There's lots of good conversation happening in our comments today; I'd recommend contributing to the delightfully civil debate on Carlos Roa's personal story of immigration law and charged terminology.
For a change of pace, though, let's visit another wing of the burgeoning ColorLines media empire. On Wednesday, we posted our map of states where the rent is too damn high to our Tumblr -- and as of Thursday, a little more than 24 hours later, it'd been 'liked' and 'reblogged' by nearly 500 people. (These are Tumblr terms. They both mean people liked it.)
What follows is a collection of notes that people have appended to the map when they've shared it with their friends; it's a cross-section of personal experiences, armchair economics, job-hunting lamentation, and calls for reform. Interesting, humanizing stuff, with a surprisingly heavy New Jersey presence.
and the dialogue. From runintothesun:
i'd also like to point out that it can be hard to find a full-time minimum wage job. i used to work at target (which hires at minimum wage or a very small bit above it), and while i got close to 40 hours a week (which is what i requested) because i worked in customer service, which few people were trained in, i knew cashiers whose hours would drop every week and, unlike me, they actually had to pay rent in this wonderful state of new jersey. the place i work at now (for, again, very little above minimum wage) doesn't even hire full time, and when i requested 40 hours a week over the summer i got 30 or less.
In other words, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and "anyone can get a job at McDonald's" are not viable solutions to our nation's poverty problem.
A few years ago, a Libertarian tried to explain to me why he joined a Facebook group called "Abolish the Minimum Wage". He was like, "Businesses will be able to hire more employees and lower their prices." I said, "Who cares if none of those employees can afford rent?" He tried to give me the "free market trumps all" argument: "well, no one would work for a quarter an hour, the business would have to pay what someone would work for."
But when you're poor and desperate, low wages are better than no wages. If every part-time job only paid 25 cents an hour - or two dollars an hour, or four - then everyone who worked part time would have to accept that or not have a job at all.
The minimum wage should be the state's established living wage. Period.
Alright, I understand the intent of the statement about the minimum wage, and I'm not about to say that this isn't awful, because it is, no one should have to work two shitty jobs just to keep a roof over their head, but raising the minimum wage will not help.
I'll say it again: raising the minimum wage will not help. I understand economics is kind of weird and complicated and not always exact, but one of the things we have tested and proven time and time again for nearly a century is raising the minimum wage. It just causes inflation. You raise the minimum wage--hell, even announce you're going to raise the minimum wage--and prices go up. Usually first milk and meat, maybe gas (if gas isn't already doing its own ridiculous thing), and then everything else. And then rent.
Raising the minimum wage will not help.
(Of course, I've been aware of this and thinking about this for years now and I can't think of something that will help...possibly our economic system is just untenable for, you know, the vast majority of people.)
...this explains so much. Actually, my not-totally-minimum-wage-but-definitely-not-double-it part time job does pay my half of the rent, but it doesn't pay shit for anything else, and also, I have a roommate paying the other half of rent and utilities, not dependents needing food and diapers and stuff.
I absolutely agree that the minimum wage should be the state's established living wage, because largely, it's the only way that housing, public or not, might be less fucked up. And, y'all know how I feel about housing (home ownership is good, mixed-income is even better).
BUT, merely stating that the living wage should be the rule doesn't account for the disruptions that would occur in the small, locally-owned business sphere. Economics is not my thing, but this living wage calculator is pretty sweet. If a local take-out place (I say take-out so that we can eliminate the possibility of a tip wage) does an okay business and keeps neighborhood residents employed (at minimum wage), sweet. Jobs are cool, even minimum wage ones, right? But, there's the possibility that the living wage might tip the business over the edge, especially if sales aren't breaking even. Then, the storefront's empty, somebody's defaulted on their loan or gone bankrupt, and more than a few people are likely out of jobs.
I bring this up because in many poor, inner-city neighborhoods, there aren't many big box employers and there is a chance that a small business might not be able to afford to pay a living wage. Working locally is something that should be maximized: It cuts down on commuting costs (especially if you're living in sprawl and absolutely require a car to get to and from your job), for one, and keeps money in the community.
I'm all for big box stores paying the living wage (or more!) without any question whatsoever. But, enforcing this on the local, micro level will require a little more attention than simply "pay your employees more." Economics is not my thing, which is why there are no numbers in this post, but it's important to remember that not all employers are the same, just as not all employees are the same.
Yay Georgia! We suck at everything! Our minimum wage is always the federal lowest minimum and people who wait tables earn $2.13/hr because they're expected to earn the rest in tips. (PLEASE TIP YOUR FUCKING WAITERS. SERIOUSLY. DON'T BE A CHEAPSKATE.)
I think this, more than anything else, is what truly explains the electoral map:
They are almost the same (though inverted) image, with the exceptions of the Nevada/Utah/Texas WTF are they thinking™ lunacy corridor (and the fact that CO is lately a genuinely purple state, seemingly awakening from a long and careless slumber). And, honestly, Nevada's current and indefensible Tea Klan tendencies are indeed a reflection of this: we've got Reid and still can't get economic reforms going in this state.
It is not and may never be clear to me why all the Democratic "strategists" in the employ of the national party apparatus are so seemingly oblivious to the fact that we live in a polarized nation, but not polarized along any of the lines they parrot...polarized along the "I can afford to live where I do" and "I have to work three jobs just to buy my dollar's worth of potted meat product and still keep myself and my family off the streets" lines. This is the real and only issue. It drives everything, most definitely including the Tea Klan.
Yet strategists and their candidates almost never pay more than lip service to the idea of it; more often than not, it's dismissed entirely in service of better enabling the lives and fortunes of plutocrats.
That the term "working poor" now basically defines the middle class in this country is the real, existential issue. And still nobody but nobody ever wants to talk about it, much less do anything.
... Oh, look, my state's on there. No wonder we're having to move in with my grandmother.