Saturday, February 1, 2014
My thoughts on Income Equality
Hello My Friends;
I am blessed to a great degree, and sometimes I forget this in my hopes for something just a bit more. I do have a job, an income, and I have a secondary income by hustle.... working for others doing odd jobs like lawn mowing in the summer, leaf pick-up in the fall, and I clean driveways in the winter with my little snow blower. It doesn't amount to much, but keeps me busy, allows me to help my neighbors, and provides a bit of spending money. Through all this, I own my vehicle and my mortgagor is thrilled with me. So, while I'm not making a fortune, I'm living ok. And, really, that's what I want: I want to be constructive, to work and earn enough to pay my bills and save up for other needs like a new car some day. But, all of that comes to an even balance.... I am not getting ahead at all despite living frugally. I'm not saving for a new car. The best I can say is that, unlike many, I am not in debt. And, again, for all that, I am thankful.
As in many things, there exists a catch-22 in our employment economy. In my area, jobs are scarce. We at one time had large industry here. Auto, appliance, large equipment, metal stamping, foundry... near access to railroads and highways, near Lake Michigan, airports within an hour drive... we should have a lot of industry because we are able to move goods easily. But, those jobs are gone. They are now in India, Mexico, China, where there are no OSHA, EPA, unions, insurance, etc. What's also gone is the original people who made the companies, who put in the sweat, blood and tears alongside the common workers. What's left here? Empty buildings, empty homes. You see, unlike the rest of us who struggle to make it, the rich are able to move on and exploit new markets.
But, often they don't really move, do they? Often, as I mentioned above, the very people who struggled side by side with the workers and forged a successful competitive company are now doing their work from a spread sheet, a computer screen, and rarely get their hands dirty with the actual work of making a successful company even were they on the actual site. They have left behind the men and women that fought by their side. Then many cases are the CEO's and heirs that have no blood and sweat equity in the company as they were never there with those workers to begin the company.
The other day, I thought about the many jobs a person can do alone and make it big in this world. I don't know that there are that many? I could think of only one: stock market manipulation. I guess maybe entertainer, like a singer...? But, really, in all fairness, most jobs, most careers that can bring a person up to that "made it" place require the cooperative work of others.
Now, don't get me wrong! I am impressed with those who have the smarts, the skills, the drive, the stubbornness to make it big. They often risk everything they have to launch a great idea into a great company. But, how often do they really do it alone? For instance, how many jobs don't require workers - machine operators, drivers, salesmen, etc? And, where would that entrepreneur be without those workers? He'd be doing all himself.... and getting no where.
What's my point in all of this? There is absolutely nothing wrong with being rich. There is absolutely nothing wrong with thriving by one's hard work and risk, smarts, etc. But, just like that entrepreneur thrived by the hard work and diligence of his workers, those workers should also be rewarded for their labors. But, somehow the labors of the workers have been seen as worthless. Why? Because too many have no idea what it takes to make the machines run, the trucks go down the road. They somehow think that they made it where they are all on their own.
The recent popularity of increasing the minimum wage has found some odd detractors, in my mind. I spoke with a truck driver this week who thought it the craziest thing in the world that burger flipping kids should be given a higher wage. He said it made no sense for those with no real skills to be given a higher wage that would then cheapen his own wages.
So, let's count the problems with that statement he made: "burger flipping kids". Actually, the average worker in fast food is not a kid, it's an adult of about 30 years of age, often one who has kids. They rarely get 40 hour weeks, often have to work just the "busy" times of the day, working split shifts. Second, and something I wish I'd said to him, it doesn't seem to take a lot of skill to drive a truck to me. I mean, I drive to work every day.... how hard could it be? Well, same for "burger flipping". I imagine every job has routine and skill tasks, including driving a truck and flipping a burger. And, many of the people working at flipping burgers are there for lack of better options. Remember what I said above about those huge industrial jobs being gone? Finally, I do understand what he meant by a higher minimum would "cheapen" his wage... but he is using a false logic. He is rating his wages not on his skill worth, but on the difference between his wage and the cost to live. Now, if you are above that line, you are doing ok, but if you are below - no matter how hard you work - then you are failing to thrive. That, I see as a problem.
The problem I have with those who believe that a person needs only to apply themselves to thrive in this country is that an economy thrives not on willingness to work or even a great product, but the exchange of goods/services. Now, if you are poor, you will spend every dime with a critical eye and no matter how good a product or service is, if it doesn't fill the belly or keep the butt dry it really isn't needed. They only way a person can peddle those great products or services is if there are buyers. The short sighted and greedy have created an economy where folks have less and less discretionary income - money that is not needed solely for food or shelter. Those who want to sell the next great idea, to capitalize on the buyers like the entrepreneurs of the 80's, 90's and 2000's, now have to find not only the great idea but the great idea that can compete with food. Good luck with that. As a result of jobs going overseas, the elimination of the middle class, is the slow strangulation of the economy as a whole.
A way to look at it is the concept of a team, and in celebration of Super Bowl Weekend: A quarterback is successful not because he has a great arm but because he has people blocking, running, are receiving. A coach is not successful because he is a brilliant strategist but because he has people willing to carry out his strategies. But, somehow the very rich and the very greedy believe those blockers, runners, receivers and even quarterbacks are less worthy of the fruits of their labors than the owners who sit in an arm chair and try to look like they did something.