Sunday, April 27, 2014

Devalue Labor; Destroy Your Country

A little while ago my friend Pat Tibbs posted the picture you see on your left. It had struck something in her and it had the effect of sending me into a tail-spin. Without realizing it, I began typing a response that has devolved into what you see here. Fortunately, I saw the error of my ways. I deleted posts to put all this stuff rambling through my brain here.

Regarding Minimum Wage

The problem is that we are constantly falling in the trap of playing someone else's game without regulation of the rules (which are nebulous on purpose) - The basic tenant of business is to increase profits every single quarter in perpetuity, reduce expenses to bare bone, and charge as much as the market will bear. Labor is not valued. Your 8-10 hours a day of your most productive years gets devalued because what you do is not "hard" you are not a "job creator" and a whole bunch of other nonsense. 

There was a time when Unions made sure that people understood that their hours of labor had worth to the company/corporation, so the companies worked very hard to get rid of the unions and the representation (legal) that most workers did not understand or could afford. They changed the laws. If your employer kills you or maim you, you can't sue them. You are not entitled to compensation in many states. They have propagandized how little labor is worth and we catch ourselves repeating their slogans and degrading people that work at what we consider menial jobs. 

Minimum Wage

Minimum wage is not even the minimum these people want to pay. They want free labor and in this economy they have succeeded by hiring unpaid interns for years. Full grown men who can't find a job, with a degree and years of experience are working as "interns" doing the full time job of what used to be a well paid employee.

We have bought into the meme that "he is JUST a janitor" "She is JUST a maid" "He is JUST an old man working at McDonald's, that's his Bingo money" or "She is JUST a teenager"

Imagine a country in which the people we all take for granted stopped working. Imagine public bathrooms, classrooms, hospitals not being cleaned or trash picked up. Or going through the drive-thru and realizing the clown is not talking to you anymore. Walking into the fast food restaurant only to find that it is no longer fast and the beleaguered manager has no clue how to make the fries.

Imagine the people who come to take care of elderly and disabled a few hours a week not showing up at all. The biggest complaints I get on this regard from other spousal caregivers is that they are only allowed this respite/help about 6 hours a week (in some cases a bit more and in others less, or not at all) - These people cook, clean for the ill individual. They help the disabled individual with needed self-care they can't do on their own (taking a bath, changing clothes, using the bathroom, changing their catheters, etc.) They take him/her to doctor's appointment and ensure they take their medications when needed.

These are just some of their responsibilities, there are many other based on the level of care required, but one thing is for certain, the window to the outside world, companionship, and level of care, is priceless.

We treat these people as if they were worthless. 
We treat nurses and teachers the same way.

All of these jobs comprise important work. In the first case it is life saving, not just for the disabled, but for the overwhelmed spouse that may also be - silently - dealing with his/her own aches and pains but fears voicing the facts.

In-home health care aids are paid around $9.00 hr and less depending on the cities and states. It is a vital service that we undervalue because cheap labor means higher profits for the employer. It is that simple.

The talk of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 hour is promising and one can only hope this is just the first of many new steps to come. One can only hope those new steps come at a gallop and not a stroll. 

Other industrialized countries paid more than $15.00 hour as their starting pay. I see plumbers from Germany and clerical workers from England spending a month of leisure visiting our National Parks. 

These are not their first trip, nor will it be their last. They have traveled to Egypt, visited China, Surfed in Australia, and bought souvenirs in New Zealand.

My American Citizens can't even afford to spend a week at a National Park. They don't own a passport because they know they'll never had the time or funds to travel.

Socialism is Evil

You know who says this? Corporations and their mouth pieces. They know we don't have passports and will never have the time and funds to enjoy other countries. They know we will believe the bumper sticker slogan.

These other industrialized countries are doing better than we are because their citizens are doing better than we are. They are living well and better than we are, we are the ones that demonize everything when the narrative does not flatter our over-blown image of ourselves.

They Pay HUGE, I mean HUGE, Taxes

Sorry, that's not entirely true.  It lacks context.

I know that it makes us feel better to know that we are paying less and it empower us to have a sense of superiority that is exclusively in our minds. It does not bear fruit to further scrutiny.

This is nothing more than a different cool-aid flavor named propaganda. It is a placebo to keep us working at minimum wage jobs that break our backs and our spirits. 

Let's examine the tax "burden" of these countries shall we?

Even though there is a higher tax responsibility on the public in most industrialized nations, there is also a greater responsibility on the government (of the people, and for the people, not the corporations) to allocate those revenues for the betterment of society and to benefit the public in general.

Let's say that you are now forced to pay 40% of your income in taxes and you are outraged. You probably should be if you live in the United States because you know darn well you are not going to see any of this money benefiting you or your community.

Your tax dollars will go to benefit some fat cat that owns a chain of fast food restaurant, an oil company, or even Wal-Mart. 

You are already subsidizing Wal-Mart's profits by the way, you may just not know to what extent. (check the links at the bottom for detailed information)

What Do Higher Taxes in Industrialized Countries Buy You?

To begin with, you can't put the correct amount on something as wonderful as quality of life. Freedom (financial) to pursue your dreams and goals, or something as precious as having the right amount of balance between work and personal life.

The vast majority of Americans (U.S.A.) don't have any of that. Let's us try to quantify what we can and keep in mind that because of what is listed below, our counterparts get to enjoy the things mentioned above.

  • In most industrialized nations quality health care is free.
  • Educations is free or practically free.
  • Doctors graduate from universities without debt. Which means they are actually becoming doctors because they care about people, not because they view the field as a profit-generating-machine.
  • Child care is performed by qualified individuals with training and degrees, not a reliable housewife trying to earn a few dollars by babysitting the neighbor's kids. These people are trained in child development, they are paid living wages and have the same benefits as everyone else in the country, for instance:
  • Four weeks or more of paid vacation a year.
  • Parental leave, which depending on the country can be six-months (paid) up to four years. It includes both men and women, so men can be a part of raising their children, not just visitors into their children's lives.
  • Taxes on gasoline are higher than ours. However, their vehicles average 50 miles per gallon. Therefore, with their "higher taxes" it actually cost a lot less to drive there than it does here. Most people's vehicles in the United States are lucky to average 20 miles per gallon. Which in essence, if we do rough Math, it means that we would have to fill up 2 and 1/2 times to reach the same destination as the European car does with just one tank of gas.
Sure, they pay $5.00 a gallon and we pay $3.00 a gallon. We win!

No. We don't.

We had to fill up 2 and 1/2 times to cover the same distance. We pay more.

To add insult to injury their high taxes go to pay for infrastructure that is maintained.
Ours isn't. We have had bridges and roads in disrepair for decades. The taxes we paid are vacationing in the Cayman Islands and paying for the executives $20 million dollar annual bonuses. 

Let's Do The Math

Add up all your health care cost for you and your family over the past 10 years.
Add up all the gasoline.
Add up all your educational costs and those of family members you are responsible for.

You paid 5% less in taxes than your European or Canadian counterparts, but you have less money in your pocket because your expenses are horrific. Would it be not better to pay 5% more in taxes if the mentioned above was free to you? Because everyone contributes to the betterment of society?

You can't add up the four weeks of paid vacation.
You can't add up unlimited paid sick leave.
You can't add up the free and near-free child care because we don't have professional (with a degree and education) who care for our children in their pre-school years.
You can't add up your parental paid leave either. We don't have that.

But if you could put a financial value to it, it would be far more than you take home in your entire life. You don't earn that kind of bucks. Very few of us do.

Devaluation of Labor is Dehumanizing

This is what happens when we devalue labor and treat people as inferior because of how much they earn. We devalue our own environment and buy the propaganda that it is the citizen's fault, or the current/past administration's fault.

The fact is that corporations hate unions with the passion of a thousand burning suns and have done their best to destroy them and create a "right to work" environment. All this means is that you have a right to work for a lot less. As little as possible. 

It is a free-for-all in the labor market that will never benefit the worker. The worker did not create this environment. Corporations did.

We lose.

Unions expect labor to be compensated properly and that funds are set up to take care of the employees upon retirement. Unions know that hard labor has dire consequences in later life. Young and strong employees have a tendency to not look that far.

The Libertarian streak that has been making the news is nothing more than propaganda against regulations and oversight. Every man for himself. If you get ripped-off too bad for you.

If you get killed on the job. Too bad for you and your family.

There is a certain perverted satisfaction in thinking that everyone else is worse-off than you are. Ethnic groups earning minimum wage has always been the expectation.

Imagine the horror and panic that has set in among the most racist among us when they realized that their white privilege meant nothing and they would be lucky to find a minimum wage job at Wal-Mart along side the poor bastards of all ethnic backgrounds that have been struggling there for years.

Minimum wage needs to be about living wages for us all. There should be a huge "STOP" sign when someone mumbles about "teenagers" because even teenagers deserve to get paid living wages.

While some of us may be very happy having our 19 year-old and 30 somethings living in our basement, it should be because we choose to live like this, not because we are forced to do so.

In New Zealand, the entry and training minimum wage is $11.40 an hour. If you are an adult, age 19, your starting wage is $14.25.

Who would not like their kid be on their financial reliant way at $14.25 an hour? They can afford to BUY their own home and car. They also can pursue a career in economics, astronomy, medicine, or whatever their passions in life are because education is FREE. Thanks to higher taxes paid by the citizens.

Just about every American that has been forced to work abroad has come back from other industrialized countries with a much better perspective of why taxes are necessary and how they are used toward the betterment of those societies.

It is understandable how much we hate taxes in this country. They are nothing more than profits to augment the ever-expanding black hole of corporate greed.

We would feel a lot different if our tax dollars were re-invested in our social and physical infrastructure.

Heck! we might even feel the way Canadians feel about their country's education and health care system.

No one in Europe envy us. They don't lack for anything.

Unemployment in the USA means begging for unemployment insurance benefits extensions.

In European countries, as long as there is involuntary unemployment, they still get subsidies to pay their bills and continue to live with dignity. It could be four years worth of unemployment, it could be 9 months. It does not matter, people are not treated as disposable items and forgotten.

That is a government people can be proud of.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that industrialized countries are heavily unionized? and everyone loves them?

I am not done on these topics by a long shot, but I need coffee and I am sure you need a break from me.

Peace to you and yours.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Home Health Aides

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