Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why It's Not Your Fault If You End Up Living In Your Car Due To The Economy

The evidence just keeps on mounting that corporations are squeezing their workers into utter penury while they pocket ever-higher profits:

Huffington Post featured a report by the New America Foundation that shows the minimum wage went nowhere as worker productivity skyrocketed:

This means workers did much, much more for so much less.

The brief, 44-page report is an excellent analysis of the problems workers currently face in the U.S. and provides eminently reasonable solutions that of course won't be enacted because of the lack of political will by the policymakers who serve the plutocracy.

Political cynicism aside, the report shows clearly and concisely how the system is designed to keep people in poverty, whether through lack of a living wage, or a broken Unemployment Insurance system, which doesn't pay enough for people to live on while they look for another scarce and low-paying job.

Read the report. It's easily understandable and you will learn a lot quickly.

And speaking of living wages, a study done by the state of New York revealed that raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25/hr to $9/hr would be far from a living wage in New York. And everywhere else, of course.

As you already know from my book and previous blog posts:
"The federal minimum wage hasn't increased since 2009. According to a 2012 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the minimum wage would actually be $21.72 an hour if it kept pace with increases in worker productivity.
The same CEPR study found that if the minimum wage kept up with inflation since it peaked in real value in 1968, it would now be $10.52 per hour."
So stagnant wages, increased cost of living, lack of health care benefits, and slashed and shredded social safety net programs all conspire to keep the poor, well, poor. Or poorer. It's why people are forced to live in their cars, and why things will get worse before they get better because the politicians won't do a damn thing about any of it. Even though, as the New America Report shows, the solutions are simple, economically feasible, and proven (in other countries).

As depressing as it is, keep the faith and continue working toward change. The broken system has taken more than 30 years to rot, and it won't be overhauled and replaced in a day. But the more you educate yourself on the issues and policy changes needed, the more you can inform others— particularly your legislative leaders. Remember: An avalanche always begins with a single snowflake...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How to Lie with Statistics About Low Wage Workers

According to a CNBC News report:
A study released earlier this month from the public policy group Demos states that through various forms of government funding in the private sector, nearly two million people are making $12 an hour or less. The number of workers at Wal-Mart and McDonald's together at $12 an hour or less is currently around 1.5 million, according to the report.
So nearly 2 million people make less than $12/hr. Okay, fine. Here's where the lie comes in: Note that the report only singles out Wal-Mart and McDonald's, to come up with the 1.5 million people. Why is that a lie? Because Wal-Mart and McDonald's are only TWO of the worst low-wage culprits--there's still AT LEAST NINE more to factor in:


So when you factor in all ELEVEN low-wage employers listed above, the number is a LOT higher than either 1.5 or 2 million. 

The problem is with the private contractors the federal government hires. Low wages are a natural outcome of outsourcing from the public to the private. Costs are externalized (taxpayers foot the bill), while profits are privatized into corporate coffers and shareholder pockets. So what needs to happen is the federal government needs to better police and audit the private companies it doles out the contracts to. From the article:

The biggest offenders came from those companies receiving direct federal contracts. Some 560,000 workers in those firms make $12 an hour or less, says the report...Breaking down the sectors in all government funding shows retail— with 59,977 people making $12 an hour or less—the largest group with low wages.
Companies receiving some sort of government funding are mandated by law to uphold high employment practices including prevailing wages within a particular area of work. But the Demos report states that most firms are not holding up their end of the bargain and are actually creating a wage gap.

So it's a lack of oversight issue, not a "government is paying serf wages" issue. CNBC really missed the boat on this one. (The Demos report correctly concludes the general problem of lack of living wages, one of the primary causes of homelessness). News stories that fudge their numbers hurt, rather than help the cause of reinstating living wages in this country. Because two million is a small number of people compared to the many millions more wage slaves working for all eleven of the corporations shown above. So hit the hardest where it matters most and affects the largest number of people--instead of trying to make it look like the Feds are the worst offenders, when the problem is that they are asleep at the wheel, not that that makes it any better.

Keep in mind two things: 1) The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25/hr since 2009. 2) If the minimum wage kept up with inflation, it would be $10.70. That $12/hr looks pretty good to the people stuck in $7.25/hr minimum-wage hell. But you still can't live on $12/hr ($12 x 160 hours assuming four 40 hour work weeks = $1,920 GROSS), let alone raise a family. Choosing bad ($12/hr) or worse ($7.25/hr) serves no one. Addressing why corporate profits are going in shareholder pockets (the Dow is currently above 15K) and not employees wallets goes a long way in showing what's wrong with this picture.