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Congress can vote themselves a raise. CEOs and other executives and board members can vote themselves a raise (shareholder votes are only advisory). The majority of employees have little or no influence on their raises. Wage increases have continued to be relatively flat and well below the rates of increase in the cost of living with the result that their relative quality of life deteriorates.
Now, with a wage increase, there are many people citing economic theories that they really do not understand. Filled with fear and hatred against the growing number of working poor, seeing them as other, they deny that the middle is disappearing and deny that they are far more likely to join the poor than the rich. Meanwhile, with dueling idealogies dividing the masses, the majority of wealth and income continues to be siphoned off and hoarded by the rich with little evidence of trickle down. The question, in my opinion, is not whether there should be an increase in wages, but rather an overall question of how we are spending money and how do we measure success. What is the good of all this technological improvement in efficiency, including the continuing improvement in the optimization of agriculture, manufacturing, and supply chain (viz. logistics) if we cannot use the gains to create a better quality of life, better education for all, better healthcare for all, and better nutrition for all? For ALL?
US GDP is $16.77 Trillion. That’s US GDP per capita of $53,042! That is a stunning figure that should enable more equitable distribution of resources. Not just wages, but education, healthcare, etc. if we would view every person as a human being with dignity. Germany (GDP per capita $46, 269) and Sweden ($60,430) are two countries with similar GDPs but far different distribution models that are examples of far different priorities. The education systems use testing to identify people’s skills and give them free education that will result in competency and employment at a living wage. German corporate governance is far more inclusive, for example.
In the U.S., in particular, and as we continue to export the U.S. economic model, the continued accrual of efficiency gains to the wealthy few creates an adversarial system in which a growing number of people are being rendered obsolete rather than collectively enjoying the efficiency gains. The resulting class system is a form of socioeconomic structural oppression in which the majority of people are valued as consumers. The military-industrial complex continues to be a system in which perpetual conflict exchanges the lives of many for the profits of a few. The prison-industrial complex is growing as a form of indentured servitude primarily composed of people of color.
The failure to invest in people, in families, in communities, to fundamentally shift areas out of crime…it is hard to see this as anything other than an intentional effort to perpetuate fear and division within the masses rather than to apply existing evidence-based solutions to help improve our collective well-being. Instead, society has been manipulated into idealogical camps that divide us, one from another, and creates a situation in which people are expressing so much fear and hatred because Los Angeles (like other cities) proposes an increase in the minimum wage from $9/hr in 2015 to $15/hr by 2020. For reference, those figures annualize to $18,000 in 2015 increasing to $30,000 for a person working 40 hours per week x 50 weeks per year BEFORE taxes and deductions. Average rent estimates easily range from $1500-2,500, or $18,000-$30,000/yr. That’s just rent. Rent drives the poverty level to 22% of the population in Los Angeles and the poverty level is a poor measure of quality of life and the potential for present and future security and upward mobility. It is, rather, perpetual surviving on the edge. The LA Unified School District graduation rate is 67%. In schools such as Dorsey High School, the graduation rate is a mere 48.8%. Los Angeles has the largest food insecure population in the country at 12.2%. Food deserts in these areas means food is higher priced with lower accessibility. Where people cannot get access to credit or pay security deposits, long term residency means high rates of occupancy as one or more families find themselves living up to 30 days at a time in different motel rooms. There is no simple solution. Hopefully, when seen this way, the problem can be seen in its complexity and given faces. When faces are put to the problems, perhaps we can back off of the rhetoric that, honestly, behind the theory and ideology, all too often feels more like hate speech against the growing number of perpetually downtrodden.