Scenes from the class war

Scenes from the class war December 10, 2013

“I try to get most of the things my daughter eats because I can hold the hunger — I’m an adult — but she cannot. They don’t understand when there’s no food in the fridge.”

“Nearly 40 percent of all workers in the country made less than $20,000 last year, according to data from the Social Security Administration, which doesn’t include figures on benefits such as health insurance or pensions. … On average, these workers earned just $17,459.55.”

“I already had another job where they requested five days open availability. So there was no way for me to work two jobs.”

“Students poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches were a majority of the school population in 17 states across the South and the West in 2011.”

Food stamps will be cut by somewhere between $4 billion and $40 billion.”

“While annual CEO compensation increased by 726.7 percent between 1978 and 2011, average worker compensation only went up 5.7 percent during the same time.”

“If instead the federal minimum wage had grown at the same rate as one-percenter earnings, it would sit at $22.62 per hour today — 212 percent higher than the current wage floor.”

“Tabarrok can’t understand why people would use layaway. But it’s easy to gain that understanding. Ask some poor people why they use it.”

“Some of the people who don’t have enough to eat, it’s their fault they don’t have enough to eat. Particularly with their children.”

Coal companies paid the Baltimore-based university handsome sums to screen the claimants for the disease. After reviewing chest X-rays, the university’s scientists almost always concluded that the scans did not show black lung — a conclusion which often overwhelmed any other medical opinion in the case.”

“Between them, the 90 companies on the list of top emitters produced 63 percent of the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane between 1751 to 2010, amounting to about 914 gigatons of CO2 emissions, according to the research.”

“A new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that 6.8 million consumers saved an estimated $1.2 billion on health insurance premiums in 2012, due to the ‘rate review’ provision of the Affordable Care Act, which brought unprecedented accountability to slow the growth of health insurance premiums.”

“The government’s attempts to meet its obligations to the Native Americans have failed miserably; the primary cause is insufficient funding.”

“We’re going to continue to get poorer and poorer if we don’t have some kind of rent control ordinance inhibiting this curve.”

“The majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.”

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  • If the only way you can run your business is by exploiting your employees, then you suck at running a business and deserve to have your business fail.

    Why should the state be subsidizing businessmen who can’t make their businesses profitable by taking up the slack for them underpaying their employees? (Yes, that’s what we’re doing. If we didn’t subsidize them in the form of things like food stamps, then their underpaid employees would starve to death and die and then they’d have no employees)

  • TheBrett

    This was about 11 years ago for me, so while inflation is still definitely a factor, it’s not as huge as if it was 20 or 30 years ago. $40,000 11 years ago would be $51,900 now.

  • Reading that “hours linked to sales” thing?

    I just had a huge epiphany.

    One of the biggest transformations in the last forty years in terms of supply chains has been the Just-in-time philosophy which tries as close as possible to reduce idle inventory to zero. This translates into cold hard dollars because a company can shed warehouse space and shed floor space, and since every square foot not used to sell something is a square foot not making a profit, this driving force is a very keen and sharp one especially in today’s world where due to laxer regulation of business, competition in any given sector is often higher than it has ever been in the past.

    Here’s my epiphany:

    Companies are successfully beginning to apply the JIT philosophy to labor supply.

    Nothing else comes close to explaining why nobody can ever seem to get the same shifts every week and why nobody can ever get 40 hours and be legally eligible for benefits.

    Companies are rationalizing labor costs in the same way as inventory carrying costs.

  • I also suspect this points to overexaggeration of alleged crack cocaine usage rates because scary black people high on ragey uppers makes news, even if it’s sensationalistic crap half made up out of gossamer thin air.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Yeah, cost of living matters a lot. I live in an area where one literally cannot buy a home for $250,000. You could get a 1 bedroom condo; maybe a decent 2 bedroom if you got lucky. I have a relatively good salary but home ownership is just a dream.

  • Someone’s been holdin’ out on those Star Trek Replicators….

  • SororAyin

    Mark 5:30 always make me think of Jesus as some sort of Van de Graaff generator.

  • Yeah. These days, rent to own agreements are built in ways that blatantly rip you off once you do the math. A roomie and I were about to sign off on a rent to own TV and then I realized it would end up being over $750 when a TV on sale down at Future Shop was like $300.

    No contest, roomie and I plunked dpwn the cash for the $300 TV.

  • 14. Rent control sucks. The tenants get cheaper rent, but then get to spend forever

    The usual compromise (as in here in BC) is to limit rent increases to a specified percentage based on the inflation rate.

  • Their competition also has to pay the same baseline wage. Look, it’s a free frickin market.

    Businesses can and do fail for reasons that have zip-all to do with their cost structure.

    Maybe your parents parked their pizzeria at the ass end of town and miscalculated how many people would swing by on a given day.

    Maybe their delivery radius was too small or too big.

    Maybe their drivers had a habit of slacking off on the delivery so the pizzas came in cold.

    Maybe the oven they had just didn’t quite bake the pizzas right and people didn’t like the taste.

    Consider this:

    Suppose the minimum wage went down.

    Great, your parents have a cost structure more advantageous to them.

    So does their competition.

    It’s ultimately a no-win scenario on the micro scale; on the macro scale what’s needed is a generally expansionary fiscal-monetary policy that drives income into the hands of the poor, who spend almost all that they make. The money ultimately “floats up” and lands in the hands of Big Joe CEO, who gets taxed a sizable amount to recycle the $.

  • They couldn’t afford to pay their best help better. I suppose they were
    ‘failing’ for other reasons, the biggest being that chains like pizza
    hut or buffet joints like Ryans could undercut them on prices,

    Why it’s almost like oligopolistic behavior is a widespread feature of modern Western economies and creates market distortions.

  • Also: how are children supposed to pay the rent?

  • Republcans since Reagan have practically fallen all over themselves to praise the EITC, right up until Clinton got into office and they had collective apoplexy. Then EITC was just “welfare” again.


  • P J Evans

    One thing that the people pushing ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘start your own business’ rarely mention is that most small businesses do fail, or at best only break even.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    Re the last link: Hey, at least they’re now open about treating poor people like the uncivilized animals they always thought we were. The next step is to start a petting zoo; that way, you don’t have to ask those black people if you can touch their hair anymore.

    Hell, we can have them put on traveling minstrel shows. That’s what poor people do, isn’t it? We can laugh and clap our hands at how desperate and stupid these people are.

    We all want to see poor people in a controlled environment; after all, meeting them in real life with the same attitude will likely end with a bill for several thousand dollars in dental surgery.

  • Jenny Islander

    Yes, me too.

    I say this with no will to hurt you, Carstonio: social anxiety sucks. Living on the basic mistrust side of the basic trust vs. basic mistrust psychosocial development divide sucks. Feeling like the seagull that the researchers painted pink in order to toss it into the flock and study how long until its flockmates notice that it is Not Normal and attack it sucks. Struggling with the apparently inextricable conviction that any goodwill directed at one is conditional, and also that the conditions may change without warning or recourse, SUCKS. I know. I’ve been there. I’m still there about half of the time.

    BUT. Venting on the Intertubes certainly helps, BUT, have you gotten up? Because if you want anything to get better, you gotta get up. The specific therapy for our common scar tissue is practice in all types of situations: practice, practice, practice. Even if you have to arrange encounters with strangers, acquaintances, fellow members of X interest group, even family members, so that you know they won’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes. Even if you have to obsessively run through anything the other person might possibly say for, like, a day beforehand so that you can rehearse your responses. Even if you have to grapple with the possibility that the encounter will result in yet another brick being added to your life load of crushing shame.

    I have had pleasant and relaxed conversations with people whose continued goodwill matters very much to me. And whole days go by during which I forget about my load of shame-bricks. But I got to this point after years of practice, practice, practice. And the first thing I did was get up. If you want to eventually break out of the trap, you have to start wiggling the bars.

  • Matri

    It’s simple math. Why bother with a potential sale several weeks or months away when you can sell it to someone who can afford it now. The bottom line decrees it!

    Although I do tend to understand and agree that this makes more financial sense. Smaller stores without large financial safety nets tend to not be able to afford to do so. Larger stores and chains with huge capitals and wide profit margins tend to not understand how and why layaways are popular.

  • Matri


    Given their track record, they’d have to do something spectacular to get me to suppress my cynicism. His “acts of humility” is, nice and all… But they only benefit him personally, and is not in anyway representative of his post.

  • Matri

    If a “minimum wage” causes an increase in labor costs by two-fucking-hundred percent, guess what? The problem isn’t the workers, or the law.

  • alfgifu

    Companies are successfully beginning to apply the JIT philosophy to labor supply.

    Yes, the first thing I thought when I read that article was ‘oh, we’re doing just-in-time with human beings now?’

    If you ignore the horrific impact on the employees, it’s a very efficient way of managing costs. The article points out that you lose some custom if there’s a sudden rush and people can’t get to the till, but given the significance of salary costs in company accounts I don’t think that will bother many retailers. They’re going to be saving more than enough to make up for an occasional lost customer.

    In other words, there’s no point fighting this sort of thing on the grounds that it isn’t actually better for the bottom line – all you’re doing is legitimising ‘more profits’ as the One True Goal of all economic behaviour.

    Root and branch, this kind of thinking has to go. Companies need to take responsibility for the welfare of their employees as part of contributing to a safe, happy, and wealthy society which will in turn reward them by buying their goods.

  • alfgifu

    Have you seen the recent flap about Domino’s pizza in the UK?

    Short version:

    Domino’s pizza boss: “Woe is me, tighter immigration laws mean that I can’t exploit immigrants and can’t find people willing to accept the pittance I offer my employees.”
    Government minister: “STFU and offer higher wages.”

    Big companies will do everything they can to cut costs, including exploiting their workers. They often have the resources to do so much more effectively than a small business. Any changes to the minimum wage designed to help people like your parents are likely to backfire for that reason – and they’ll hurt a lot of other people on the way.

  • IMO, it’s a part of the constant drive to get people in debt.

  • Albanaeon

    But drug abuse rates aren’t all that much different for poor compared to other classes. In fact, they are often less, which is often highlight by a lot of those “drug tests for food” programs Repubs like.

  • Drug abuse is a known symptom of wealth too.

  • themunck

    *sighs* Meh. Good point.

  • themunck

    See my reply to Albanaeon.

  • Wow. That on top of this.

  • VMink

    I know, I apologize for any confusion. I took your satirical post, and read the last question straight. And I don’t know what happens next, either. There will be a breaking point; the question is, will it be different enough for enough people that the tension slowly escalates, or will there be a Bastille Day?

    I don’t want an American Terror. But I also don’t want America to be ruled by a coterie of “Sun Kings.”

  • I had someone once lecture me about how his mom is now rich with what she was able to put aside from her $10 an hour job in the 1980s and so people working for $10 per hour today are obviously wasting their money. i had to break the news to him that a $10 per hour job in 1980 is the equivalent of a $28 an hour job today. I could get rich from what I put aside if I made $28 an hour, too.

  • Raksha38

    The CSA where I used to live sold partial shares for smaller households/single people. They didn’t used to do that until people came to them asking for it and bringing a friend who was willing to buy the other half of their share. Enough people did this that they made it official policy. If the CSAs in your area don’t do that, you might call and suggest it. It could also be they do it on a limited basis, but don’t advertise it.

  • onamission5

    Back when SNAP was doled out in actual books of stamps, I, on a couple occasions, did sell some of my stamps for cash. It was either that or eat in the dark. I could not, however, use my stamps at the store to buy non food items. I couldn’t even buy most of the pre-prepared foods from the deli inside the grocery store. (potato salad yes, cooked chicken, no)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    They can work in a cannery 16 hours a day, just like in the Good Old Days.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Well, they couldn’t very well support it once Clinton got his Evil Librul Cooties all over, now could they?

  • This whole thread has been an illuminating examination of just how unstated (and how they need to be brought into the light) the level of entitlement is among business owners generally.

    They actually think they deserve to always succeed even if it means the government blatantly rigging the situation so they can do so.

    So much for the brave compete-or-die attitude so trumpeted by the Chamber of Commerce and the like!

    And they have the nerve to claim people on welfare think they’re entitled to have a lousy few hundred dollars a month. Even though that just means the government has rigged the unemployment situation to be a little less harsh than it would otherwise be OMG WHAT A CALAMITY.

  • Fanraeth

    My job doesn’t come with sick days, so unless I’m so sick I can’t get out of bed, I’m on the job. I made the mistake of complaining to a co-worker once about how bad I felt in front of an elderly man and this guy proceeded to jump down my throat about how I should be grateful for my job and stop complaining. I told him I appreciated my job just fine, but working while running a fever and coughing my lungs up wasn’t my idea of a good time and walked off. No manager hunted me down, so I guess he wasn’t righteously indignant enough to turn me in.