Wages of Low-Wages

April 15, 2015

picasso__le_repas_frugal-e1340367392424Near-crystal clear this early Wednesday on California’s north coast, the bright-white moon, now just a sliver of a fingernail, hangs mid-way up in the brightening eastern sky.
And cold, too, earlier just a few degrees above freezing — supposedly sunshine through next week, maybe a high of 70 tomorrow.

Today, though, is heart-stopping Tax Day. If you’ve already filed, then just coast or be toast.
Also in conjuncture with this particular day, wages and income jump to the forefront, along with taxes.
The bottom-line is a ‘living‘ wage, versus a ‘shit‘ wage — fast-food workers across the US rallied and staged protests starting early this morning in New York City to increase the ‘minimum‘ wage, which is just a politically-polite way of saying, ‘shit‘ wage.

And beyond a little paycheck, the public dole.

(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘The Frugal Meal,’ found here).

Not just fast-food, but retail and a shitload of other jobs that require doing in order for civilization to function at the modern level we think it should — people who make shit wages, wages that can’t keep you alive.
Last week, a proposal to raise California’s minimum wage to $13 an hour cleared its first hurdle when it passed after a hearing before the Senate labor committee, the bill goes next to Senate appropriations.
By 2017, Senate Bill 3 would raise minimum wage to $13 an hour and based on inflation thereafter.
Right now, our minimum wage is now $9 an hour, next year jump is scheduled to $10 under a prior law.
Life down there, though, ain’t nice.
Via USAToday this morning:

“I’m not just fighting for me — I’m fighting for my kids,” says Rod Livingston, 27, a cashier and cook who works two jobs at a McDonald’s and Taco Bell in St. Petersburg, Fla., who was protesting today outside the McDonald’s where he works.
Livingston, who says he’s forced to live out of his car — while his sons, ages 2 and 8, live with their mom — says that he sometimes is forced to choose between buying pills to control his high blood pressure and diapers for his son.
“My 8-year-old asks me: Daddy, how come I don’t get to see you?” says Livingston, who doesn’t want to try to explain to his child that he has to work two jobs to stay afloat.

And they must then resort to public assistance, to make the living ends meet.
A wage is really an eye on living, as in a ‘living wage,’ which would allow life. A good look at this, via FiveThirtyEight, and an indicator of the notion a good working wage is way-needed:

But one thing is clear: A larger share of low-wage workers are trying to support themselves today than in past years.
About 39 percent of workers earning under $10.10 an hour — adjusted for inflation — were supporting themselves in in 1990, compared to more than half today.
Back then, nearly a quarter of low-wage earners were teenagers, compared to just 13 percent today.

At the same time, the service sector, which employs the vast majority of minimum-wage workers, has grown as a share of the overall economy, meaning industries such as fast food that were once the province of teenagers have become major employers of adults of all ages.
Ultimately, low-wage workers are the victims of a broader trend of stagnant wages that stretches back long before the most recent recession.
Adjusted for inflation, average hourly wages of all non-managerial workers rose less than 1 percent between 2002 and 2007, when the recession began, compared to nearly 7 percent growth in the five years before that.
Economists aren’t sure what’s behind that stagnation: outsourcing, automation, the decline of unions, changes to the tax code, or, more likely, a combination of several factors.
But whatever the causes, anemic earnings growth means more people are trying to get by on low wages.

However, they do reach out for the only lifeline.

Hence, the aid to poverty. From the Washington Post this morning:

According to the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, 73 percent of people who benefit from major public assistance programs in the U.S. live in a working family where at least one adult earns the household some money.’

This picture casts the culprit in a different light: Taxpayers are spending a lot of money subsidizing not people who won’t work, but industries that don’t pay their workers a living wage.
Through these four programs alone, federal and state governments spend about $150 billion a year aiding working families, according to the analysis (the authors define people who are working here as those who worked at least 10 hours a week, at least half the year).

In California, 50 percent of federal welfare assistance went to the employed, and in a recent study, 74 percent of people taking the Income Tax Credit (a federal assistance tax-program) were of working families.

In a related incident, Gwyneth Paltrow announced last week she was going to do a food stamp challenge, the so-called ‘Snap Challenge,” celebrities engage in to feel humble, in this case living on $29 worth of food for a week. Gwyneth and the rest just understand eating while poor, such as, via today’s Guardian:

“Looking at what she bought and put on the web is something that would be … not completely realistic for a Snap recipient,” Kathy Green, the senior director of advocacy and public policy at Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, told the Guardian.

“For a lot of our clients, that Snap allotment is not all they have for food. A lot of them are working, so they have an income and they come to our food pantry.
“In the majority of cases, they are piecing together different vehicles for food,” she said, adding that there is a minority of Americans who rely exclusively on food stamps for their food.
In 2013, those Americans accounted for 22 percent of Snap’s 47 million recipients.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, these are the recipients who had zero gross income.

“I don’t know if what she bought is very representative of what they would normally buy,” Green said.
It’s not that Snap recipients don’t want to buy fresh produce and eat healthily.
The problem is that they can’t afford to.
At the beginning of the month, when the Snap recipients get their benefits, they are more likely to buy healthy food, “but as the month goes on and their benefits start depleting, they start to buy more processed food,” explained Green.

Wages of food is living.

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