squared away. Maturity often fixes this. Variations of quote often attributed to Winston Churchill goes something like this; “If you are not a liberal in your twenties, you have no passion, if you are still a liberal in your 40’s you have no sense.” (I have seen the words “heart” imposed for passion, and “brain” for sense. Either way, it probably stands the test of time.

    • Slamfu

      Thank you for your 3rd grade analysis of a complex topic. You really think there is some general missing “personal sense of responsibility” in today’s people that was there in the past? Gimme a break. This is about policies that work vs those that don’t. You have platitudes and the other side has data. We don’t have to wonder if this stuff works, both your way and the other way have been tried and the results are in, they are documented, and they quit clearly show that you are wrong. Socialist countries not only rank in the top tier for happiness and general well being, they also rank in the top tier for business friendliness and do well economically, while the US has been backsliding on all fronts.

      Don’t take my word for it, take Forbes Magazine:

      Or spend a few minutes Googling it yourself. The facts do not support your argument.

      • Sean D. Burnham

        —–> Thank you for your 3rd grade analysis of a complex topic<—— Thank you for your condescension. Is it not possible to articulate a position respectfully. One erodes their credibility when they paint their arguments with emotions, arrogance, and intolerance of opposing thought.

        • Slamfu

          I’m sorry, that was disrespectful, but I just hear those same arguments still after all these years and they just never seem to go away. There is something wrong with this generation. We are entitled. That people making minimum wage deserve it and aren’t trying to better themselves. It’s all hogwash. Seriously man, forget about history, just look around the world at the countries that are CURRENTLY enacting your model, they all suck. This country used to suck too until we started the New Deal. Without the govt setting some sort of baseline level of standards we’d still have children working 16 hour days in coal mines, workers getting hurt/killed on the job at 100x the rate they are now, and no middle class and therefore no super power level economy, basically everything the way it was before we became a super power.

          It just works better our way, not yours. If your way worked better, I’d be for it, but it just doesn’t.

          • Sean D. Burnham

            Slamfu – I appreciate your apology.
            Just a couple thoughts if you would be kind enough to indulge me;
            1.) I am not intolerant of opposing thoughts and ideas – I learn form them which is why I participate on blogs such as this from time to time.
            2.) I truly appreciate the exchange of ideas and on several occasions I have seen another side to a topic of which I had yet considered and amended my personal position accordingly. . . Learning =Personal Growth.
            3.) I am not so arrogant so as to believe that I am always right. When I opine, it is just that, my opinion. I recognize and respect that there are others in the world far more intelligent and capable than I.
            4.) I believe in civil discourse and I respect others and their positions even though I may fully disagree with them.

            Slam – I also have enormous respect for you . . apologies demonstrate decency. I look forward to more discourse with you. . . On that note – will respond in a few to your comments above….


      Your post makes a large number of assumptions. Let’s look at them.

      For minimum wage to function as an entry into the work force there needs to be jobs to move up to from where you start. In the real world businesses do not have an equal number of spaces as you move up the ladder. In fact large companies have a pyramidal structure while smaller businesses have a flatter structure. This means that no matter what your skill set or talent it is entirely possible that you won’t move up the ladder commensurate with your abilities. If there are no jobs to move up into then people are stuck at the bottom. A significant number of people will always be stuck at the bottom. With the structure of businesses and the number of employees versus the number of positions to be promoted to it is inevitable. Shall we simply dismiss those at the lower levels as lesser beings who deserve their fate? I don’t think so.

      Now we move to the entire false construct of a job being some kind of negotiated agreement between two people of almost equal power in their “relationship”. It’s not true and hasn’t been true for a very, very long time. The employee is rarely someone who is in a position to take their time looking for a job that is just right for them. There are, after all, bills to pay. That puts pressure on the average person to find something before whatever financial resources they have run out. That gives virtually all of the power to the employer. They know this. In addition they know that for many jobs they can just ship it overseas to someone working in a sweatshop or its equivalent. The modern American corporation loves having labor at a massive disadvantage and virtual slave labor is the best of all. This is known by the person seeking employment and forces them to factor that threat to their livelihood into seeking work. Consider the case of Southern California Edison. There was no expectation of a handout by their IT staff. They followed the “rules”, got a good education, worked hard and their reward was to have SCE outsource their jobs to an Indian company that brought in their people from India on H-1B visas and told the current employees to train their replacements or else. Exactly how does globalization like that fit into your wonderful theoretical construct? I sincerely doubt it does.

  • tidbits

    Hmmm. Nothing radical about this? My response would be that it contains radical elements like socialized medicine. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or unworthy of consideration. But, it is a radical departure from current practice.

    My greatest concern with much of the current discussion has to do with the false idol of “minimum wage” as a “living wage.” Without going into detail, a minimum wage can never be a liveable wage because all increases in “minimum wages” necessarily generate a new round of inflation as the market attempts to compensate for increased labor costs. This creates an economic loop that continuously adds to an inflationary spiral.

    There is, in my view, a great deal of naïve thinking where the minimum wage is concerned. You simply cannot raise the minimum wage without resultant inflation. And, those who increase pricing to compensate for increased minimum wage will exceed actual increases to labor costs and pad for the next round of minimum wage increases, creating a potential for hyper-inflation. Btw, the working poor, those being paid minimum wage, will suffer most when inflation outstrips their minimum wage increases.

    Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. That may be the case with attempting to use minimum wage increases to “cure” poverty.

    • Sean D. Burnham

      Good day tidbits, hope you are well.
      Very well stated; Extremely articulate and sensible argument against adjusting the minimum wage to reflect a living wage.

    • Lorie Emerson

      False equivalency. Cause/ effect. Inflation has obviously occurred in absence of a raise in min wage and many essentials are really not effected by an increase- rent, power, etc.. for this argument to be true, inflation would not occur while wages remain stagnant, but since labor is only a fraction of COGS, they are not intrinsically linked.

    • Slamfu

      How is socialized medicine a radical concept? Unless by radical you mean a proven and cost effective method that the rest of the industrialized world has clued into for some time now while American healthcare has continued to slide in quality and results and increase in cost.

      And no offense, but your argument about minimum wage increases leading to inflation are pretty out there. Minimum wage increase have happened before. Please cite me a case where what you say will happen has happened. The vast majority of goods and services are sold to the middle class, whose wages have been stagnating for decades now. Injecting money at the very top or the very bottom has almost no effect on inflation, if it did the massive injections of cash from the Fed for the last few years(which btw was WAY more than a minimum wage increase would inject into the economy) would have shoved inflation through the roof, except it didn’t. Not this time, not any time.

      These are old arguments regarding minimum wage, and they just simply have not been borne out by past experience.


      So the solution is to just leave a significant section of the population unable to earn a living? Because it’s not just the minimum wage that isn’t a living wage. In this country even if you make several dollars above the minimum it’s not enough to live on. BTW, current economic research actually shows that hyper-inflation is highly unlikely to occur in the situation you describe. Those examples of hyper-inflation in the 20th century that are used by those who want us to live in fear of that scenario all had other major problems that were necessary for hyper-inflation to strike. Also, the arguments against raising the minimum wage would be more respectable if those raising them ever proposed anything else to alleviate the problem other than “Don’t worry, the free market will take care of it.”.

  • Slamfu

    There really isn’t any reason to re-invent the wheel here. Not only are other countries already doing this successfully, we here in the US as part of the New Deal policies implemented a great deal of these in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, to great effect. And yet somehow we let the Conservatives tell us to ignore what we were seeing, undo most of it, and here we are sliding back into problems that we have the answers too. It is really an amazing snow job that has been pulled in this country.

    • kritt11

      This is so true- and they are doing it not by showing the way with increased job opportunity, better education, or any real achievements in office- but with mouthed platitudes about liberty and government intrusion. Hard fought for policies that helped us achieve relative economic equality have been eroded little by little and accepted by people who do not know our history.

  • Lorie Emerson


    In my Inaugural I laid down the simple proposition that nobody is going to starve in this country. It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By “business” I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living.

    Throughout industry, the change from starvation wages and starvation employment to living wages and sustained employment can, in large part, be made by an industrial covenant to which all employers shall subscribe. It is greatly to their interest to do this because decent living, widely spread among our 125, 000,000 people, eventually means the opening up to industry of the richest market which the world has known. It is the only way to utilize the so-called excess capacity of our industrial plants. This is the principle that makes this one of the most important laws that ever has come from Congress because, before the passage of this Act, no such industrial covenant was possible.

  • Slamfu

    You know, we DON’T know how good we have it. Most people seem to think that not dying in poverty, having roads and electricity and sanitation, and a steady reliable food supply and all the other conveniences we take for grant just happen. They are called Libertarians I believe.

  • tidbits

    Let me respond here, rather than trying to fend off a thousand cuts in a reply to other comments.

    First, I respect the views of those who disagree with me, but that does not mean that I must adopt your views to save my credibility. So, a couple of responses will follow. But, please remember that this is a very complex issue filled with nuances and unintended consequences. Nuances include such items as supplementary household income as opposed to living wage, or recreational income (particularly among young workers) as opposed to household living wage. Unintended consequences involve a) those elsewhere on the income ladder and what would need to happen to their wages to keep pace or b) the vulnerabilities of people like illegal immigrants and the impact on their welfare and potential victimization. The nuances and unintended consequences are too numerous to detail here with particularity, but suffice to say that minimum wage increases do not happen in a vacuum. The world of economic reality is interconnected, not a string of hermetically sealed Mason jars.

    Some specific responses.
    1. The impact of minimum wage on inflation is not “disproven”. Quite the opposite. Nor is it a false equivalency. It is true that labor costs are not the only factor in inflation, but it is a considerable one and there is a direct relationship. If McDonald’s must pay its lowest level employees $15/hr, there will not be a dollar menu for the dining entertainment enjoyment of the working poor. You see, when the lowest level employees get $15/hr, their managers and assistant managers will want a commensurate increase, and the owner will still want to make a profit. So to suggest that there is some sort of Chinese wall between labor costs and inflation is not accurate in my view.
    2. I was asked to provide a period of time where my view has been proven. OK. We are living it. Since the end of raises to the minimum wage, we have enjoyed one of the lowest inflation periods in my lifetime. That is not an accident, though I gladly admit that the absence of minimum wage increase is not the only factor.

    More later, as I am certain I will be challenged further.

  • dduck12

    Perspective. Those of us that worked when young and through HS or college, because they had to, not because it was the PC thing to do, have a problem when we look back. We remember walking through the snow- in July- to school five miles, and uphill both ways. And, if we made to the older years in pretty good shape, darn it why can’t others. Plus we see slackers and people just taking at every turn. Perspective.

    • Sean D. Burnham

      copy that!

    • tidbits

      Yeah, I remember those days…having to wait for the driver to put chains on the limo and all. 😉

      • Sean D. Burnham

        hahahaha just made my day

    • kritt11

      Ok that was funny- uphill both ways!! I think that there is less opportunity for upward mobility for Millenials. My daughter belongs to that generation, and employers seem to be getting a pretty good deal. She and most of her friends work upwards of 50 hours a week with no mention of overtime pay. Some are expected to be available by text or cell phone call during off hours on a routine basis, again with no compensation. While I admit that growing up their generation was somewhat over entitled, they are now inheriting a stagnant economy where much is expected and little is given in return.


        The situations where part time employees are expected to be available at a moment’s notice, thereby eliminating the possibility of multiple jobs to make up for few hours and low wages, is a relatively new phenomenon that is completely ignored by those who follow classical economic theory and older schools of labor economics. They also ignore the continuous infractions of labor law with employers “stealing” employee time by making them work off of the clock. They say things like Sean did in his post where the claim is that if they don’t like it they can just quit and find a job somewhere else. Sorry, but back in my econ class they referred to the idea of “friction” in economies. In the labor market the time frame that a typical employee would have between leaving one job they are being abused in to finding another one where the employer also wants to mistreat their employees is a really good example of friction because the employee knows that in the minds of any potential new employer leaving his previous job will look bad. So friction makes it harder for those changes to happen.

  • dduck12

    Going along with the they don’t know how good they have theme:
    Some students don’t know what some people think of them because they are narcissistic: “Student Protesters Self-Absorbed and Narcissistic, Oklahoma College President Says”
    Of course he is wrong, the old fogy, the kids don’t think: “university setting was not meant to be a “safe place” but rather a place “to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others.”

  • jdledell

    The problem with this discussion is the use of generalities. There are degrees of disadvantage to competing in today’s economy. On one end of the spectrum is a developmentally disabled adult who no matter how hard working is not going to be able to make it in today’s world. From there you could step up and have a minority adult who grew up in a inner city slum with a deeply troubled family life and little in the way of elementary and secondary education. To expect this person to overcome the odds and make it economically is the equivalent to hitting the lottery. On the other end of the spectrum is a person who grew up in a middle class family with very supportive and knowledgeable parents who went to a competitive High School and graduated from an Ivy League University. You have a myriad of gradations in between.

    Each one of these people require different degrees of gumption in order to carve out a meaningful life. The problem I see in many of the comments is the expectation that there is some sort of universal person when discussing needs. For some a $15/hour minimum wage might be just the thing to get them over the hump with money and time to acquire additional skills. For some it might be the end of the line in their economic quest.

    For such a rich nation we are doing a very poor job of bringing along ALL our citizens to participate in the current economy. What is needed is personalization of needed skills and education. In health care we don’t treat all people with cancer the same way, and neither should we when it comes to preparing people for a modern economy. Some have the capability to be doctors and some to be plumbers while others can be entrepreneurs or be a drone in a large office.

    In my own case I had polio in 1946 when I was two and paralyzed. Yet I was given advantages that would be wish list items in today’s world. I spent most of 14 years in a hospital with more than a dozen operations. More than a million dollar 1950 dollars where given to me free by the State of Minnesota – that is $9.1 million in 2015 dollars. While I was growing up, the State of Minnesota sent tutors free of charge to home and hospital to give me a first class one on one secondary education. When it came time to go to college the State of Minnesota paid for my books, fees and tuition at the Univ. of Minnesota.

    Is it any wonder when I joined the workforce after college that I was better equipped with skills and knowledge than “normal” people. As a result of my unusual background, I rose rapidly through the ranks to be the 5th highest paid executive in the giant Prudential Financial. My success is not really due to my hard work, it was the result of a tremendous investment society, through their taxes, made in me. Don’t knock helping people compete before you’ve walked in their shoes.

    • dduck


    • Great, thoughtful comment. I am also tired of hearing the conservative mantra which makes it sound like poor people are poor because of their own bad choices, and they can get a better income with enough hard work and persistence. If only it were so!

  • Great, great essay.

  • SteveK

    Thank you jdledell for your timely and well made points.
    It would be interesting to hear Sean D. Burnham’s response.

    Happy Holidays All!

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