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Minimum Wage

July 1st, 2005
I used to work for minimum wage. But it's not like it was some great inconvenience to me. At first, I was a high school and then college student just making a bit of money, with my folks covering the food, shelter, clothing and health care parts of the equation. Later, returned from stints in Japan, I got minimum wage jobs at movie theaters because they were not a strain in terms of hours worked and were good for getting in study; also, I was mostly living off of savings I'd made while working in Japan as I got my degrees at the state university. But actually living off of minimum wage, with no one to fall back on, no one to help support you, and no savings to use, even in a pinch... that's a scary thought. The minimum wage is currently $5.15 per hour, and has been since 1997, for eight years now. While that sounds like a goodly amount more than the $3.35 I used to get right out of high school in 1982, one factor runs that illusion into the ground: inflation. Your money doesn't get you what it used to. In 1998 dollars, the 1981 minimum wage was $6.15. In 2005 dollars, that would have been about $6.50. The minimum wage today has again dropped to very low levels, and if you look at this chart you'll see that before the Reagan era, in which minimum wage was allowed to fester and stagnate, the minimum wage in 2004 dollars was between $6 and $7 an hour for the previous two decades. Currently, Congress is talking about hikes in the minimum wage, but there is the usual argument over how great a hike it should be. Do I even need to tell you that the Democrats are pushing for the biggest wage increases, and the Republicans and shutting them down, arguing for far lesser increases, and trying to weasel in a great number of exceptions and amendments for even more tax cuts for wealthy people? Senator Kennedy is aiming high, for a $2 hike in the minimum wage, which would bring it back up to where it was in the 1960's. The Republican response if for a $1.10 hike, which would be treading water, similar to hikes in 1991 and 1997, or to the middle of the Reagan era when the wage was in a historic downward slide. But more than that, the Republican plan would double the minimum-business-income exemption to paying minimum wage from half a million dollars a year to a million, meaning a lot more people would be getting a huge pay cut, not a raise. The plan also calls for doing away with a requirement for the minimum wage to be paid if the business deals in any kind of interstate commerce. Another large group of people would get their wages slashed. The GOP would also allow businesses to play with their worker's pay periods so as to maximize their ability to avoid paying overtime. Republicans claim this is only if the worker agrees, which is another way of saying it is mandatory. I worked on a minimum wage job in the early 80's where if you worked overtime, you got paid just the regular wage; after one employee sued, the bosses simply had us re-work our time cards so that the overtime was spread out so little or no overtime appeared to be happening. If we did not agree to sign these, we would have been fired. (On a side note, when I quit later, I successfully sued that employer in small claims court for unpaid overtime hours--but could not reclaim the overtime after they made me re-work the time cards.) What is it like to live at the minimum wage today? Morgan Spurlock, the guy who at only fast food for 30 days in the divisive "Supersize Me" documentary, carried the idea over, in a way, to a much higher and more respectable level in his new 6-part series on the FX Channel, called "30 Days." In each episode, a person from one part of society (usually representing a group thought of as more "normal") would spend 30 days in the life of a culture very different from their own--a sort of "walk a mile in another man's shoes" concept. The first episode had the filmmaker Spurlock and his fiancé spending 30 days living at the minimum wage. The experience for them was brutal. Spurlock worked one and often two full-time jobs, his fiancé worked in a restaurant with meager tips (although there is a national exception for restaurants, not mentioned in the show, to include tips in deciding the minimum wage for their workers). Even with a cheap, under-heated apartment over what was recently a crack house, free clothes and furniture from a charitable organization, and three full-time jobs between them, they went way over budget due to hospitalization. (They could not even come close to affording insurance; Spurlock had to see a doctor for an injured wrist, his fiancé for a urinary tract infection. And remember, these are the kind of people who will be hit hard by the recent Republican cave-in to the credit industry, the new law that will make it harder for poor people to escape debt, even in medical emergencies.) And that was without kids. And it is examples like this which make a mockery out of plans to offer "vouchers" for public schools which would give families thousands of dollars less per child per year than it would require to pay for schools. And it gives new emphasis to providing national health care, insuring tens of millions of Americans who presently have no insurance. We know the Spurlock and his fiancé are headed back toward a better life after their month is up, but seeing them talking about not being able to afford to get a health concern looked after, having no choice but to work when sick or injured--it's a scary thought. And yet countless millions of Americans live in this hole from which it is next to impossible to escape. Let the Republicans who spout on about how people can become wealthy if they only got off their asses and tried, let those assholes try living like Spurlock did for a month--hell, for a year--and see how much they talk about how easy it is after that. Betcha they'd shut up real fast. Simply put, minimum wage is not enough to live on. A single full-time job would earn only $10,712 a year, $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. But imagine single parents, who have to somehow arrange day care, whose children suffer if the parent must work overtime, without even the luxury of having two parents able to work. Live like this for a while and you'll begin to understand what a mockery the minimum wage is. Even Kennedy's proposed $2 hike would only barely push that working single mother just a hair above the poverty line. And if you think that's good news, ask yourself if you'd like to live just a hair above the poverty line. In the meantime, the Republican Congress continues to stall and push back minimum wage reform. Even the paltry hike they proposed didn't get through--despite the fact that they could easily push it through with only a minimum of effort, which tells us that even when they talk about raising the wage a bit, even with all their new loopholes and exceptions--they're lying about it even then. They don't want to raise the minimum wage at all. And what's their reason? The same tired old argument: that raising the minimum wage would result in economic disaster. Well, they argue that every time, and there's no evidence for it at all. The last two wage hikes took place right before and right in the middle of the biggest economic expansion in recent history. Raising the wage didn't even cause a hiccup. Henry Ford was far from a wonderful human being, but he had a very good viewpoint when it came to paying workers well: workers should earn enough money to buy the products the companies make. That's what drives the economy. Strange, when it comes to giving trillion-dollar tax breaks to the wealthy, Republicans are all about injecting money into the economy. The whole idea of "trickle-down" economics was that the lower classes would bolster the economy by spending money (once it filtered down through the rich). And Republicans are all about the common people working hard for a living. So why is it they suddenly run in circles, screaming and shouting death and disaster, whenever someone suggests that workers get paid a fair, living wage for a hard day's work? All the corrupt societies are top-down. We should be bottom-up.

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  1. Morgan
    July 2nd, 2005 at 11:49 | #1

    Apparently, we are roughly the same age. I, too, worked for minimum wage back in the early 80′s….3.35 an hour. Not much, but enough to buy comics, smokes, and bag after bag of Doritos. Fortunately, I did not have to survive on miminum wage.

    I disagree with the idea of raising minimum wage. You are correct that no one can live on minimum wage…so why would anyone put themselves in a position to do so?
    You and I both started on minimum wage, yet neither of us are working for that now. Why? We realized that we had to better ourselves thru education, increasing our opportunities and salaries. Why can’t those living on minimum wage do the same? The same opportunities exist for them that were there for us. Not raising the wage may act as an incentive for them to get off their butts and do something with themselves. Will that require effort? Most likely. Will that increased expenditure in effort benefit them? Very likely. The eventual result will likely be an increase in motivated employees everywhere (well…maybe not everywhere, but in many places).

    No one said life was going to be easy. By doing things such as raising minimum wage, and making it a “living wage” (whatever that is), we do more to encourage lower performance in those less motivated. After all, what incentive do those folks have to improve themselves if they can get by (barely) on 6.55 an hour…or 8.50 an hour…or whatever level we set for minimum wage? Life is hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid, lazy, and/ or non-goal oriented.

    You and I, as well as millions of others, started out in the workforce making minimum wage…..good way to start. But we worked our way out of that thru education, hard work, motivation, and a sense of purpose. Forcing those currently living on minimum wage to do the same is the right answer…the “hard right over the easy wrong” to quote a former battalion commander of mine. It may hurt a bit in the short-run, but those affected will eventually benefit greatly from keeping minimum wage where it currently is because it will motivate them to get out of the rut they’re in right now.

  2. BlogD
    July 2nd, 2005 at 13:36 | #2

    I disagree with the idea of raising minimum wage. You are correct that no one can live on minimum wage…so why would anyone put themselves in a position to do so?Oh, man. You are so Republican!
    You and I both started on minimum wage, yet neither of us are working for that now. Why? We realized that we had to better ourselves thru education, increasing our opportunities and salaries. Why can’t those living on minimum wage do the same?Well, it might have something to do with the fact that their folks lived on minimum wage. Which means that unlike you, those kids did not have to start working on minimum wage in order to buy smokes and Doritos. They had to start working at minimum wage as soon as they were able, full-time, so the family could eat. They didn’t have mom and dad at home to take care of them. When they got sick, it was the free clinics or nothing, and usually nothing because the free clinics were jammed. They went to schools in poor neighborhoods, which meant that their education was likely similarly poor. There was never enough money to educate them well, certainly not enough to send them to college. Scholarships? Full scholarships are rare, and if your family’s been living off the minimum wage, there will be no supplementary income to pay for anything else–and if you leave home, you cripple the family economically. And all this is assuming a mother and a father; can you “put yourself in a position” where your father never abandoned your mother? Plus the fact that all your life you’ve been living in a situation that told you you’re less than other people, that the chance of you getting out is slim, so your motivation is low, your hope has long since eroded, you feel the deck is stacked against you. You’re poorly educated, chained to debt, depressed and angry at the world.

    Is it possible for someone to raise themselves up out of there? Of course! Is it likely? Hell, no!

    As I said, I’d like to see you try to do it and then say in such a cavalier way how it’s just the same for that person as it was for us.The same opportunities exist for them that were there for us.Did you grow up in poverty? Did you get an education at an inner-city school? Did your family have no money and you had to work full time from age 15, and not for snacks? If you didn’t, then that claim you made is b*llsh*t.Not raising the wage may act as an incentive for them to get off their butts and do something with themselves.Funny. When Democrats suggest raising taxes on the wealthy, Republicans always respond that if people stand to earn less in the end, they will be less motivated to work more. Now you give the argument that if we pay people less, they’ll want to work more? What unadulterated crap. You seem to believe that people on the minimum wage are just sitting around all day, basking in the luxury of the welfare state. Here’s a news flash: you don’t get the minimum wage unless you work for a living. You think that if you lower wages on someone working 80 hours a week, you’re going to motivate them? To do what? Work 100 hours a week? Or to hang themselves?

    You have probably never met someone from the lower working class, from the sound of it. Certainly you never had a friend whose family was living at the poverty level, working two minimum-wage jobs to support a family. I’ve known people who work their asses off, 60 or 80 hours a week, doing crap jobs like dishwashing or hard labor because they couldn’t get anything else, and they still can’t afford the basics for their kids, like college or health care. To you, it’s a quaint fantasy world, easy enough to exit. To them, it’s a grim, harsh reality. Try being “goal-oriented” when you’re dead tired from working two jobs, your wife is never at home with the kids because she’s working so hard too, and you’re massively in debt because your kid has a liver problem. What are you going to do? Apply for a scholarship?

    I said it before, I’ll say it again. Educate yourself.

    Update and Note: After having reviewed Morgan’s message, I wish to note that I answered the above on the presumption that his comment was not a farce. If I had not known Morgan to have before posted such rhetoric, it would be easy to assume that the comment was over-the-top satire. My apologies if that is what it was.

  3. Shari
    July 2nd, 2005 at 19:33 | #3

    It’s amazing how sure every Republican is that anyone can lift themselves up by their own bootstraps…as if opportunity were equal for each and every person in the United States.

    While I didn’t grow up in an inner city, I did grow up as part of the rural poor. That’s people who live at or below the poverty line in little towns all across America who can’t afford to leave their little towns and can’t get decent jobs in those towns because of urbanization, competition and outsourcing to foreign countries. It’s a catch-22 that a college degree won’t help you escape from. To this day, my sister is still stuck in my hometown making too little to move away from my parents’ house and she makes $2 more than minimum wage at a library. What’s more, she’s a highly skilled worker who does double-duty as network administrator and reference librarian. She’s not someone who lacks skills, experience or education. What she does lack is the ability to escape her situation because she can’t save enough to get out of it. Believe it or not, Morgan, there is no magic fairy who will set you up in a city where there are higher paying jobs while you look for work and try to get ahead. You have to have a fair stash of cash just to consider such a move and even then it’s hard to start at an entry level situation which will pay you enough to pay the higher cost of living in a city where better jobs are available.

    What is more, she had health problems for years and because she had no insurance, she couldn’t have them attended to until they became life threatening (at which point, some sort of program to support people too poor to get insurance would pay for her operation). So, she was in pain and suffered for many years and finally got relief by nearly dying.

    People like Morgan suffer from one of the most common of afflictions among middle class folk in the U.S., a complete lack of ability to realistically put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They always imagine that each person who is trapped economically could escape if he or she just tried harder, got a better education, or spent less. This allows them to justify selfish and inhumane fiscal policies which allow them to keep a few more dollars in their paycheck when it comes to paying taxes. They’d rather people like my sister died because they couldn’t afford healthcare than do without a little better car or a new computer this year.

    The world doesn’t operate in a conveniently orderly fashion where you can follow certain steps (Step 1: low paying job Step 2: education Step 3: better paying job) and improve your lot in life. Sometimes people can’t make the transition from Step 1 to Step 2 or Step 2 to Step 3. Anyone who insists you can get ahead if you just try hard enough is only trying to rationalize their lack of charity and compassion. The amazing thing is how many people who think this way call themselves Christians.

  4. Morgan
    July 4th, 2005 at 02:03 | #4

    “Well, it might have something to do with the fact that their folks lived on minimum wage. Which means that unlike you, those kids did not have to start working on minimum wage in order to buy smokes and Doritos. They had to start working at minimum wage as soon as they were able, full-time, so the family could eat”.

    Surely you have proof of this. It sounds like you’re saying that EVERYONE currently living on minimum wage grew up in a family where the parents lived on minimum wage; and that family HAD to put their kids to work as soon as the kids were old enough (15 or 16…I can’t remember the age requirement) otherwise they wouldn’t have food, yes? Please provide proof.

    “Full scholarships are rare, and if your family’s been living off the minimum wage, there will be no supplementary income to pay for anything else–and if you leave home, you cripple the family economically”.

    You mention FULL scholarships but make no mention of partial scholarships, work-study programs, student loans, Pell grants, Nina Scholarship program (found at two-year colleges), GI Bill, etc, etc….. In other words, you fail to address the numerous ways in which a guy or gal from the lower end of the economic scale could finance their college education. As for those kids not being able to get into college… because their minimum-wage earning parents, working two, three, or four jobs and being unable to assist them and provide supplementary educational materials for them, bulls**t, as you put it. Condi Rice had it far harder than any of us and she had a PhD by the time she was 30, not mention becoming Secretary of State of the greatest country on the planet. If she can do it, why can’t others? And yes, I know she incredibly bright, but the point is, despite her background, she succeeded.

    And where are these economically depressed families that cannot survive without their kids working? Who are you refering to? Is this truly the vision you have of Americans…that the majority, or at least the majority of the “lower class”, are so completely incapable of taking care of themselves, so completely incompetent, so completely unmotivated, that they live and conduct themselves like Third World refugees eeking out a living by digging thru trash heaps with Sally Struthers filming nearby?? Wake up, you liberal-socialist.

    “You have probably never met someone from the lower working class, from the sound of it”.

    Once again, wrong. I’ve met several outstanding folks who grew up as members of the “lower class”, like the First Sergeant currently serving in Germany who grew up in the projects of Philly, where drug dealers routinely beat up him and his brothers til he got into weight lifting; or the guy who grew up on a less-than-prosperous farm in northern Minnesota who now has several cars, a nice house, few bills, and a good career. Your vision of “lower class” folks is depressing and wrong. You seem to see them as incapable of doing anything other than stand by for hand-outs from the government. I see them as capable people who, when given the motivation and opportunity, will better themselves. I’ve seen too many examples of it.

    “Try being “goal-oriented” when you’re dead tired from working two jobs, your wife is never at home with the kids because she’s working so hard too, and you’re massively in debt because your kid has a liver problem. What are you going to do? Apply for a scholarship?”

    Yes, thats exactly what they will do. My wife works at the local community college here in Indy. She and I have met a lot of folks…married with kids, divorced with kids, folks in their 30s, 40s, 50s, with full-time jobs, mortgages, two jobs, etc…..and they’re doing just that: getting an education in order to improve their opportunities. They may not have a social life (students who work hard rarely do) but they’re making something of themselves, in spite of people like you who refuse to give them the benefit of the doubt and continually out them down.

    “It’s amazing how sure every Republican is that anyone can lift themselves up by their own bootstraps…as if opportunity were equal for each and every person in the United States”

    As for you, Ms Shari, wake up…opportunities ARE equal for everyone in this country. The results may not be but that depends on how one uses the opportunities placed in front of them. But you libs are all about equal RESULTS. Somehow, you folks got it into your minds that EVERYONE is suppose to have the same thing, achieve the same results, have the same amount of money, no matter the effort put forth. Not realistic.
    “The world doesn’t operate in a conveniently orderly fashion where you can follow certain steps (Step 1: low paying job Step 2: education Step 3: better paying job) and improve your lot in life. Sometimes people can’t make the transition from Step 1 to Step 2 or Step 2 to Step 3″

    The world may not work that way, but this country does. Depending on what you get an education in, you can improve your career opportunities and increase your income. Get out in the world and ask around. You’ll meet plenty of folks who started with little and have gone on to a better life (however they define that is up to them, of course). As for your sister, hopefully she is doing better. My sister also suffers from a painful condition limiting her ability to work. Fortunately she has a great fiancee’ taking care of her…as well as family she can call on whenever she needs to. But your sister….

    “She’s not someone who lacks skills, experience or education. What she does lack is the ability to escape her situation because she can’t save enough to get out of it”

    ….doesn’t sound like she’s “stuck” where she is. She can improve her situation if she saves enough money to do so, yes? That requires self-discipline and a desire to move forward. I’m guessing that she probably stays home to assist with mom and dad…nothing wrong with that.

    Bottom line for both of you, get a band-aid and stop your hearts from bleeding. The “lower class” of this country are far stronger than either of you realize. They are not all living in some endless Twilight-Zone cycle of ever-deepening proverty, unable to realize that education and hard work will improve their situation. Most do realize that and find a way to achieve their goals. Will they achieve ALL of their goals? Probably not. Few of us do. Will some fail? Yes….and that’s life. But the majority will succeed because they believe in themselves and refuse to listen to naysayers like you.

    Going back to the point of your article, minimum wage is fine where it currently is. For those living on it, wake up and get back in school. For those who support increasing it, I say let it come out of YOUR monthly check and not mine. You feel so strongly about giving them more money, go for it…but stay away from my bank account.

  5. BlogD
    July 4th, 2005 at 05:33 | #5

    “Well, it might have something to do with the fact that their folks lived on minimum wage. Which means that unlike you, those kids did not have to start working on minimum wage in order to buy smokes and Doritos. They had to start working at minimum wage as soon as they were able, full-time, so the family could eat”.Surely you have proof of this. It sounds like you’re saying that EVERYONE currently living on minimum wage grew up in a family where the parents lived on minimum wage; and that family HAD to put their kids to work as soon as the kids were old enough (15 or 16…I can’t remember the age requirement) otherwise they wouldn’t have food, yes? Please provide proof.This is so typical of your “reasoning.” Intentionally misread the statement to an absurd extreme, then ask for proof of a straw-man premise that can’t be proved. You were the one who claimed that EVERYONE had an equal chance (“The same opportunities exist for them that were there for us”). In response, I gave several examples of what life is like for many people in that segment of society, as evidence that not everyone can get themselves out… and went on to actively state that while some people could, many could not (“Is it possible for someone to raise themselves up out of there? Of course! Is it likely? Hell, no!”). This is practically the opposite of what you claim I said.

    Tell you what. You were the first one to claim that they had the ability to lift themselves out of poverty, every one of them. So you go first: give solid proof of your claim, that EVERYONE had the exact same opportunities as you and I. Hell, that is exactly what you claimed, whereas I made it clear that I was not speaking to “everyone’s” situation. So I’m being more accurate here–and yet you won’t be able to answer your own absurd demand. Go ahead, try. Give proof. Show your sources.You mention FULL scholarships but make no mention of partial scholarships, work-study programs, student loans, Pell grants, Nina Scholarship program (found at two-year colleges), GI Bill, etc, etc….. In other words, you fail to address the numerous ways in which a guy or gal from the lower end of the economic scale could finance their college education.One: these scholarship programs, as I pointed out, are limited. Not everyone can qualify for them. As I pointed out. Two: college costs a fortune. These families barely have enough money to keep their heads above water. Anything less than a full scholarship, and they won’t be able to afford it. Even community college, free in many states when you and I were students, costs too much for too many people now. Not to mention that these kids aren’t able to both support a family by working full-time jobs and put themselves through college–whilst getting the grades necessary for most of the grants and scholarships you mention, after having been given a piss-poor education as a child. As I said: is it possible? Yes. Likely? No–you trivialize the “hard work” necessary.

    Not to mention that this raises the bar significantly–in order to just get the same things that you and I got, they have to perform Herculean tasks under the harshest of conditions. That’s “equal” opportunity? No, it’s BS. So yes, if they’re extraordinary kids, they can make it. Otherwise, most are screwed. Easy enough for you to claim that it’s within their grasp.

    Which brings me to the “successful poor person” fraud that you and others of your stripe perpetuate. Hey, look at that poor guy who made it through! That proves anyone can do it! BS. One out of a hundred making it does not express “equal” opportunity, not that everyone else is a lazy slob who just doesn’t want to succeed.

    You appear to live in a fantasy world where everyone has the luxury of going off to college, free of family responsibilities that you seem to know nothing of. You’re just demonstrating how little you know of the real world. As for those kids not being able to get into college… because their minimum-wage earning parents, working two, three, or four jobs and being unable to assist them and provide supplementary educational materials for them, bulls**t, as you put it. Condi Rice had it far harder than any of us and she had a PhD by the time she was 30, not mention becoming Secretary of State of the greatest country on the planet. If she can do it, why can’t others? And yes, I know she incredibly bright, but the point is, despite her background, she succeeded.Now who’s peddling b*llsh*t? You are. What, you thought I’d be so stupid I wouldn’t even look Rice’s bio up? Condi Rice did not grow up in poverty, she was middle-class, born to a third generation college-educated family. Her father was a minister and school guidance counselor, her mother a music teacher. When she was 13, her father took an administrative job at the university of Denver. She enrolled at her father’s university, meaning she probably got in free of tuition, or at least at a substantial discount–not that her parents couldn’t afford it. Her family was not poor, and she had an excellent education as a child. So where did you get that BS sob story?

    I thought maybe you’re just another typical Republican who automatically thinks that any black person must have been poor when s/he grew up. But on second thought, you’re probably just full of it.

  6. Morgan
    July 5th, 2005 at 08:00 | #6

    “Condi Rice did not grow up in poverty, she was middle-class, born to a third generation college-educated family”

    I apologize for not clarifying my comment about Ms Rice. I did not mean to insinuate that she grew up in poverty, but that she grew up in the 50s and 60s, under conditions far tougher than you or I had (conditions that many folks with “fewer” opportunities might relate to) and still achieved quite a bit.

    “So you go first: give solid proof of your claim, that EVERYONE had the exact same opportunities as you and I”

    Everyone in this country is (and has been for quite a while) afforded a free education from elementary thru high school. While some schools are better than others in terms of teacher quality, materials avaiable, infrastructure, etc….most teachers (I think you’ll agree) are dedicated to their work and try hard to impart as much knowledge to their students as they can. Even in those schools that are considered “low-performing”, there are teachers, and we all remember them, who strike a chord in us, motivating us to do better, to work harder, and to realize that we can, in fact, do more than we thought. I attended DoDDS schools in Okinawa, Japan, Korea, public schools in North Carolina (not the best in the 70s), and Virginia. I’ve met other folks who went to schools in various parts of this country and the stories are similiar….some teachers sucked, most were decent, some were outstanding. Bottom line: the educational info was there. The student simply had to decide to do something with it.
    If he or she pissed away their time in school, they got the grade they deserved, graduated (maybe) with a low GPA, couldn’t get into college, and went on to something else.

    Why is it that you libs think so poorly of folks in this country? Lower-income folks are capable of quite a bit. While I don’t doubt that living in poverty is easy, this country affords everyone the opportunity to get out of that thru hard work. Will some folks be required to work harder than others (like you and me)? Probably. Will some fail? Sure. But so what? Life ain’t fair, is it? Some people make it, and some don’t. You work with the cards you’re dealt and try to get a better hand when you can…honestly, of course.

    Earlier you mentioned that folks living in poverty find it difficult to get out of it partly because they grow up hearing how they’ll never make it, they’re failures, etc, etc…. I’m not the one saying that. I don’t know of too many conservatives that do say such things, though I’m sure there are plenty who do. But I’ve noticed that you (and others of the hyper-liberal position) like to point out how bad the “poor” have it, how utterly hopeless their situation is, how they’ll have to perform “Herculean tasks under the harshest conditions” in order to get anywhere. Sounds like you’re telling them, essentially, to give up….after all, it’s too hard. You may want to join an optimists club.

    Will everybody in this country do well? No…..though everyone has their own definition for “doing well” and it may not match our definitions. But will most do well……yes. Will most get an education, good job that affords them an opportunity to buy a house, car or two, decent clothes for their kids, a 36″ high definition TV with surround-sound…..probably. What matters the most in the outcome these people realize (including you and me) are the life-decisions they make, not whether or not minimum wage is raised. I like to give these folks the benefit of the doubt. People are far stronger than you give them credit for. I work around folks like that everyday. You may want to seek out such people and hang around them for a while. Your attitude may improve and you may see the world as it really is versus the way you want it to be.

  7. BlogD
    July 5th, 2005 at 11:42 | #7

    “Condi Rice did not grow up in poverty, she was middle-class, born to a third generation college-educated family”I apologize for not clarifying my comment about Ms Rice. I did not mean to insinuate that she grew up in poverty, but that she grew up in the 50s and 60s, under conditions far tougher than you or I had (conditions that many folks with “fewer” opportunities might relate to) and still achieved quite a bit.Nice attempt at getting out of a misstatement, but it won’t work. You were speaking strictly within the context of growing up in poverty, not segregation and not “fewer opportunities.” Here are your words, in context:As for those kids not being able to get into college… because their minimum-wage earning parents, working two, three, or four jobs and being unable to assist them and provide supplementary educational materials for them, bulls**t, as you put it. Condi Rice had it far harder than any of us and she had a PhD by the time she was 30, not mention becoming Secretary of State of the greatest country on the planet. If she can do it, why can’t others? And yes, I know she incredibly bright, but the point is, despite her background, she succeeded. [Emphasis mine]You give the example of Rice directly as an example within the context of minimum wage, parents unable to assist the child educationally.

    To claim that your example of Rice included the idea that she grew up in a family with no pressing financial burdens, in a rich educational environment and a good community, but that since the society had a policy of segregation–that somehow Rice therefore supported your point that people in poverty could lift themselves up, is completely ludicrous. Either you’re just trying to back out of a really embarrassing error or your example was completely, even wildly inappropriate for the conversation.Everyone in this country is (and has been for quite a while) afforded a free education from elementary thru high school. While some schools are better than others in terms of teacher quality, materials avaiable, infrastructure, etc….most teachers (I think you’ll agree) are dedicated to their work and try hard to impart as much knowledge to their students as they can. … The student simply had to decide to do something with it.You spend this entire paragraph trying to explain how education is equal no matter what the quality, but it doesn’t even come close to working. You again resort to the old canard of “it’s up to the student,” as if environment mattered not at all. That if some exceptional students can make it, it means that everyone has the same ability and therefore opportunity, just because once in a while there are exceptional teachers. Bull.

    Take two high schools. One has all the trimmings: well-equipped science labs. Computer labs. New textbooks. A well-stocked library, with computer subscriptions to all kinds of online journals and other educational materials. A good, clean, safe environment. Well-paid, highly-trained teachers. Now the other school: old, broken down, dreary environment; old, out-of-date textbooks, too few to go around to all the students. A poorly-stocked library. No computers. The few highly motivated teachers you speak of, but most faculty being minimally trained and poorly paid. Kids have to go through metal detectors, deal with elevated levels of violence every day, and there are a lot of disruptive students, a lot more pressure to turn your kid toward drugs and gangs. You think the kids in both these schools have an “equal” chance?

    Here’s the real test for the BS meter: your child could go to either school. If what you say is true and both schools provide the exact same opportunity, then you should be just as willing to send your own child to the poor school as you would be to send them to the wealthy school. But we both know you would never make that choice. That, in itself, is proof that the two schools do not provide the same level of education, and do not provide an equal opportunity. So get real.

    I think the main problem here is that you persist in buying into the idea that if an exceptional person can achieve, that means the equal opportunity exists for all; that if one can make it, all can make it. Fact is, if it’s better and easier for one group and worse and harder for a second, then the first group has an unequal advantage. Just because a few from the second group can achieve as high as the first is not proof of equality, and you can’t explain the lower general success of the second group to laziness. Let’s say you and I are on two basketball teams, of equal raw talent. Your hoop is twenty feet off the ground, mine is six feet. My team wins the game, 140 to 10 points. Can I claim that we had an equal game because you scored some shots, but otherwise your guys just needed to get off their butts and become more goal-oriented?

    It all comes down to the fact that the more disparate something is, the less equal the circumstances are. And in the end, you just can’t get around that one, iron-clad fact.Why is it that you libs think so poorly of folks in this country?Yeah, right. You think that people in minimum wage jobs are there because they put themselves there, that if people in poverty don’t succeed it’s because they’re lazy. And then you claim that I’m the one who thinks so poorly of folks in this country? I never claimed that lower-income people are any less capable than other people, only that they were put down by their position in society and (if you’ll remember, this is my very thesis) kept down by an insupportably low wage. I’m the one who said they work incredibly hard, you’re the one who insinuated that they were “stupid, lazy, and/ or non-goal oriented” and that they should “get off their butts and do something with themselves.” So accusing me of putting down these folks while you think they’re so wonderful is (and I shall restrain myself here) wrong.Life ain’t fair, is it?Really? I thought we all had an equal opportunity? Isn’t that what you claim to be proving here? And yet you cap your reasoning with the idea that things are not fair, which kind of proves my point and negates your own. And which brings me back to my point: we should make life more fair. The first step is paying people fair wages for a fair day’s work. A CEO gets paid millions of dollars to oversee a company that gets driven into the ground, while a man breaking his back working two jobs, hard labor, gets $5.15 an hour and can’t afford to pay his family’s medical bills. Fair? Like you say, not fair. So let’s make it more fair.

    Or do conservatives not believe in rewarding hard work? Then why not reward people who do the really, truly hard work?Earlier you mentioned that folks living in poverty … [are] failures, etc, etc…. I’m not the one saying that.You always do this. Put words in my mouth that I never said. Show me where I called them “failures.” That insinuates that the fault was theirs. I pointedly said that the fault was the crap wages they are paid, that’s my whole point. You were the one who said “stupid, lazy, and/ or non-goal oriented.”Sounds like you’re telling them, essentially, to give up….after all, it’s too hard.Bull. We see a kid who’s been beaten close to death on the street. I say we should call an ambulance and get him to the hospital. You say, leave him alone, he has the potential to succeed, and that I am just making him believe that he can’t survive without help. That if the kid doesn’t survive, it’s because he wasn’t goal-oriented. After all, you saw a kid just like that survive and recover just fine once without receiving the same health care that you have. So I should stop telling the kid he’s no good, and let him prove himself.

    I’m not a pessimist just because I see people being treated incredibly unfairly and I want to make things more fair, and you’re not an optimist just because you think people at a great disadvantage can succeed if you lower their already unlivable wages even further to “motivate” them.

  8. Morgan
    July 5th, 2005 at 16:21 | #8

    “We see a kid who’s been beaten close to death on the street. I say we should call an ambulance and get him to the hospital. You say, leave him alone, he has the potential to succeed, and that I am just making him believe that he can’t survive without help. That if the kid doesn’t survive, it’s because he wasn’t goal-oriented. After all, you saw a kid just like that survive and recover just fine once without receiving the same health care that you have. So I should stop telling the kid he’s no good, and let him prove himself”

    Interesting comparison but hardly comparable.

    “I’m not a pessimist just because I see people being treated incredibly unfairly and I want to make things more fair, and you’re not an optimist just because you think people at a great disadvantage can succeed if you lower their already unlivable wages even further to “motivate” them”

    I don’t recall, nor can I find, anything I wrote even remotely soundly like I advocate lowering minimum wage.
    But, moving on….you want to see a “fair” wage….a “living wage”, as Mr Kerry put it (“we should make life more fair. The first step is paying people fair wages for a fair day’s work”). What amount would that be? What constitutes a fair, living wage? 6 dollars an hour? Why not 10 dollars an hour? 20? 50? Let’s pay the greeter at Wal-Mart 50 dollars an hour, right? You want life to be made more fair….how? Ensuring everyone earns the same amount? Same as who? The President? The former CEO of Enron? You, or me? Bill Gates wouldn’t want to live on what I make…and I don’t want to live on what the guy at the McDonald’s counter makes (been there, done that). So are you advocating that everyone, no matter their profession, ability, education, hazard level, level of responsibility… earn the same amount? The fire fighter in NYC making the same amount…let’s say 10 dollars an hour….as a cashier at Target? Or the Alaska crab fisherman (I’ve read that this is one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in our country) ought to make the same amount as the stock-boy at Winn-Dixie?

    As I stated earlier, you seem to believe “fair” as meaning “equal results” (Beware, I’m not putting words into your mouth, just interpreting based on what you’ve said during our exchanges in this and other posts, so don’t get huffy……). I refer to “equal opportunity”. It is there. I agree with you that some have easier access to “opportunity” than others, like the wealthy school versus the not-so-wealthy school. While unfortunate, that’s life. Unless you can come up with a better plan than what we have now (if you have, please share), I don’t see how this part is going to change anytime soon. But the disparity in situations doesn’t change the fact that the “opportunity” to succeed is still there. The deciding factors are desire and effort.

    As you have probably seen in your line of work, there are smart guys with access to everything who don’t care and don’t try and not-so-smart guys with limited access to materials who, acknowledging and accepting their shortcomings, manage to maximize what they have, by asking for help, asking lots of questions, taking copious notes, etc… and excel, even surpassing the smart, but lazy guy. Desire and effort. Not the cure-all, but it tends to work fairly often when properly applied. Think positive.

  9. Tito
    July 5th, 2005 at 22:00 | #9

    This conversation has made me seriously wonder how people arrive at the viewpoint that Morgan, and many others, have. It’s such a great example of the liberal stereotype of conservative attitudes, that conservatives are callous and indifferent to the lot of the poor and disadvantaged. The last sentence of one of his posts spoke volumes: “You feel so strongly about giving them more money, go for it…but stay away from my bank account.” He gives any number of arguments to support his view, but this is what it all comes down to. To me, even more disturbing than the quote itself is that we live in a society in which that can be seen as a defensible position.

    Anyway, it’s easy to dismiss Morgan and people like him as selfish and callous, but I really do wonder how those people reach that view if we assume it’s not just naked self-interest. I don’t mean a macroeconomic argument, just the ability to look at people in poor conditions and shrug. They’re strong, they can handle it. Or they’re weak, and deserve what they get. They have opportunity, and if they don’t take advantage of it, they aren’t trying hard enough. Life isn’t fair. We all have the ability to justify our attitudes and actions, which is why I can’t be bothered to argue with people like Morgan directly. Refute his rationalizations, and he’ll just think up new ones. I know you’re not trying to reach Morgan so much as whoever might be reading, and that’s admirable. But part of me feels as though trying to convince someone to help those in difficult circumstances is a little like trying to get someone to change their religion. If you’re indifferent to the difficulties of others, no amount of arguing is going to change your mind. Watching someone you love suffer, or suffering yourself, might do it.

  10. BlogD
    July 5th, 2005 at 23:32 | #10

    Interesting comparison but hardly comparable. It is, and here’s how: I see someone who’s in a difficult position, and I try to help him. You see a person in the same position, and call him lazy if he can’t succeed without your help. I see people trapped by poverty through no fault of their own, and I say, pay them enough so they have at least a fighting chance to get up out of poverty. You feel that even if it calls for extraordinary means, they should be able to get out on their own without help.

    The analogy of the kid wounded on the street is directly applicable.

    I don’t recall, nor can I find, anything I wrote even remotely soundly like I advocate lowering minimum wage.You are right here; my mistake. You said that we should not raise the minimum wage, and that would motivate people. I stand corrected. However, the result is the same because inflation has the exact same effect of lowering the real wage. And even if it is tagged to inflation, but at a rate that does not allow escaping poverty, the effect is also the same. Let me rephrase:I’m not a pessimist just because I see people being treated incredibly unfairly and I want to make things more fair, and you’re not an optimist just because you think people at a great disadvantage can succeed if you keep them at unlivable wages to “motivate” them.There you go. Better?

    One more mea culpa, that you didn’t catch: I misread the sentence about “Earlier you mentioned that folks living in poverty … [are] failures, etc, etc…” The words within the ellipses were not that I called them failures, but rather said that “they grow up hearing how they’ll never make it, they’re failures….” Nevertheless, you still got it wrong: there’s a crucial distinction: I did not say they would be told they were failures, but rather they were in “a situation that told you you’re less than other people, that the chance of you getting out is slim.” The distinction was one between feeling like you failed as opposed to feeling that your situation had kept you from succeeding.

    But, moving on….you want to see a “fair” wage….a “living wage”, as Mr Kerry put it (“we should make life more fair. The first step is paying people fair wages for a fair day’s work”). What amount would that be? What constitutes a fair, living wage?Enough so one parent can work, the other stay at home, and with the money from a 40-60 hour/wk. salary–no luxuries, no travel, no entertainment, no gifts or special comforts–can allow them to raise a family without falling under the poverty line. If they want more, they want luxuries, they can work harder. But they shouldn’t have to choose between eating and treating their kid’s diabetes when both parents are already working so hard that they never have time to see their kids and can’t push it any further. The kids should be able to have a good education and even go to college without sending the family deep into debt. How’s that? Sound socialist to you? The actual amount this would require in a wage is simply a matter of calculation and pegging wages to inflation. But the point is, this is what Republicans profess as the American dream: work hard, get by, raise a family, send the kids to college. Nothing more than a fair shake, a chance to succeed if you try. So either that chance is made available for those willing to work for it, or the Republican dream is just yet another unfunded mandate.

    You want life to be made more fair….how?Right now the wages for CEOs and grunt workers is not representative of their actual value, of their real contribution to society. Wages are determined by who has the power to grab the money and run, and who is powerless to ask for more money. It may be a law-of-the-jungle social-darwinist system, but it is not a matter of paying people what they’re worth. In other words, it’s not fair. In the U.S., the difference in salary between the lowest-paid worker at a company and the CEO is greater than almost any other industrialized country. In many countries, including here in Japan, that divide is far more narrow. Salary and wage should be tacked to real contribution, not to who can grab the money and who is powerless to ask for more. Businessmen who create real wealth and jobs deserve to be rich; people who sit around and do nothing all day deserve to be poor. But does a CEO who runs a business into the ground deserve millions in salary and bonuses, while a man who breaks his back washing dishes 80 hours a week deserve minimum wage? The latter examples are far more common than the former ones.

    And the dishwasher is not paid low wages because we don’t need dishwashers, because the value of his work is low; it’s because the system has been formed to transfer wealth from lower to upper classes so that there are more than enough other people in dire straits who would also wash dishes, meaning the dishwasher has no choice but to accept the lowest wage. Just as the higher echelons of our society have been engineered by those who inhabit it so that acquiring far more wealth than is deserved is much easier. Neil Bush, the other brother of the president, needed loans from banks to fund businesses he was running in the 80′s. He was asked for no collateral, and when his businesses failed, he was not forced to pay off the loans despite the fact that he and his family were wealthy. If you’re on the other end of the scale, you can’t get much of anything without a deposit and forget even asking for a loan.

    This system is counter-productive, just as much as old-Soviet-style keep-your-job-no-matter-how-bad-you-screw-up was counter-productive. The strength of the economy is based upon a large and prosperous middle class. And this is one of Clinton’s biggest blunders: the free trade agreements he opened up–agreements which effectively opened the flood gates so that now Americans were not just competing with immigrants and other Americans for jobs, suddenly we were competing with the entire world for jobs. So the middle class has hemorrhaged jobs, wages have drastically fallen, and Bush’s policies favoring the wealthy and his ineptitude in failing to revive the economy have exacerbated the problem. Now the gap between poor and rich is a great as it ever has been, meaning our society is less and less egalitarian, less and less fair.

    So are you advocating that everyone, no matter their profession, ability, education, hazard level, level of responsibility… earn the same amount?There you go again, taking it to extremes well beyond what I stated. “More fair” and “more equal” is not the same as making minimum wage equal Bill Gates’ salary. Again, get real.

    As I stated earlier, you seem to believe “fair” as meaning “equal results” (Beware, I’m not putting words into your mouth, … so don’t get huffy….Huff huff! Actually, all kidding aside, you are putting words into my mouth. Your characterization of my statements is opposite what I said. I never said that everyone be given equal results, and in fact I emphasized people working hard to receive compensation. I said “more fair,” and you jump to a janitor and Bill Gates earning the same amount. You know very well I did not propose such extremes; your counter-argument is a straw man.

    So to reiterate: “Equal opportunity” means that a child should receive the same basic promises from society, of equal education and equal access to opportunities; those are promised, but not delivered. A child in poverty is far less likely to succeed even if s/he works like hell for it, not because of how talented they are, but because of how they are slapped down by the way things are set up. “Fairness” means that no matter how rich or poor your parents are, you should receive the same chance at education, and your family, if they work full-time or more, should not lack the absolute basics: food, shelter, clothing, health care. Period. Am I a communist yet? As for “more fair” in terms of salaries, it means what I said above about one parent working full-time and being able to support the family MINIMALLY. Is that really too much to ask? Is it fair to pay people so little that no matter how hard they work, they can’t tread water?

    But when it comes to actually making such things a reality, suddenly it is “fair” to give huge tax breaks to wealthy people (Bush pushed the idea of “fairness” very hard to justify the upper-income tax cuts), and to keep minimum wage at rates so low that people become trapped in poverty.

    There is a very distinct difference between what conservatives say they want for all American families and what is actually made possible for all American families willing to work hard for what they get.

    I agree with you that some have easier access to “opportunity” than others, like the wealthy school versus the not-so-wealthy school. While unfortunate, that’s life.Again, this is counter to what you said before: “opportunities ARE equal for everyone in this country.” So which is it? Are opportunities equal, or is life not fair? Can’t be both.

    And is this the real difference between your social philosophy and mine? Make life more fair, versus rich are rich and poor are poor and that’s life?

    Unless you can come up with a better plan than what we have now (if you have, please share), I don’t see how this part is going to change anytime soon.Okay, here you go: Aside from the minimum wage standards I set above, reform education. Right now it is clear that locally-funded education is unfair: wealthy neighborhoods get good schools, poor neighborhoods bad ones. So change the structure and make it federally funded. All revenues to support education go to the federal government, and all funds come from there. All funding goes out on a local-economy need-to-pay basis; each school is allotted x number of resources per student, and gets money according to how much that costs locally.

    Next: stop chintzing on education. It needs both a lot more money and a lot more re-organization. First, the money. Too many classrooms are so poorly-equipped that teachers have to use money from their own pocket to buy pencils and books. Stop that. Education is the root of all progress and success in our society; it is hard to find any industry or sector of American life that is not buoyed by a better-educated populace. So instead of giving trillions of dollars in tax cuts to people making millions and billions, divert that and as much money as we can from elsewhere and make it work in education. The payback in the long run will be way, way better.

    Conservatives like to say that throwing money at the situation is not the answer (though they like to “throw money” at rich people and corporations, then it’s okay). But that’s a red herring, because money is a huge part of the problem. Funding and supplies I mentioned above; next is teachers’ pay. As Bill Maher said, we call teachers heroes but we pay them like chumps. Teachers aren’t as good as they could be because who wants to be a teacher nowadays, knowing the conditions? (Same thing for nurses, by the way.) Again, the Republican value: you want a good CEO, you have to pay him more, right? (Of course, that Republican reasoning vanishes when it comes to paying teachers, police, fire fighters, nurses, etc.) But the same should apply to a teacher.

    Next, cut out this reward-teachers-by-testing crap. Texas’ example of corruption and waste proves that’s not how it works best. Making testing the end-all-be-all of education hurts both teachers and students. Being in Japan, I can see first-hand how terribly students do if the lessons are aimed at the test. In short: very poorly. Instead, rate teachers by having a senior teacher observe and rate them by their technique and by their observed results in real student achievement, which simple test scores do not demonstrate well.

    In exchange for good salaries and fair evaluation, teachers should be made a non-union shop. So long as the government keeps up it’s end of the bargain, a union should not necessary like it is now. And no more tenure in public schools; if a teacher doesn’t perform, out they go.

    Next: turn faculty and administration upside-down. Right now teachers are at the bottom of the totem pole, and bean-counters at the top. Reverse that: teachers should start as paper-pushers teaching a minimum of classes, getting the lower wages. Only if they perform well should they be rewarded with more classes, less paperwork, more pay, and more influence in deciding the course a school takes.

    And oh yeah: no more frickin’ school boards. Does a cadre of locals with too much time on their hands run any other public institution that you know of? Hard to think of one. Certainly corporations don’t work like that; just because someone lives close to the offices, they don’t get to tell the engineers what to do. But this is a side point.

    Now that you’ve gotten good funding and a merit-based teaching system based on more dependable values, we can turn to the classroom. Reform what is taught, and how it is taught. First, turn up the workload and expect more from students. If I’ve learned anything as a teacher, I’ve learned that students will take all the slack you give them, and push for more. If you ask for more, they’ll know they have to deliver. Don’t make it a grueling torture, just ask for what’s necessary and reasonably possible. And if parents are able to support the family with a single full-time job, that means they can participate more in guiding their kids’ education. Whether they do so is up to them; they can take the opportunity or chuck it.

    Add courses in logic and deductive reasoning as well as basic study skills at early ages, in effect teaching student how to learn before simply expecting them to learn without knowing how to do that best. No more social promotion; a student fails, they stay behind. If society were to change to pay a living wage as I’ve outlined above, then the student will be far less likely held back by social/class concerns; if their parents fail when a nominal amount of work will provide a stable home, then it’s their own fault and the child’s poor fortune; you can’t force a bad parent to be a good one, you can only give them the chance to be one without asking them to kill themselves and even then not having much of a chance.

    Next, reorder most higher-level classes toward the life-skills end. Teach knowledge and the application of knowledge, not just the knowledge by itself. Kids out of high school should have basic job skills; too many don’t now because that’s not what most schools aim at. Emphasize student-as-practitioner.

    This and a lot more, but you get the gist: spend as much as is needed to make schools good, well-equipped and well-staffed with the least amount of waste, damn the expense–and so it is spent equally among all levels of society, for the same effect. Emphasize real teaching toward pragmatic ends, and don’t expect one whit less from any student, don’t throw them any free passes or golden stairways to graduation. That will include spending extra money on problem students. Soldiers don’t leave any of their own behind, why should we treat our children any worse?

    Will that make everything perfectly equal and fair? Of course not. But it will deliver on America’s basic promise of a reasonably fair shot for everyone.

    You bring these education reforms along with a minimum wage that allows for one parent to support the family if they work real hard, and that combination will solve a huge amount of the problems we face in our society.

    Of course, though it would work in the real world, politics would get in the way of real implementation. But that’s what we need. And before talking about how much it would cost, remember that it is a self-supporting paradigm; you gotta spend money to make money. Invest in education and expanding the middle class, and that takes care of almost every other problem you got.

    What’s your idea?

  11. Morgan
    July 6th, 2005 at 05:12 | #11

    “You bring these education reforms along with a minimum wage that allows for one parent to support the family if they work real hard, and that combination will solve a huge amount of the problems we face in our society.

    Of course, though it would work in the real world, politics would get in the way of real implementation. But that’s what we need. And before talking about how much it would cost, remember that it is a self-supporting paradigm; you gotta spend money to make money. Invest in education and expanding the middle class, and that takes care of almost every other problem you got.

    What’s your idea?”

    I will buy you an Asahi and a plate of sashimi……I agree with the majority of your education reform plan. I’ll get you the rest of the 6-pack if you can implement it. I’ll help.

    Now, the areas I have issues with: federally funding of local schools. I’m not sure if that’s the best way to go. After all, how often have you and others (including me) complained about the way the government is handle this or that issue. Do we really want them managing our schools from office buildings in DC? I see what you’re saying, but I think a better method for managing our schools is to leave our schools in local hands, perhaps replacing the local school board with a group of classroom teachers and an annually rotating pool of parents, selected like those for jury duty are selected, to vote periodically (once a quarter?) on school issues.

    “rate teachers by having a senior teacher observe and rate them by their technique and by their observed results in real student achievement, which simple test scores do not demonstrate well”

    You and I may have different definitions for “technique”. In the Army, we don’t grade technique as everyone has a different one. We grade based on specified performance measures, which I think test scores are suppose to reflect. But, if not test scores, then what? Overall student performance over the course of the school year, including test scores? Term papers? Pop quizzes? Projects? I can see that. I, too, don’t agree with “lessons aimed for the test”. Kids have got to know more than the test.

    Those are my only “issues” with the plan you’ve laid out, but, unlike others, you have one…and it makes sense.

    “Again, this is counter to what you said before: “opportunities ARE equal for everyone in this country.” So which is it? Are opportunities equal, or is life not fair? Can’t be both”

    Let me address this…and I apologize for not being articulate enough. When I say “ooportunities are equal”, I mean that no one in this country (that I’m aware of) faces any officially madated policy obstructing their access to those opportunities…..like “separate but equal”, or George Wallace standing on the steps screaming his head off. You might claim that the federally mandated minimum wage acts as a sort-of official policy that obstructs access to opportunities but it isn’t. The access is still there. Some folks just have to work harder to get it. Example: no matter your color, background, religion, physical handicap, you can attend ANY public college in this country. But some schools, for whatever reason (supporting their NCAA fottball team??), cost more, requiring you to pay more. But do you HAVE to go to that particular school? No. I wanted to go to GWU…but, at 17 grand a year (in 1990), that wasn’t practical, so I chose the University of Idaho. Not as prestigious a school, not as glamorous a location (though I can’t stand DC), but a good school; and it provided what I NEEDED (versus wanted): a college education from an accredited university. Now for those financially challenged, they may have a bit more difficulty getting into college (we’ve not addressed the many variables that go into why people go or don’t go to college). But, if they are motivated and focused, they’ll eventually get there and succeed. My wife sees it everyday at her school.

    You and I may disagree on the surface about the minimum wage thing but we seem to agree with the underlying issue regarding equal wages, better living standards, etc….and that’s education. You want to see a change in “minimum wages” in order to allow folks increased opportunities for tings like education, I want a change in “attitude” for our general populace regarding their abilities. Tito seems to believe that I (and other conservatives)have a callous attitude towards the less-fortunate. Some may…I don’t think I do. I simply refuse to accept that people cannot do better. Ive seen too many examples of folks overcoming significant obstacles to believe that people cannot do better (clearly some folks are consistently unlucky and deserve whatever help we can give them). But when you watch a blind girl, cane in hand, walking across the stage (her friend helping her across) in order to get her degree, I find that amazing, to say the least. Economic problems are hard to overcome, but to watch a blind person, who will never be rid of her/ his obstacle, overcome it and succeed, makes you realize that people can do anything they put their mind to. Your education reform plan seems to point towards just that…a change in attitude which will cause our school-age kids to realize that they can succeed.

    As for those currently in dire financial straits due to minimum wage or other such issues, how about eliminating several feferal agencies (education….gets turned over to state and local folks, HHS, Homeland Scty, Transportation..rolled back into Commerce, Dept of VA…rolled back into DoD, HUD, maybe even Labor) and rolling the savings into state and local education programs, like the ones you’ve outlined above, in order to increase financial aid (and access to it) for education at the college level and increase funding at the public school level? Increasing teacher salaraies would help attract new teachers too.

    You still did not provide a dollar amount for a “living wage” nor did you specify what constitutes a family. Family of 3? 4? How about 7? Example: we have a “friend” who lives in a 3-bedroom condo….wife who works and attends college, her husband (retired and surfs internet porn most of the day), 3 daughters who share one bedroom, 4 sons-2 each in each of the other bedrooms. The parents sleep in the living room. I think they fit the family model you described above…

    “Enough so one parent can work, the other stay at home, and with the money from a 40-60 hour/wk. salary–no luxuries, no travel, no entertainment, no gifts or special comforts–can allow them to raise a family without falling under the poverty line”

    but I don’t think they are what you had in mind. In any case, what dollar amount would you assign to such a salary? Many folks already do what you describe on far less than you and I make. While I agree, once again, with what your describe as an ideal family financial situation, no specifics are provided…and are difficult to provide given the differences each family has in terms of what they want, need, and are happy with. I’m not convinced that raising minimum wage, or making radical adjustments in real wages and earnings, will change the situation for the majority living in unfortunate financial circumstances, but your education reform would.

    As for CEOs making ungodly amounts of money…..that should change, especially if they run their company into the ground, taking the life savings of their former employees (Pelican Bay, anyone?). But keep in mind that people don’t become CEOs by sitting around on their butts doing nothing. ok…enough on that.

    Finally, the comparison:

    “I see someone who’s in a difficult position, and I try to help him. You see a person in the same position, and call him lazy if he can’t succeed without your help. I see people trapped by poverty through no fault of their own, and I say, pay them enough so they have at least a fighting chance to get up out of poverty. You feel that even if it calls for extraordinary means, they should be able to get out on their own without help.
    The analogy of the kid wounded on the street is directly applicable”

    I think a more appropriate comparison might be…..we see two drug addicts. We decide to help…you by giving him more to ease his pain, me by taking away the drug in order to free him of his addiction. Your plan helps in the short term, but mine (if implemented correctly) helps him for the rest of his life. Mine may be a bit harsh, or callous, but is better in the long run. Bottom line…we’d both like to help, we just need a better way to do so. As I said, your education reform plan sounds good. Now it needs to be implemented.

    OK…..I’ll quit bothering you on this topic and wait for your next one that I disagree with. Take care.

  12. Abby
    January 10th, 2007 at 08:03 | #12

    I’m not American, and I can never usually remember which argument is Republican and which is… the other one? However, I have to agree with the sentiment of raising the minimum wage. Here in Australia, we’ve just had a new set of legislation put through that takes away most of our rights that Australia has spent the past hundred years building up.
    In Australia, we get extremely cheap medical care; free if you don’t earn much. There’s housing help you can apply for, and so many places for food and the necessities if you can’t normally afford them – and sometimes even if you can. In Australia, it’ve very hard to get to the stage where you’ll be kicked out on the streets or starve. Most of our homeless are people who waste away on too many drugs, or those who used to be rich but became bankrupt so deeply that they prefer the streets to spending the rest of their life working to pay back a debt.

    I’m a student in my last year of school here, and in Legal Studies, my teacher uses America as an example for a society where the rich getting richer and making the laws, and the poor being exploited past their means by those in power. She uses it as an arguement *against* one of our governments here in Australia And listening to the examples (then doing our own research for an unbiased opinion – we aren’t a bunch of sheep) the whole class currently agree’s with her.

    I honestly don’t know much at all about the two political parties over there, but its clear that it is a case of taking advantage of the poor to give them nothing and become richer. I know I’m speaking from the point of view where I’ve been raised to believe in different standards, but I know I’d never live in America because their standards for lower, and to a degree, middle class citizens; are “work them for all they’ve got but don’t support them cause they’re lazy”. This is just a conclusion I’ve come to from a couple of years’ study of societies and government bodies, I’m not deeply political myself or anything. But the minimum standards *definitely* need to rise.

    *Hmm, and I only came to this site cause someone recced the HP fic, too… Sorry if my reply is slightly disjointed.*

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