Thursday, November 09, 2006

My humble opinions

On the thread below, my brother BlackLabelAxe addresses some key issues regarding the future of our country which I believe are very valid concerns. Here are his comments along with my position on the issues:

Okay, party time is over. Now it's back to the issues:

Higher minimum wage laws actually hurt business owners and minimum wage earners alike.

Government price controls on medicine destroy any incentive for creating newer, better drugs.

Government control over education, specifically the Board of Education, has caused the quality of education from our public schools to drop every year despite record amounts of money being spent.

Which shall we debate first?

I'll bite

We need to raise minimum wage to a standard that people can actualy live off of. Yes, this may hurt business owners in the short term, but in the long term, it will put more money into the marketplace and boost our economy a hell of a lot more than Bush's bullshit tax cuts.

We need to control the cost of medicine, because at the moment, so many prescriptions are beyond the reach of those who need it. The drug manufacturers are not creating newer, better drugs, but just more expensive ways to control people's afflictions. Why are they not actually seeking cures? Because it is more profitable to stick people on a drug that they must take every day for the rest of their life.

And finally, Education! Who should be in control of the standards in education? I agree that what we are doing now is failing, and it must be stopped for the sake of our children and our future.

Here in Texas, we have put such an emphasis on standardized testing, instead of actually concentrating on teaching our kids. Last time I checked, Texas schools stil ranked 50th in the country. We need to spend the money on hiring better teachers and obtaining better resources to assist in the learning process.

The problem is not with how much money we are spending, but with how we are spending the money.


OK, that is my opinion on those topics, and I want to say thank you to BLA for bringing these issues into the discussion. I know many of you will have very different opinions, and I'm looking forward to hearing them.

I do agree that party time is over, and it is time to buckle down and get shit done.


BlackLabelAxe said...

On minimum wage:

Q: How much of the population works minimum wage jobs?

A: Less than 3%.

My simple analogy for this is a restaurant's dishwasher. If you raise the minimum wage, the restaurant owner might cut that job and do it himself, or pay a cook or server another dollar or two per hour to do it. Now you just cut a job. Minimum wage is better than no job. Both are inferior to learning relevant vocational skills and bringing them to the workplace.

In my opinion, if you only pay people minimum wage, you're going to get unskilled, apathetic workers. I believe in paying people to be professionals- and that's a difference your customers can tell. Once again, the invisible hand of capitalism has a more effect check and balance than the government.

If the dishwasher really is that good, then other people will court his services with higher wages.

Raising minimum wage only serves to eliminate entry-level jobs for unskilled workers. Many top restauranteurs and millionaires started out washing dishes at minimum wage. Instead of bitching about minimum wage, they learned how to do other people's jobs, and moved up. Low-paying jobs create incentive to learn new job skills. Minimum wage increases lets the government force the restaurant owner to compensate unskilled workers for additonal skills that don't actually exist. It's backwards, and it's unamerican.

Show me a carpenter, plumber, electrician, or auto mechanic that makes minimum wage and has for years, and I'll show you a lousy tradesman.

BigNewsDay said...

Good point but you have to include companies like Wal Mart that run specialty businesses out of business, then pay minimum wages to employees. So you lose skilled jobs to companies that would rather pay unskilled workers to do the same job. If the minimum wage was higher, you would begin to level the playing field.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Here's why I like the free market's authority:

The government uses force to have it's way. If you disagree with them, men with guns take you away to prison.

The free market must appeal to you and entice you with what you want to have their way. If you don't like it, you don't buy it.

It's a matter of consumer choice versus men with guns, and god-like authority to ruin your life.

I choose to tell the government to go fuck themselves on matters of commerce, and stay out of my life on their way to hell.

BlackLabelAxe said...

To address your specific point, BND:

You're very right that companies run specialty businesses and use unskilled people to staff them.

This does not ruin the specialty market for at least two reasons:

1) Wal-Mart employees within specialty departments are being trained to work in that specialty field. After some exposure to, say sporting goods, they can go get a job at a real sporting goods store that pays well.

2) Educated consumers don't buy specialty gear from Wal-Mart. They know that the staff is generally clueless, the selection is terrible, and the way that Wal-Mart treats their vendors means that vendors are going to send them the shittiest product they can get away with. Apathy breeds apathy, and consumers avoid this. At least smart consumers do.

This is a very circumstantial check in a free market nowadays, because most consumers are more interested in reality TV shows than reading consumer reports and business news. The truth is that Wal-Mart is making a fortune off the pure stupidity of their customers.

Thomas Jefferson was well aware of this check, and knew how important it is for consumers to stay aware be knowledgable about the world around them:

"Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384

No government can save a people with laws who choose to be ignorant.

Lefty Metalhead said...

On Minimum Wage:

What's the point of having minimum wage jobs if the workers' buying power is nonexistent? This is where the free market fails. You said it yourself, only 3% of the population works for minimum wage. But you have missed the point. The point of increasing these peoples' wages is to help them in the short run. Do you think a family who works for minimum wage cares about the free market? No, they care about making enough money to eat. It's beneficial to increase the buying power among the nation's poorest. Not because our economy needs it, but because it's the humane thing to do. If a restaurant owner cuts the dishwashing job because he has to pay $1 more an hour, then he screws himself because production will be less efficient with less personnel.

However, I agree with your argument that you get what you pay for. And if the minimum wage is increased, if we are to follow that same logic, wouldn't more restaurant owners find their workers to be more efficient?

Remember, it was the commerce clause that paved the way for civil rights in the 1960's. The government has the Constitutional right to regulate commerce. Refuting that right is unAmerican.

On another point you made, do consumers really have a choice when the only retail store in their town is Walmart? How will the market correct this?

Lefty Metalhead said...

Government controls on medicine pricing is necessary. People become enslaved by pharmaceutical companies because they need such medication. Health shouldn't be subject to the laws of supply and demand. Why must we commodify health? It makes no sense.

BlackLabelAxe said...

I'm running out of time here at work, so I'll get to the rest of it later:

Wal-Mart is never a consumer's only choice. The internet is affordable to everybody, and computers can be purchased at very low prices. Internet-ordered goods are the great equalizer. You can even order your groceries online.

Maybe you've got to drive a little farther, but the market will get that picture too if you paint it.

Lefty Metalhead said...

It will. But I can't see how a family who lives paycheck by paycheck will be able to afford a computer and internet. Perhaps I'm being too complacent or naive, but that's the way I see it.

BlackLabelAxe said...

See, I don't see living paycheck to paycheck as your employer's fault. There are so many people that it's scary living paycheck to paycheck that make tons of money.

I think the last figure is 70% of Americans who are 1 or 2 paychecks away from being broke.

When 3% of people are on minimum wage, and 70% are within a couple of paychecks from being broke, it seems like we have a money management issue here, not a wage issue.

People are trying to living above or very close the limits of their means, and all it takes is a car crash or a layoff to send them into a downward spiral that usually ends up in bankruptcy.

This isn't a crisis of wages, it's a nasty symptom of an education system that neglects the shit out of personal finance education.

Government cannot fix a lack of personal responsibility.

B.L. Sabob: now "completely heterosexual" said...

Not that I can quote any by heart or provide links, but I recall actual economic studies of states that raised the minimum wage above the federal level and experienced no maked decrease in employment figures. So until there is a a wealth of actual non-partisan study of the issue, I'm not buying that raising the minimum wage will hurt business. Especially if BLA's statistic is correct that only 3% of the nation's workers on on the minimum. But raising the minimum wage, you are only raising it a few cents a year on 3% of the jobs. Once again, opinions and issolated anecdotes are fine for discussion. But only hardcore economic study should be used in making actual policy.

B.L. Sabob: now "completely heterosexual" said...

on to supply and demand issues.

As more an more US jobs are controlled by fewer and fewer corporations, due to buyouts, mergers, etc., the remaining employers have even more ability to depress wages because if an employee doesn't like the wage he's earning, his options to find other employers are limited. I'd be far more aquiescent about letting the free market take care of wages and prices if the government was far more strict about enforcing anti-monopoly and merger laws. A completely free and unbridled market with no contradicting government protections of workers and consumers will only reward the most ruthless and predatory, not the best producers. Futhermore, its will only lead to a brutal corpocracy run by a few hundred men in charge of a few dozen mega-corporations who have all the morality and compassion of the old soviet Politburo.

BigNewsDay said...

Great discussion dudes. It's been a while since we've had one of these here. This seems like a suitable welcome back party for Axe.

BlackLabelAxe said...

I've gotta say, if you guys represent the Democratic party, then I'm glad y'all have control of congress. Not necessarily that we're on the same page, but that there's genuine discussion of issues here.

BlackLabelAxe said...

Thanks, BND, this is a fine welcome back party.

The final point I want to bring up before I head to Charleston SC for my homecoming this weekend is this:

We can discuss the benefits of raising minimum wage, and I agree with B.L. Sabob that hardcore economic study is necessary if we do so, but the Federal Government would be arrogant to set a nationwide minimum wage.

Standards of living vary widely by state, and even within a state from city to city. For this reason, this is yet another issue that state governments should take charge of, and tell the feds to go fuck themselves again.

The entire country doesn't have to agree on everything, and one-size-fits-all legislation is part of the reason why this country is so torn apart.

I believe in local solutions to local problems. Is that a fair compromise?

BlackLabelAxe said...

By the way, B.L. Sabob, I sourced my 3% figure from John Stossel's book "Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity".

Stossel is one of the most famous Libertarians in the media.

Lefty Metalhead said...

I think that if states are ready to take federal money for the funding of their programs, then the federal government should also have a say in the minimum wage. I agree that some states don't necessarily need this, including Illinois which has a $6.50 minimum wage (it will be 7.50 soon). I would argue that having a disparity in wages among states would ultimately hurt interstate commerce.

I agree that many people don't know how to manage their money. But the issue of raising the minimum wage rests on buying power, and how much it has decreased due to inflation. Labor doesn't have to be skilled in order for it to be valuable. A restaurant's waiter is necessary for it to work, yet there are no particular skills involved. Inflation has increased, and it is only logical that the minimum wage increases as well.

And it is fucking awesome to have you back Axe. We surely missed you! We are part of the Democratic Party, BND and I, and we espouse what the new Congress is promoting - open dialogue to get things done. In the end, ideas and values mean nothing if the American people don't get what they need. Welcome back brother!

B.L. Sabob: now "completely heterosexual" said...

"A restaurant's waiter is necessary for it to work, yet there are no particular skills involved."

I disagree. Nothing will sour me on a restaurant quicker than poor service. being a good waiter or bartender is definitely a skill, or set of skills. Just because you don't learn them in a school, book or training program doesn't mean they're not skills.

Lefty Metalhead said...

I think you misinterpret what "unskilled" labor means. Of course, being an effective waiter or bartender requires some skills. However, when applying for such a position (with bartending the exception), do employers ask for certifications of particular skills? For example, do they ask for a degree in customer service? Of course they don't. This is what makes this unskilled labor. I think your disagreement is related more to semantics.