Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Push to Make Less Money

I've seen a lot of disturbing trends in my life, and nothing concerns me more than the current trend for lower to middle class workers to beg for their employers to give them LESS money.

It might have made sense at the height of the Great Recession; one can see how misguided workers could have seen the collapse as a result of their greed, as the GOP insisted. And how they might be disinclined to ask for a raise. But it continues long after the recovery happened on Wall Street; while we are well into the recovery on Wall Street, we are still in the throes of recession on Main Street.

Of course, most will insist that they have not been begging to make less money. But they have. Here's how:

Money loses value over time. A dollar today is not the same as a dollar yesterday. And it's certainly not the same as a dollar a hundred years ago. So the longer your wage stagnates at the same level, the less you are getting paid. Don't believe me? Is your gas bill the same as it was five years ago? Your grocery bill? Your rent? In most cases, your costs are higher, in some cases, substantially. Yet we have allowed wages to stagnate.

I recently have viewed several discussions on "good paying" jobs. In each case, the mark was $10 an hour or above. I hate to say it, but I was making substantially more than that twenty years ago as an unskilled, nonunion factory worker. And my wages were not ridiculously high; they were, in fact, typical. The same twenty years ago saw fast food joints paying $9 an hour and up. Rent was cheaper, gas was cheaper, food was cheaper, and utilities were cheaper. Yet wages were higher.

Workers have long allowed themselves to be duped by propaganda that if they simply endure the current austerity measures, the "trickle down" effect would see everyone else become richer. Well, I've lived enough years with false promises to tell you with absolute confidence that the only thing that's trickling down is the effluent!

A higher minimum wage seems like a threat to the middle class simply because the GOP talking heads have made it so. But the truth is, when a full time job doesn't pay enough for a family to survive, someone's making up the difference somewhere. Either taxpayers through entitlement programs, working class families who have to sacrifice to make enough money to survive to the point where divorce and dysfunction become the norm, or, worst of all, the children through disease, malnutrition and poor education.

As for the workers making just over minimum, its ludicrous to think their salaries won't increase as well. A job that requires a degree will always pay more than one that doesn't, because the supply is smaller. And inflation keeps happening whether workers' pay is increased or not.

We don't need more welfare programs in an ideal society. A working adult should make enough money to actually see the promise of a better day. When that promise is being shattered, when they are seeing themselves make less and less while the boss makes more and more, the system has failed.

The rich truly are getting richer, and the poor truly are getting poorer. And millions of Americans are being conned into arguing and voting against their own self interest. The church refuses to take on issues of social justice, instead concentrating their efforts in the realm of Mammon, against the instructions of the Bible.

I don't want to see a revolution. Revolutions are messy and, more often than not, end up with the exact opposite effect of what is desired. But I fear that if workers are starved into submission long enough, revolution may be inevitable. Wake up, folks, and realize that a livable wage is in the best interests of everyone. Don't want to pay for food stamp programs? Then demand fair wages, and the food stamp programs will by necessity have to be reduced. To say nothing of the formerly low income workers who suddenly find themselves paying net federal taxes rather than receiving them back.

I can make a religious case for fair wages, I can make a political case for them. But the odd truth is, most people would rather continue to believe the lie that poor people making more is somehow a threat to their existence. And they're being told this by very wealthy people, with something to protect.

It's time we stopped letting the wealthy dictate what scraps they will offer the working class and started letting the working class negotiate for a fair wage again. Labor was strong in this country before; let it be again!