If work is a responsibility, then work is also a right

We recently looked at Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., and his biblically illiterate perversion of Mark 14:7, in which Jesus is quoted as saying, “For you always have the poor with you.”

Fincher misquoted that passage, twisting it into its opposite. And he did so because he was up to the very same thing that Judas was up to when he received that rebuke from Jesus — stealing from the treasury. Fincher, it turns out, has collected millions of dollars in agricultural subsidies, and to ensure that he keeps getting such generous handouts at the taxpayers’ expense, Fincher is trying to cut $21 billion from food aid for poor people so that the money can be used to boost farm subsidies for people such as, well, him.

In discussing all of that I neglected to mention that this passage from the Gospels wasn’t the only Bible verse Fincher wrenched out of context and twisted into an unrecognizable, ungodly mess.

Fincher did the same thing to 2 Thessalonians 3:10:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.

Stephen Fincher seems to be confused about several things. He’s confused about how SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “food stamps” — actually works, who it helps, and why they need that help. And he’s terribly, terribly confused about the context and the meaning of this passage from the New Testament and how it has been understood by centuries of Christian teaching.

Fincher seemed to be invoking this Bible verse for the same nasty reason that other far-right Republicans — such as Rep. Michele Bachmann — have done so. That is, he seems to think it’s a condemnation of those lazy poors — the “takers” and parasites mooching off the Randian makers.

Fincher was arguing that food stamps are an illegitimate hand-out to the undeserving, lazy poor. That’s the only way to make sense of his equating SNAP beneficiaries with “anyone unwilling to work.”

That’s obscene. First of all, the gentleman from Tennessee seems completely ignorant about the undisputed facts of our ongoing employment crisis. As of April (the most recent figures available) there were 3.1 job-seekers for every job opening, yet Fincher can’t imagine any reason for anyone in America to be unemployed other than that they are “unwilling to work.”

And what about the children who make up 45 percent of all SNAP beneficiaries? Does Fincher really think these children ought to be forced to work by the threat of starvation? Or what about the 40 percent of SNAP beneficiaries who are employed? It’s obviously unfair to accuse those people of being “unwilling to work” because they’re working — working for far less than a livable wage, for less than half of what Fincher himself pocketed in agricultural subsidies last year.

If 2 Thessalonians 3:10 meant anything like what Fincher is pretending it means, then it still would not apply to the millions of Americans who depend on SNAP to feed their families.

But 2 Thessalonians 3:10 does not mean anything like what Fincher is pretending it means.

As Candace Chellew-Hodge notes, this epistle was written to a particular congregation in a particular time and place. Read the surrounding verses for a bit more context. “Paul” — or whoever wrote 2 Thessalonians — isn’t writing about idleness due to laziness, but due to apocalyptic fervor. “Because many of the members of this sect believed that Jesus’ return was imminent, they stopped working,” Chellew-Hodge writes. “They figured why work when Jesus would be back at any moment to sweep us all into heaven?”

Keep in mind that this was a first-century Christian community, still in the early “All who believed were together and had all things in common” phase of the young church. A bunch of commies, basically. So “Paul” is insisting that anyone who wants in on the “to each according to his needs”  aspect of the early church also has to keep up their end of the bargain as far as “from each according to his ability.”

Fincher isn’t citing this verse to mean what the author of 2 Thessalonians meant. Rep. Fincher’s point, rather, is to argue that “work is a duty and a matter of honor for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: ‘He who does not work, neither shall he eat.'” That’s a paraphrase, not a direct quotation.

Well, actually it is a direct quotation, but not from Stephen Fincher. It’s a quotation from the 1936 Constitution of the Soviet Union.

The key point for both Fincher and for his fellow-travelers in Stalin’s USSR is that “work is a duty.”

But Fincher doesn’t understand what that means either. He doesn’t understand that if employment is a duty, then employment must also be a right.

It cannot be otherwise. Just as rights entail responsibilities, so too do responsibilities entail rights. It makes no sense to say that people have a duty to work unless they also have a right to work. John Paul II echoed more than a century of Catholic social teaching when he argued this in his papal encyclical Laborem Exercens:

We must first direct our attention to a fundamental issue: the question of finding work, or, in other words, the issue of suitable employment for all who are capable of it. The opposite of a just and right situation in this field is unemployment, that is to say the lack of work for those who are capable of it.

“The lack of work for those who are capable of it,” JP2 said, was a denial of their basic human right to work and a denial of their intrinsic human dignity.

To believe that people have a duty to work, but no basic right to have work, leads to injustice and absurdity. So let me repeat here about Rep. Stephen Fincher what I wrote earlier about Rep. Bachmann when she misquoted 2 Thessalonians 3:10 back in 2011:

… If Fincher was arguing that every American capable of working has a responsibility to work without also arguing that every such person has the right to a job — a guaranteed right to a job, right now — then that would make him a monstrous, illogical imbecile intent on cruelly punishing the jobless with contradictory obligations and prohibitions. That would make him a horrible, ignorant, despicable failure of a human being.

So, obviously, that can’t be what he meant. Right?

 

 

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  • Tim Vaughan

    Ok, so people have a right to work. Fine. But what if there are jobs available but they don’t pay enough?

    So people have a right to work at a certain wage. But what if the jobs that pay enough are too far away?

    So people have a right to work at a certain wage, within a certain distance from their home. But what if the jobs require skills that someone doesn’t have?

    So people have a right to work at a certain wage, within a certain distance from their home, using skills that they already have or can acquire fairly quickly. But what if their health isn’t good enough for the work that’s available?

    I won’t go on. But before long I think you’ll find that the jobs you say people have a right to look uncomfortably close to the unemployment benefits they already have.

  • The_L1985

    This is why Fred also argues for the establishment of a living wage, and that people whose disabilities bar them from some kinds of work but not others should be able to find jobs that suit them.

    Speaking of disabilities, I would think it obvious that people who are physically incapable of holding down any job shouldn’t be forced into a job market that they can’t cope with.

  • Tim Vaughan

    Minimum wage laws are bad news for unemployed people, though – they force employers with a limited amount of money for staff salaries to pay more per person. The maths isn’t complicated – if you’re spending more per person on salaries you have to reduce the number of people you employ.

    The end result is that someone who would be willing to work for an amount lower than the minimum wage is prevented from doing so, forcing them to turn to the state for support (on an amount which *has* to be significantly lower than what they’d make on the minimum wage).

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    All very logical. Never happens but very logical

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    San Francisco has a minimum wage higher than any in the nation, and has the lowest unemployment rate. FULL STOP!! This lie, that minimum wage HURTS WORKERS, OH NOEZ!! needs to stop.

    People with money to spend will raise the amount of money companies have to spend on labor. It’s a feedback loop, but yes employers have to be willing to take that temporary hit, something our quarterly economy doesn’t allow.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Sample size=1.
    Utterly unimpressive.
    Minimum wage does hurt workers, no empirical evidence needed.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Minimum wage does hurt workers, no empirical evidence needed.

    CITATION NEEDED

    And no idiot, the sample size is the rest of the fucking country. Just like Costco is more profitable than Sams, while paying higher wages, and no I won’t give you a citation, because A) already done that with all of my assertions, and none of them have been wrong B) do your own fucking research. My purpose in this life is not to educate those that refuse to learn.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I am not about to do the job of defending your claims for you. You only mentioned San Francisco, not “the rest of the fucking country” in your comment.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    San Fran: highest wages/lowest unemployment in the country.

    What part of that ISN’T referring to the rest of the country? What ELSE could it have possibly be compared to.

  • The_L1985

    So…Aeryl’s opinion needs more evidence to be considered, but YOURS doesn’t?

    Since when did YOU become a god?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I don’t consider myself a god; I simply consider myself right until proven wrong.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Oh, so you only consider yourself the D&D version of a god. Glad you clarified that.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    For someone who claims not to be a libertarian, you’re pretty fast to pull out the whole “My theory is elegant, therefore true. Stop looking at all the evidence from reality which discredits it” thing

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    What reality discredits it?

  • Anon_Ymous

    whoa… what? Sample size = 1 is unimpressive in terms of “Hey! 100% of this sample size is this way! This must be true in every situation ever!”, but it’s a DAMN lot better than a sample size of 0 unsupported assertion that you have given, citing “no empirical evidence needed”

    EH: “Sample size = 1 is garbage. Sample size = 0? Solid gold!”

  • arashtorel

    San Francisco has a minimum wage higher than any in the nation, and has
    the lowest unemployment rate. FULL STOP!! This lie, that minimum wage
    HURTS WORKERS, OH NOEZ!! needs to stop.</i?

    Correlation isn't causation.

  • arashtorel

    Don’t know why my comment on the above quote isn’t showing up.

    My point to Aeryl is that correlation is not causation. There may be other factors at work in San Francisco.

    For example, San Francisco has an extremely high cost of living. My guess is that when you adjust the minimum wage for prices, it actually isn’t higher than anywhere else.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    But causation doesn’t have anything to do with Aeryl’s argument. Aeryl didn’t make the argument that raising the minimum wage lowers unemployment. Aeryl provided a counterexample which debunks the claim that higher minimum wage correlates to higher unemployment and thereby hurts workers.

  • dpolicar

    If I assume that when you talk about “minimum wage” and L1985 talks about “living wage” you’re actually talking about the same thing, then it seems that the alternative is that these people are working full time for less than a living wage.

    Given a choice between drawing enough money to survive on while I look for something more productive/lucrative, and drawing less than that while I work full-time and am correspondingly less free to look for something better, I’d prefer the former.

    Which would you prefer, were you in that situation?

    Now, mind you, I’m not claiming that just because I’d prefer it I’m somehow entitled to it. Perhaps I’m not. Perhaps the world is better off in that situation if I slowly starve to death. Hell, perhaps the world is better off if I just get on with it and slice my own throat. That’s a value judgment, and people’s values differ.

    But I am claiming that the first scenario is not “bad news” for me.

  • Tim Vaughan

    In a country where you have both benefits and minimum wage laws (like the UK) the choice is basically between working minimum wage (or above) and living on benefits. Jobseekers allowance (basically unemployment benefit) is well below the minimum wage, otherwise no-one would bother working minimum wage. Your choice seems to be between working for less than you’d get on unemployment benefit and drawing unemployment benefit, a situation that doesn’t legally exist in the UK (and the US, I believe) anyway.

    So there’s a gap in between where people are preventing from working when they might otherwise be willing. That hurts both employers and employees.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Full-time minimum-wage work in the US does not provide enough money to survive on unless one works a second job and/or draws benefits of some sort. That’s why dpolicar is talking about the difference between minimum and living wage. Wiki says the average US weekly payment is $293, which is just about exactly $7.25 * 40, which means half of all people receiving unemployment compensation are making more than minimum wage to look for a new job (and half are making less). So, assuming dpolicar is in the lucky upper half, yeah, I can see why he’d rather unemployment benefits than minimum-wage work.

  • dpolicar

    Just for clarity: I am actually in the incredibly lucky much-much-much less than half; I have a well-paying job. I prefer to describe hypothetical scenarios in the first person, though, it encourages me to empathize with them.

  • stardreamer42

    Note also that you can’t GET full-time work at minimum wage in the US, because working full-time would make you eligible for mandatory benefits and no employer wants to pay for benefits for minimum-wage serfs. What you end up doing is working 2 or 3 part-time jobs that add up to 40 hours a week or more.

  • dpolicar

    Is there a reason the “while looking for something better” clause drops out of your formulation?

    Because, sure, if I think of being on jobseekers allowance as somehow unrelated to jobseeking, your reasoning makes sense… here I am, willing to work for something in that gap, and prevented from doing so permanently; I’m worse off.

    OTOH, if I connect the two, it starts making less sense… here I am, willing to work for minimum wage, and able to spend time and effort looking for a minimum-wage job rather than spending that time and effort working a job for less; I’m better off.

    Of course, if there simply isn’t any work for me to do that provides enough benefit to the system overall to compensate for a minimum wage, then the second state isn’t actually any better, because I won’t find that job. Are you assuming something like this?

  • Tim Vaughan

    In the UK, at least, unemployed people need to show that they’re actively seeking work in order to receive jobseekers allowance. They might be seeking a £50,000 a year job if they’re qualified enough, or it might be stacking shelves at minimum wage if they’re not. So the idea is that the state prevents people from starving while they find work (i.e. “while looking for something better”).

    The gap between the two is going to make unemployment numbers higher, not lower. The state is effectively acting like a union that encourages its members not to compete with each other for jobs below a certain salary. Although, since it’s the state we’re talking about, it doesn’t “encourage”; it mandates through laws.

    Is that a meaningful reply to your comment? Just want to be sure we’re not missing each other somewhere.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If the state were interested in preventing people from starving, unemployment allowance would be just below minimum wage regardless, and minimum wage would be a living wage. I don’t know about the UK, but in the US neither is true.

  • xulon

    In the states, unemployed also need to show that they are seeking employment and NO allowance is made for typical level of wage. If you are offered a job at minimum wage and you turn it down, your benefits are in jeopardy. In Ohio, the state employment board (which also sends out notifications to those receiving benefits and it is expected that you at least attempt to get the recommended job) is run by an out of state contractor who refuses to list Union jobs.

  • The_L1985

    Ditto in the US. You have to show that you went to at least 3 places per week and applied for a job, but didn’t get any of those jobs, in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits. And even if you follow all the rules, they still cut you off after a year. (Disability benefits work differently, of course, because you generally don’t stop being disabled–but you still have to jump through hoops just to prove that you have a disability and that it does, in fact, affect your ability to work.)

  • Jamoche

    There are different requirements – some people had to go to places and fill out job application forms, I was in a different category that had to send out resumes.

  • The_L1985

    The UK actually takes qualifications into account? The US sure doesn’t.

  • Tim Vaughan

    Yup – I have a friend who was looking for midwife jobs and couldn’t find one for a bit, so drew jobseekers allowance. They were told not to bother applying for non-midwife jobs as they were too highly skilled and it would be a waste. Struck me as surprisingly sensible.

  • The_L1985

    Sadly, the US government, or at least the parts dealing with money, is extremely UNsensible.

  • dpolicar

    We might be missing each other; I’m unsure. Let me try to be more precise.

    Suppose I’m unemployed and I need £N1 to sustain myself, jobseeker benefits are £N2, there exists an employer who would pay me £N3 if they could, and minimum wage is £N4.

    So if we eliminate minimum wage (case A), I get the N3 offer. In the US, I (roughly speaking) lose my jobseeker benefits if I turn down a job offer. So there are two choices:
    (A1) I accept the offer. I’m now making N3.
    (A2) I turn it down. I lose benefits and starve.

    If we keep minimum wage (case B), I don’t get the offer. In the US, jobseeker benefits expire after a fixed interval. So there are two possibilities:
    (B1) I later find a job. I’m now making N4 or higher.
    (B2) I fail to find a job. Eventually benefits expire and I starve.

    In terms of which cases I’m better off in, I would say B1 > A1 > B2 > A2.
    So my willingness to endorse B over A in the US depends critically on the chance of B1 vs B2.

    Would you disagree with any of the above?

    Is the situation saliently different in the UK? (From your description, it sounds like it might be.)

  • Tim Vaughan

    Hey, thanks for the reply – blame the US/UK time difference for the delay in me replying.

    Where I’d disagree, I think, is where your case A assumes you’ll only be able to make N3. If you’re able to find a job in case B that pays N4 or higher, you should be able to find that same job in case A, right? Assuming your skills and other circumstances remain the same in both case A and B. So I’d say that B1 and A1 should be the same, where you make N4 in either case – why would you keep a job paying N3 when you could be earning N4? Or maybe you should introduce another case A3, where you find a job that pays N4 or higher.

    As for differences between the UK and US – I don’t think jobseekers allowance expires over here.

  • AnonaMiss

    Yeah I don’t think the differences have sunk in to you.

    In case A, maybe he’d be able to find a job that pays N4, but he has to take the first job he’s offered, because in the US you stop getting benefits if you turn down any job, even if it’s a large downgrade.

  • FearlessSon

    I once nearly lost my benefits because a job I had arranged to be interviewed for through a contracting agency was deliberately vague on the details, did not play to my skill set (they just needed warm bodies), expected me to work shifts that I could not make because public transportation does not run at those hours, and taking it would have prevented me from searching for other contracts elsewhere in the same (large) company for at least three months.

    Thankfully I was able to argue my way out of that on the right forms, but jeeze, that was a tense couple of weeks in which my benefits were suspended.

  • dpolicar

    If you’re able to find a job in case B that pays N4 or higher, you should be able to find that same job in case A, right?

    Nope. At the risk of repeating myself: in case A, I can receive the N3 offer, at which point I’m (in the US) faced with a choice: take the offer, or lose my benefits. I don’t have the option of continuing to receive benefits while I look for an N4 offer.

    Granted, I can take the N3 offer, work the N3 job, and keep looking for an N4 offer, and quit the N3 job when I receive it. If looking for a job while working full-time is equivalent to looking for a job while not working full-time, then A and B are equivalent, but in my experience they aren’t equivalent.

    As for differences between the UK and US – I don’t think jobseekers allowance expires over here.

    Yup, that changes the equation as well.

  • Tim Vaughan

    But what’s stopping you for applying for the N4 job while you’re drawing unemployment benefit? Honest question – do US regulations require the unemployed to apply for the lowest paying jobs or does the person get to choose?

  • dpolicar

    As I understand it, I’m not obligated to apply to every possible job, but neither do I have to apply to receive an offer. If you want to hire me at N3 and make me an offer, the fact that I didn’t apply is irrelevant.

    I could be wrong about that, though.

    Also, when jobs are announced they are not always announced with a salary, so I may not even know whether a given job is N3 or N4 until I receive an offer.

  • dpolicar

    The below said, though, nothing stops me from applying for the N4 job. If I get an offer for the N4 job before someone offers me the N3 job, then I win.

    Well, relatively speaking.

  • The_L1985

    Unemployment, at max rates, tends to be around $10k/year. Working minimum-wage in the US, 40 hours a week, with no holidays works out to $15,080/year precisely. (Americans: US minimum wage is still $7.25/hr, right?)

    The federal poverty line (below which one cannot afford to pay for both food AND the rent, much less any luxuries) is $24k for a single person with no dependents.

    And this still assumes that you’re able to get 40 whole hours at that low-wage job, and that your boss isn’t making you do any work off the clock. Most low-wage jobs are slashing hours left and right, so most minimum-wage workers make even less than the amount I calculated.

  • tatortotcassie

    Now maybe this goes state by state, but when I was on unemployment, I was able to collect significantly more a week than minimum wage. That was because the job I had lost had paid really well.
    I was desperate to find work, yet I could appreciate the irony that working 40 hours a week for minimum wage would mean a decrease in income vs collecting unemployment. (And to put this in perspective, that was about two months ago.)

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    What you collect in unemployment is based on what was paid to your FUTA and SUTA accounts, which is based on your income.

    So yes, it’s very possible to make more than min. wage on UI. But it is still considerably less, and most states have a max. For example, here in KY, max benefits are $415/wk. Which is more than min wage, but if you’re used to living on $50,000/yr, well….

  • dpolicar

    That said, if I earn $50K, I’m also in a much better position to obtain resources (for example, savings) with which to weather a period of unemployment than if I earn $27K.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The largest employers don’t have limited money for staff pay. We know this because the largest employers make the biggest profits. Hello Walmart. (Did you know that Walmart pays its employees so little that every store costs taxpayers in the vicinity of a million dollars in benefits such as SNAP?)

  • Tim Vaughan

    “Limited” in my comment means “not infinite”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So Walmart has limited money for staff pay because the profits they could be using for staff pay are merely scarily large? wtf.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    There is a point, I work for a small business, and business like mine employ something like 75% of all Americans. And right now, we can’t afford to expand our payroll. so no raises and no new hires. BUT, if a minimum wage were instituted and mandated cost of living wage increase was as well, we’d take a momentary hit. BUT, it would only be momentary. We would eventually recover as PEOPLE HAD MORE MONEY TO SPEND!!

    Something like that would have to be heavily regulated. If we were to take such a hit, and creditors would get tense and could pull our loans, leaving us with no option to close. So regulations stating that companies who increase their debt loads, and that debt is attributed to an increase in payroll expenses, are protected from such bankster retaliation.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    There is a point, I work for a small business, and business like mine employ something like 75% of all Americans.

    -[citation needed].

    We would eventually recover as PEOPLE HAD MORE MONEY TO SPEND!!

    -No, they wouldn’t. There would be enough people laid off so that, on average, people would have less money to spend.

  • smrnda

    I think you’re wrong here. Some employers maybe can’t afford to pay more money, but others certainly can. If less money goes to shareholders and executives, and more money goes to workers, then more money is actually spent on goods and services. All the Ruling Class does with money is consolidate ownership, which does *not* drive economic growth the way consumer spending does.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    All the Ruling Class does with money is consolidate ownership

    -I doubt it. Money tends to lose value when it isn’t invested.

  • dpolicar

    These claims are orthogonal.

    For example, I can begin an expensive campaign of acquiring all my competitors and increase my profits once I’ve eliminated competition and can set my prices and policies accordingly. This is an investment of money, resulting in an increase of monetary value, through the consolidation of ownership.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    smrnda still didn’t back up her claim that

    All the Ruling Class does with money is consolidate ownership

    .

  • dpolicar

    That’s true.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    GEE TAKE A LOOK AROUND!!

    What do you think is happening to this country?

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    You really are dumb. Employers hire as many employees as they need. No more, no less. If my company needs 10 people to function in a money making capacity, we hire 10 no matter the cost. If those wages go up, we still have to have 10 people. Of course, as everyone has more money to spend, we will make more money, requiring us to have more employees to continue making money.

    http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/nov2009/sb20091112_157141.htm

    Relevant quote:

    In 2006, the ADP data showed that 82.9% of U.S. employment was in businesses with less than 500 employees.

    In addition:

    Even if we assume that every employee counted by the SBA and missed by ADP was employed in a large business, ADP’s estimates would show that small businesses accounted for 77.2% of U.S. employment,

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    You really are dumb.

    -Ad hom is an ad hom.

    Employers hire as many employees as they need. No more, no less.

    -True.

    If my company needs 10 people to function in a money making capacity, we hire 10 no matter the cost.

    -Assuming what you say is true, if the minimum wage is increased, then some businesses could go out of business due to the added cost.
    You didn’t even fully read the Business Week article you referenced.

    ADP is measuring establishments, whereas Census is measuring firms. And small establishments, it turns out, are very different than small firms. According to the U.S. Census, “an establishment is a single physical location where business transactions take place and for which payroll and employment records are kept.” Firms are “groups of one or more establishments under common ownership or control.”

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Yes, I did, I side with ADP’s assertion over what qualifies for a small business than I do with SBA/Census. That was the whole point in including the second point, but I guess that just went WAY over your head.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Yes, I did, I side with ADP’s assertion over what qualifies for a small business than I do with SBA/Census.

    -Why?

  • Rhubarbarian82

    -Ad hom is an ad hom.

    Your inability to distinguish ad hominem attacks from insults is yet another example of how stupid you are.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Neither of which have any place in an argument.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Right now the minimum wage in most of the country stands somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.50. For the past several decades minimum wage laws have not been keeping pace with inflation and by most calculations they should be about $10.50. This isn’t based on poverty line calculations or anything, it’s simply based on inflation since the 1970s on the minimum wage rates back then.

    Interestingly enough since the ’70s wages have been stagnant or declining for the middle class and the poor. That means that average household buying power has gone down and reliance on credit and government welfare programs has increased. The solution to this is to make sure everyone has money and a living wage is the best way to do that in a sustainable fashion. If you pay people enough to live they can afford to spend money on other things which will then allow other people to get paid enough to live. It’s a virtuous cycle.

    The entire “but what about the people who are willing to work for less than minimum wage?” argument, meanwhile, is a neat rhetorical trick pushed by monied interests who would fit in quite well with the robber barons of the Gilded Age. Minimum wage is not enough for people to live on. Period, full stop. So if someone can’t live on $7.50/hour, what, precisely, is the advantage of opening up the possibility of someone who is willing to come in and work for $6/hour? The only person this benefits is the guy cutting the paychecks, who most likely will now be hiring one person at $6/hour rather than 2 people at $12/hour. But by the same token if that person really needs to have an employee working in that job because the job brings him money, he’ll most likely suck it up and pay $10/hour if the minimum wage goes up. Why? Because employers hire people primarily based on need, not wage. If someone is doing a job that needs to be done and that provides a positive ROI then someone will get hired to do that job. Minimum wage laws make sure that the employer can’t just turn that one job into a race to the bottom for wages.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Microeconomic viewpoint, does not scale macroeconomically.

  • Isabel C.

    I’d be more sympathetic if these “employers with a limited amount of money for staff salaries” weren’t making six figures a year. If you’re spending more per person on salaries, you could also, y’know, take a damn pay cut yourself.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Right? Even the lowest possible six-figure salary could damn near pay for four of me.

  • Tim Vaughan

    How do you know they wouldn’t?

  • Jon Maki

    We may not know that they wouldn’t, but we do know that they haven’t.

  • Isabel C.

    As Jon Maki says: because they haven’t.

    Because I can look at all the companies that are whining about how minimum wage hinders their ability to blah blah blah and I can look at the lifestyles of their upper management, and I can draw some conclusions here.

  • The_L1985

    Case in point: Volde-Mart. (Yes, I’m on an anti-Wal-Mart kick again. Indulge me.)

    During the Wal-Mart strikes around Black Friday, CNN announced they’d done the math: If Wal-Mart paid their employees a living wage, and put the sole burden of the wage increase on the shoulders of the consumers (in the form of slightly-higher prices) instead of decreasing CEO pay, the difference to the consumer would be a whopping 20 cents. Not per item, but per transaction.

    20 cents.

    Less than the price of a candy bar–even less than the price of a little pack of Wrigley’s gum. Twenty cents that the Waltons wouldn’t even have to pay themselves.

    And they still won’t do it.

  • tatortotcassie

    And now compare Walmart to Costco, one of their competitors. Costco base pay starts at $11/hr. They had record profits last year.

    Walmart did not.

  • The_L1985

    Well, technically, since Costco is a members-only bulk store, they’re more in competition with Sam’s Club.
    But Sam’s Club is still owned by Wal-Mart, so…

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Capitalism at work.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    What’s “a living wage”?

  • The_L1985

    The minimum amount necessary to ensure you can afford ALL of the following on 40 hours/week:

    – Nutritious food;
    – Rent payments;
    – Inexpensive replacements for old clothes as they wear out;
    – Any utilities your rent doesn’t cover (in some areas, for example, you might still have to pay extra for your electricity);
    – About $1000/year to put into savings, in case of emergency.

    The current US minimum wage is several thousand dollars a year shy of that.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    How much would this “living wage” be per hour?

  • The_L1985

    That varies from state to state, but surely no less than $11/hr or thereabouts.

  • The_L1985

    Bullshit. Every case of “wage theft” (workers being paid less than the legal minimum wage, or working off the clock) occurs in large corporations which can easily afford to pay workers, not only minimum wage, but an actual living wage.

  • Tim Vaughan

    Got an example? Not that I don’t believe you, I’m just wondering why people would work for less than minimum wage. Unless it’s more than they’d get from the state and they’re actually acting in their own economic interests?

  • The_L1985

    They work for less than minimum wage because they have no other options. We’re talking about people who are already working 60-80 hours/week just to feed their families; they have literally NO waking hours to devote to finding a better job. When you cannot change your situation due to lack of opportunity, acting in your own interests is impossible. Their best interest is to STFU so they don’t get fired, because their other jobs don’t pay enough to survive on just so they can ensure they’re only hired by people who pay a legal amount.

    StopWageTheft.org has a nice long list of links to mainstream news reports about individual cases of wage theft.

    This blog also discusses wage-theft issues, and includes worker testimonies.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Most are self employed contractors who aren’t covered by unemployment insurance, and some money is better than no money.

  • The_L1985

    Not necessarily. I’ve heard Wal-Mart workers complain about having to work off the clock, and they weren’t working as independent contractors!

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Not disagreeing with you, but Wal Mart workers aren’t exactly what Tim was asking about, because WalMart workers who work minimum wage, even with wage theft, still make more than they would in UI, which is what he asked.

    Self employed contractors don’t have any Unemployment protection when the work dries up, and have to accept the lowest wages to keep work coming in. And I know of several people who were hourly wage employees, who’ve been transitioned into contractor status by their employers, because the employer has less obligations to contractors.

  • Davis.Lantz

    Sry to jump in late & with a long comment- but there is a root problem that is not addressed and will never be addressed through unemployment laws, benefits or whatever, and this is the profit incentive at the top of the food chain. As long as there are no restrictions or maximum limit to either profit or income, those at the top who control the monetary flows of their companies will prioritize profit and sustainability for the long term. What this will mean is that for every dollar filtering through their ranks, money is siphoned towards the top. Minimum wage laws are nice in the sense that if applied universally no company loses competitive advantage due to cheaper labor (except to oversees competition) however minimum wage laws do not stop major corporations or even small businesses from siphoning money to the top (As is their assumed right as the owner(s)) When the financial weight shifts to the top there will always be less at the bottom to spread around. I would suggest some sort of static wealth tax, something to the tune of “IF the money sits there unspent for x amount of time it will be taxed at higher than sales tax rates. At the same time, I would lower the business side tax rate for paying employees and create a law tying the minimum wage to the relative average pay scale at the company something like what Japan has where the top pay rates cannot exceed X times more than the least paid employee. basically ensuring that if the top wants more, they have to pay the bottom more. the trick is making it not factor exponentially in favor of the top. Sadly this would require the growth of government power, Unfortunately we can’t rely on the upper classes to break their engrained cultural expectations of wealth simply by asking them nicely to spend all their money. – Just a side note- If we taxed the top 20% richest individuals a 30% flat wealth tax we would pay down the entirety of the Federal Debt. This just goes to show how much actual wealth they hold…

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    That is an excellent point. People “forget” that the high tax rates on capital gains where the CAUSE of those halcyon days of economic expansion in the 50’s conservatives claim to wish to return to(along with the blatant racism, sexism, and homophobia)

  • The_L1985

    UI? What does the I stand for?

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Unemployment Insurance

  • The_L1985

    There’s insurance for that? I thought the government was the one paying unemployment benefits, not a private company!

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Employers and employees contribute, and pay the premiums to the state. And if you have too many layoffs, your rate can increase.

    So if you are self employed, you either have to cover both shares of contributions, or not contribute at all, which means you don’t collect benefits.

  • The_L1985

    I’ve never heard of this. I honestly didn’t realize I was paying into a pool of unemployment dollars. I knew you can’t collect unemployment if you quit instead of being fired, but I’d always assumed that this was a government thing, paid for with everybody’s tax dollars more or less “equally,” not something you pay into more directly like Social Security.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl
  • The_L1985

    “Only the employer pays FUTA tax; it is not deducted from the employee’s wages.”

    When you said “Employers and employees contribute,” that sounded to me like “It’s taken out of your paycheck.” Thanks for clearing that up. :)

    It also looks like neither of the states I’ve lived in as an adult draw the SUTA from the employee’s pay directly.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I believe it’s lumped into a part of FICA on the employee part, it’s not a separate deduction, itemized out. But part of what you pay to FICA covers your FUTA.

  • The_L1985

    I shouldn’t read the comments at night. I was scrolling past all of the FUTA comments and couldn’t stop snickering. See, there’s this thing some of the Japanese are into…

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I wasn’t going to say anything.

    Oh hey, votes are no longer anonymous.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Okay, upvotes are no longer anonymous.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I imagine it could be supplemented by an appropriation if more money were needed, though.

  • reynard61

    *snerk* Good luck getting *that* through a Rethuglican legislature and past a Rethuglican Governor’s (or President’s) veto pen.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Additionally, there’s a myth in our culture, called the “Protestant work ethic” that says that the harder you work, the more prosperous you will be. As a result, many people in the United States will happily work for less than minimum wage — and minimum wage is less than a living wage — secure in their (generally mistaken) belief that they will somehow achieve prosperity in the process.

  • Albanaeon

    Doesn’t work that way. Since you increase the amount of money in the pool that is likely to come your way (as in people on the lower end of the wage scale tend to spend all that money), more money comes into businesses that cater to the lower end, usually creating a positive feedback loop.

    The math isn’t complicated…

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    If you’re going to pay someone less than a living wage, then why should they give you their labor?

    More to the point, this is total bullshit. If an employer requires X employees to do the job, he hires X employees. If minimum wage goes up, he still hires X people because with less than X people, the job doesn’t get done. If the minimum wage does down, he still doesn’t hire more than X people because He’s already got the X he needs to get the job done.

    And reality bears this out time and again. Employers find ways to make do with the least number of employees possible, and if that many employees can get the job done there is zero reason for him to hire a single additional employee to do that work, no matter how low the wage.

  • tatortotcassie

    plus it’s cheaper to force your current employees to work overtime than it is to actually go out and hire new employees to cover the work that needs to be done.
    and yes, I do mean “force.” Intimidation and fear are forms of force, as I have personally discovered.

  • Gabe Nichols

    Leaving aside questions of morality (which we never should but for purposes of argument I will) this is based on an economic theory that has been proven false. The basic idea behind this concept is that the decision to hire or fire employees is a simple one. If the marginal product of a worker times the market price of their output is greater than marginal cost of that worker companies will add employees. If not they will fire employees until that is the case. However over the past 40 years productivity has doubled while real incomes (that marginal cost times prices) have remained stagnant. If the above theory accurately described the behavior of firms the increase in productivity should have created a massive hiring spree that drove up competition for workers until costs rose to match. However instead the increase in productivity was almost entirely used to increase the share of wealth transferred to capital rather than labor through increased profits (something else that traditional economic theory considers to be a market failure BTW)

    In short the last 40 years have been a wonderful natural experiment for exactly the theory of labor prices you are advocating and that theory has been disproved. To continue to argue it at this point is either ignorant (a distinct possibility given that most of the public discourse in economics is very poor) or mendacious. I won’t try to claim which

  • EllieMurasaki

    Or the transfer of wealth from labor to capital is the goal here, ‘market failure’ or not.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I regret that I have but one “like” for your post, because it is so very wonderfully succinct. :)

  • smrnda

    I don’t buy this, since many low-wage employers are still making lots of money, and below minimum wage isn’t even going to get you a residence.

    How much do you make? Do you think you can actually obtain both food, shelter etc. for say, $4 and hour?

  • arashtorel

    That math is incorrect. In addition to employing fewer people, you can also channel funds from other parts of the business, like equipment or shareholder dividends.

  • Andrew Galley

    Fred simply pointed out that if people have a duty to work, they therefore must also have a right to work. But one could just as easily — probably more easily, really — conclude that the idea of a nondescript “duty to work” is incoherent in a modern economy.

  • Tim Vaughan

    Fine, but what I’m asking is what a “right to work” means practically. Who is responsible for providing jobs for people who have a right to work? A local business? The state?

    Here in the UK we deal with that by providing jobseekers allowance – people are effectively employed by the state (well below minimum wage!) to find themselves a job.

  • Maniraptor

    Anyone who’s arguing that people have a duty to work had better be helping there be work for those people to do, for one, otherwise they’re simply being cruel.

    I believe Fred’s post is more about calling out injustice than making an economic proposal.

  • Alicb

    I agree that the “right to work” is merely meant to be a natural extension of the notion of a “duty to work”, in that if you as a politician are going to criticize someone for not having a job then you have to be willing to provide them with the opportunity to work.

    A comparable situation would be if a politician condemned youths for not attending school in a country where public schools did not exist and private schools were not affordable to most. It’s the same concept as an “unfunded mandate”, in that demanding that someone do something that is virtually impossible is kind of an assholish thing to do.

  • Carstonio

    And he’s terribly, terribly confused about the context and the meaning of this passage from the New Testament and how it has been understood by centuries of Christian teaching.

    I doubt that he cares about the real meaning. Fred doesn’t mention that Fincher and Bachmann are invoking Southern Strategy euphemisms. One could argue that these two really believe in the myth of black laziness, but more important is that they’re pandering to that belief among their voters.

  • The_L1985

    Of course. I doubt Fincher and Bachmann even realize that there are poor white people in the US. Nope, if you’re on unemployment, it MUST be because you are both lazy and black.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Or lazy and a non-white person of any melanin level, depending on which crowd you wish to rally.

  • AnonaMiss

    Bachmann knows. That’s her constituency.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Based on the rhetoric I’ve seen, white people are poor/unemployed because of all those dark-skinned people stealing their jobs through affirmative action and living large on welfare.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I’ve seen a lot of rhetoric that says people of all skin colors are unemployed for being lazy — if they’re disabled. Then there are the inevitable “trailer trash” comments seen on many a blog. I think that while racism is still an absolutely huge factor, the wages of whiteness are slowly being diminished when it comes to blaming poor people for being poor.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I suppose it depends on who the audience is.

  • FearlessSon

    It has always been about classism, in every society, back to the beginning of time. Racism was good for classists because it made the class labels so much more obvious and so much more easy to enforce. Even the poorest white person could still say that they were not part of the lower class simply by the color of their skin. The reason so many of those poor whites became the most passionate racists was because without that, they would be on the bottom of the social heap too and they desperately wanted to avoid that.

  • FearlessSon

    I doubt that he cares about the real meaning.

    I think it gets even simpler than the Southern Strategy euphemisms. It is pretty much a philosophy of “I’ve got mine, screw you.” But people do not like hearing that, and will get angry at those taken blatant unfair advantage of them, so those taking the unfair advantage cloak it in homely messages, invoking appeals to tradition and values and nice-sounding platitudes.

    Somehow, this seems to ease the pain of getting screwed over. Or at least eases it enough to prevent those getting screwed over to do anything about it.

  • xulon

    When I first moved to Ohio, it seemed as if “No Workie, No Eatie” was the state motto. Everybody quoted it and not always with grace. And when, four years into my sojourn here, I got laid off and brought it up at a prayer meeting, that was the first thing out of the first prayer’s mouth.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    That is a special kind of assholishness.

  • dpolicar

    At my lowest points, people like that make me want to chain myself to their front porch and slowly starve to death. Because, you know, that’ll show ’em.

    I don’t endorse this impulse, and I recognize it isn’t exactly realistic. Still, it’s present.

    I’m sorry you have to deal with them. I’m especially sorry you had to deal with them while vulnerable.

  • xulon

    Thanks. Yeah, “Lord I pray for my brother who is laid off. He Knows the Scriptures that if he is not working he shouldn’t eat.” As sincerely as a depraved heart could speak.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Wait, I thought churches should handle all of the social safety net stuff! I keep hearing people say that…

    …huh!

  • Jenny Islander

    The last time I did the math, if “the churches” took over all government aid to the poor, and by “the churches” we meant all organized congregations of whatever religion, and all churches took on the burden equally, then our household’s share of aid to the poor would be almost half of our annual income. Note that we qualify for WIC.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Yeah, I was bein’ snide.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    What about the kids? Well, it isn’t like any Republicans are seriously suggesting that we abandon child labor laws & set poor kids to work. Oh…wait…the producers are telling me that is exactly what they are advocating? Well I give up.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I know “where is my jetpack?” is a joke, but it should be the entering wedge to some serious questions about social evolution over the last century.

    This planet has a species so capable of exploiting all that it has to offer that, at least for that species every member of it can live in ease and comfort should the results of that exploitation of Earth’s resources be distributed equally.

    I refer, of course, to Homo sapiens. :)

    Yet we today have a planet in which a tiny sliver can truly be said to be totally insulated from the vicissitudes of life, while the remainder must to lesser or greater degree be subject to the doctrine of “let the devil take the hindmost”.

    And this is wrong. :(

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Why is it wrong?

  • smrnda

    Because I am privileged despite not having done anything to deserve it, and the vast majority of people are being pissed and shat on.

    I could say ‘well, luck is luck’ but then I am an amoral shit-head. Amoral shit-heads should be dealt with by force and have their property taken away, the same way an army who seizes the only water supply in a desert should be fought. Same thing.

    Or, I can admit that luck is luck, but it’s my job to make things fair while I’m the lucky one.

    All said, you seem to take great pride in being indifferent to other people. Would you still think this way if you were destitute and unable to pay your medical bills? Would you stoically accept death as better than having rich people pay more taxes?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Would you still think this way if you were destitute and unable to pay your medical bills?

    -I don’t know.

    Would you stoically accept death as better than having rich people pay more taxes?

    -That would depend on the circumstances of the premature death.

  • ReverendRef

    Read the surrounding verses for a bit more context

    That’s funny. As if anyone who uses the Bible as a club reads for context.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    As far as they’re concerned, it’s a responsibility not only that you work, but that you remain fit to work, capable of the work in question, knowledgeable of anything needed to do that work, and capable of selling yourself at any cost to any employer.

    In other words, the onus is on the likely victim not to become the target of a criminal act. Why does that sound familiar?

  • David S.

    Something’s wrong with that 1936 constitution. It claims to be from 1936, but article 13 lists the Baltic republics that were invaded in 1940 as states.

  • http://estneillaamata.blogspot.com/ JulianaSundry

    Amendments, maybe? (That’s just my guess; I don’t know.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Without having seen the document myself: surely there’d be annotations to reflect original text vs amendments, like with any copy of the US Constitution.

  • konrad_arflane

    No amendments are listed (at least on the page linked). Either there’s something wrong with the date, or it’s a “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia” situation.

    Point of interest: of the 16 Soviet Socialist Republics listed, *five* didn’t exist until 1940 – the three Baltic SSRs, the Moldavian SSR and the Karelo-Finnish SSR.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It may be possible that the Soviets claimed them as states even though they were independent prior to 1940.

  • David S.

    I’m suspecting they’re unmentioned amendments. The Soviets signed a peace treaty with Lithuania in 1920, and even gave them Vilnius (then part of Poland, and a long sore point) in 1939. They even went through the farce of having the Lithuanians “vote” to join the Soviet Union. It would be weird if the Soviets were openly claiming them as part of the Soviet Union in 1936.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    It would be weird if the Soviets were openly claiming them as part of the Soviet Union in 1936.

    Actually, I think it would fit in pretty well with both the times in both broader Europe and the Soviet Union in particular in 1936.

  • Cathy W

    The Soviet Union, notably, was not above letting reality get in the way of a good political statement.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Huzzah for Disqus for de-anonymizing upvotes!

  • reynard61

    Let’s ya stoke that ego; eh, EH?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    How does de-anonymizing upvotes allow me to “stoke that ego”?

  • smrnda

    I’m guessing he assumed you’d gotten an upvote. Is that a false assumption?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Yes, it is a false assumption.

  • Hanan

    >It makes no sense to say that people have a duty to work unless they also have a right to work.

    I don’t understand, did someone imply they don’t have a right to work? Or, are you subtly implying that by “right” you mean, a guarantee of result? A right to work (which they do have) is the the same as a guarantee of work.

  • Hanan

    Should read; NOT the same as guarantee of work

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    If everyone has the responsibility to work, they must also have the opportunity to work. People are being criticized for not working when the number of job openings is one third that of the number of people looking for jobs, so statistically speaking, two out of three people are catching flack for something they have no way of helping.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Please stop arguing with the troll. Please stop giving it attention. It should be becoming obvious that a pattern emerges with each and every thread it posts in and how little gets accomplished by trying to argue with it.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    “It”?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You could be chat bot for all anyone knows.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    More dehumanization.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Also, how come this “chat bot” has a blog and a YouTube channel?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Internet hoaxter set it up.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    And wrote over 400 posts and made over six well-researched YouTube videos?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    A VERY THOROUGH internet hoaxter. And all those so-called “YouTube Videos” are actually of dancing cats, since nobody’s going to watch them anyway.

    And since I won’t watch them, YOU HAVE NO WAY TO PROVE ME WRONG.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Nonsense. Have you seen my YouTube channel?
    http://www.youtube.com/user/againstjebelallawz/feed

  • http://peaceegalitarianism.blogspot.com/ Brian Bowman

    A basic human right to wage slavery?


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