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Minimum Wage is a Moral Question

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

The White House put out a brief video on why we should raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hour. It is OK as far it goes, but it is still a little disappointing to me.

Click here to see the video. [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqtLQgkcUFM ]

Even the White House is looking at minimum wage law though the modern day pro-business bias that has infected all of civil government. Even though raising bottom wages creates an economic stimulus that would boost spending, increase demand for goods and services and create more jobs, this isn’t the most important aspect. The main reason to raise minimum wages is because it’s simply the right thing to do.

The question of minimum wage is actually a moral question. There is no good rationale for paying a full-time employee less than a self-sufficient wage. What is almost half of a human beings waking moments worth? What is the minimum compensation they should receive for devoting that time to enrich their employers? Why should it be less than what is required to survive with human dignity?

From a social perspective, should profitable businesses be held in high esteem as models of efficiency for paying wages so low that full-time employees require taxpayer subsidy to keep from becoming homeless or having their children taken away from them? Should we have to subsidize the labor force of wealthy corporations like Walmart? Should the federal income taxes of those who make more than minimum wage have to be used to supplement the other employees who takes out the trash at night or mow the lawn? Why should any healthy corporation be allowed to boost their profits at public expense through subsidized labor?

If small businesses or start-up company need government subsidies or tax breaks to help pay their help, let these business owners apply for government assistance rather than make their employees feel inadequate by having to beg for government assistance. No man or woman who works hard all day long should have to apply for housing assistance or SNAP or KidCare or childcare assistance or HEAP or any other government subsidy. Let the business owners apply for government aid to help pay employees the self-sufficient wages all full-time workers should have. Let the means testing process for government subsidy programs fall to the employers. Let’s get it off the backs of the working poor and eliminate the social stigma they don’t deserve. Let the minimum cost of self-sufficient labor wages be part of the cost of doing business in America.

Profits for CEO’s and share holders should not come before self-sufficient wages for laborers. Exploiting workers and taxpayers to boost profits for investors and chief executives is immoral.

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Are You Forced to Subsidize Low Wage Workers?

by Brian T. Lynch

According to the NY Times: “As in 2011, 46 percent, or nearly half of New Yorkers, were making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold, a figure that describes people who are struggling to get by.

Even with fewer people unemployed, the poverty rate for working-age adults working full time reached 8 percent, by the city’s measure. Fully 17 percent of families with a full-time worker lived in poverty, and even among families with two full-time workers, the rate was 5.2 percent.”

NOTE: This means that 8% of adults working FULL-TIME are at or below the poverty line, while 46% percent of all EMPLOYED New Yorkers are struggling to get by. This reinforces my analysis that NEARLY HALF of all working families must rely on some form of PUBLIC ASSISTANCE to make ends meet. Government assistance to these fully employed families = a tax subsidy on labor costs for the companies that employee them.

Put another way, people who earn more are being made to subsidize the company’s low wage employees through their federal income tax withholding. Ordinary wages have been held hostage to the 1% for almost 40 years.

AMERICANS NEED A RAISE

In, “Making the Case for a LIVING WAGE” I discussed more fully why it must be the obligation of business to compensate their employees to a level of at least minimal self-sufficiency (a living wage).  Once all wage earners realize they shoulder the burden for low wage workers there will be more activism to at least raise the minimum wage. Ask yourself, “How much does my companies low wage policies cost me in income taxes?”

Here below is the link to the New York Times article which is about New York City, but could be about any city in America.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/nyregion/nearly-half-of-new-yorkers-are-struggling-to-get-by-study-finds.html?_r=0

Forty-six percent of New Yorkers in 2012 were making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold, and New York City’s share of poor people appears to have plateaued since the…
THE NEW YORK TIMES|BY SAM ROBERTS

Four Graphs on What Hurts the Working Class

We never hear any reference to the working class these days. The media and our politicians only speak of the “middle class” as if that covers everyone who isn’t either poor or wealth. Even references to the poor are scarce. The working class exists. They are sandwiched between the poor and the middle class and they are being squeezed into poverty. It is cruel to ignore them and the terrible pain they are suffering. What has happened to them, aside from being ignored can only be touched on by the four graphs that follow. These were presented in a conversation I had with conservative friend of mine who has forgotten the working class exists. There are many factors hurting the working class. This conversation was only about four factors, wage suppression, the upward redistribution of wealth, working class decent into poverty and declining upward mobility. Post this is my way of addressing what I believe is the most hurtful factor of  them all… public silence.

Q:  I always thought of the owners as the producers of the jobs that the workers have. You say that it is the workers who are the producers. Have you ever been employed by someone on welfare?

A:  Owners coordinate the workforce, but it the employees who do the work that makes the products or services. So in a real sense, the workers ARE the producers. And this has nothing to do with welfare at all.  Jobs are not a product. Stuff is a product. Things to sell or trade is a product. Workers are key to making stuff or offering stuff yet when they want a fair share of the value they create they are treated like thieves. Read this and you will know what I am talking about even if you don’t agree:

http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/…/fair-wage-for-days…

hourly GDP vs Wage graph

I also just ran across this table (below) that shows were all the Hourly GDP wealth has gone since the mid-’70’s.

CEO Compensation

Source:  https://scontent-a-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/1480602_10200873563747333_1576469932_n.jpg

Q:  Why should it matter how much a C.E.O. makes if their workers remain on the job? It’s one of the great things about this country. You can work where ever and for whom ever you want.  Someone please explain to me why it is greed for C.E.O.’s to make deals to be paid as much as the market will bear but it is ok for workers to make deals to make as much as the market will bear.

 A:  It may not matter to you at all, but anyone who wonder why they can’t have collective barganing while the CEO is making 400 times their salary might have questions, especially since this is strictly a feature of the US economy and others around the world are paid better than we are relative to their economies.

Don’t forget, almost  40% of people who work full time are poor. I’m not sure what percentage of the poor they account for, but it is clear when we speak of the poor we are not speaking only of people who are disabled, elderly, retired or unemployed.

Working and Non working Poor bar graph

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi…/en/7/74/Pov_crossnatl.jpeg

Note here that in the US, the number of working poor (blue bar in right hand column) is twice the number of non-working poor. So when you and I talk about the poor, you are defining it as welfare recipients while I broadly define it as everyone living below the poverty line, the majority of whom work full time. That’s partly why we have a disconnect on this topic. In my understanding, most poor people work.

Q:  I wonder how many of the poor who are now C.E.O.’s would agree with you? Or would they say : “Work hard towards your goal, as I did, and you can achieve anything.”.  Isn’t this what made our economy great?  Not people who wanted a wage so they could be comfortable in the position they have today?  Flipping burgers at McDonalds is not supposed to be a permanent career goal. Even the management at McDonalds wants people to move up. Or am I wrong about incentive and ambition?

A:   There are 17,000 companies with 500 employees or more. There are 43 million poor. If 20% of CEO’s started out as poor children that would mean there are only about 4,200 CEO openings for 43 million potential applicants. It’s a safe bet that far fewer than 20% of CEO’s come from poverty. In fact, less than 20% of children born to poorest families will make it into the middle class in their lifetime. Less than 8% will make over $140k/year, which is approximately the income line where the richest fifth starts. Of those at the top, only the smallest fraction will become a CEO. I believe that if you really understood the economic situation in America you, of all the folks I know, would be a big supporter of the working class.

Upward Mobility bar graph

source: http://www.pewtrusts.org/…/Eco…/PEW_Upward%20EM%2014.pdf

As for incentive and ambition, a good paying job that makes one economically self-sufficient is the highest motivator.  But a self-sufficient wage for a single earners is over  $30,000/year whereas the median wage for a single earners is less than $26,000/year. In other words, the incentives are less than optimal in today’s economy, and no amount of hard work or individual effort will make a difference for most people until even low wage workers receive a fair wage for a days work.

Austerity for Dummies, Like Us

Imagine owning a small manufacturing business with 25 happy employees.  After paying overhead , suppliers, employees, benefits and your Potter’s Bank business loan you have just enough to get by.

One day your suppliers find they can’t get raw materials because of artifical shortages and price spikes caused by futures speculators that work at bank. The suppliers they need to borrow money to pay for higher priced raw materials, at least until they can adjust with worker layoff and cutbacks. Potter’s Bank charges them higher interest rates because now they’re “risky” borrowers.

Your suppliers must pass along their higher costs to you, so now its your turn to cut wages, benefits and hours. Your employees grumble and can’t keep up with the workload. Production stalls, but also sales start to drop because all the affected workers are also your customers.

One day you discover you can’t pay the bank loan, so you go to Potter’s Bank to renegotiate terms.  Potter tells you what he has been telling everyone:

“You’re a credit risk! Your workers make too much and the cost of their benefits is rising. Cut benefits, cut wages, layoff some of those lazy workers and you will be more efficient. Only then will I loan you the money you need.  Do as I ask or Ill  raise your interest rates further or foreclose on your business.”

This is the austerity trap. Bankers use their leverage to play both ends against the middle forcing both businesses and governments to be more labor efficient. It squeezes more production out of fewer workers for lower wages and benefits. It also suppresses consumption because fewer consumers are employed and those who work have less income or job security. It doesn’t matter if austerity is imposed on businesses or the public sector, the effects are the same.

Imposing austerity is like digging a hole in the economy, the more you dig the deeper the hole. It is good for bankers but bad for workers. It increases corporate profits but reduces personal incomes (except for the very rich). It shrinks the size of government but reduces support to the poor and unemployed people it creates.  What ever hurts workers hurts consumers which suppresses consumption and depresses the economy, which then hurts more workers in a literally vicious cycle.

Making debt reduction a priority during a recession, rather than creating jobs and putting money back into the hands of consumers, is austerity. As the article below points out with a graph, shutting down the government and causing the government sequester to lower government spending at this time has hurt recovery. It is the wrong prescription.

In a World Without Austerity…

By Adam Hersh | October 4, 2013

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/news/2013/10/04/76305/in-a-world-without-austerity/

Thanks to the federal government shutdown, there is an absence of new U.S. job market data for September 2013. Let’s take a moment to imagine the kind of economy we might see in the United States today had we not just lived through three years of fiercely divisive politicking for fiscal austerity—sharp cuts to public services and investments, as well as cuts to taxes on America’s wealthiest people.

If federal and state governments had not adopted policies of fiscal austerity, today’s jobs report from the Department of Labor would likely be telling us, as shown in Figure 1:

  • U.S. employers added more than 260,000 jobs in September.
  • The unemployment rate for September fell below 6 percent.
  • Since December 2010, the U.S. economy has added more than 8.2 million new jobs—or 2.4 million more than have actually been added.

employment without fiscal austerity

Higher Wages – Good for Families, Good for Economy & Good for Business

Below is another graphic that speaks for itself. Not only does paying higher wages improve the US economy and the lives of every citizen, it also makes good business sense.

I have written extensively on wage history and the case for a living wagewealth distribution in America, our global business competitivenessthe dangers of our growing wealth inequality, and many other issues effecting middle and working class Americans, including and post on class warfare.


In a Labor Day message from former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, he, ” breaks down what it’ll take for workers to get a fair share in this economy — including big, profitable corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart to pony up and finally pay fair wages. 

 

http://front.moveon.org/how-workers-can-get-a-fair-shake-a-labor-day-message-from-robert-reich/#.UiTEGDbVCup

There is a petition that you can sign if you click on the above link.  Please consider it your Labor Day obligation to those who struggled and even died to give you the benefits we still have today.

See How Much Money it Takes to Be Financially Secure in Your Town

What follows is a Family Budge Calculator put out by the Economic Policy Institute. www.epi.org/resources/budget/ The example shown here is for a two parent family with two children living in the capital city of New Jersey, Trenton. A typical family there needs over $75,000 in income per year to be financially secure. That means each parent would have to work full-time and be making at least $18/hour. Or, if only one parent worked, they would need to be pulling in $36/hour for their family to be financially secure. This is a long ways from minimum wage.

Family Budget Calculator

EPI’s Family Budget Calculator measures the income a family needs in order to attain a secure yet modest living standard by estimating community-specific costs of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes. The budgets, updated for 2013, are calculated for 615 U.S. communities and six family types (either one or two parents with one, two, or three children).

As compared with official poverty thresholds such as the federal poverty line and Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets offer a higher degree of geographic customization and provide a more accurate measure of economic security. In all cases, they show families need more than twice the amount of the federal poverty line to get by. [To see and use the actual calculator for yourself readers of WordPress must go to the website at  http://www.epi.org/resources/budget/ ]

 

Family Types include:

One Parent, One Child One Parent, Two Children One Parent, Three Children Two Parents, One Child Two Parents, Two Children Two Parents, Three Children

States Include:

AK AL AR AZ CA CO CT DC DE FL GA HI IA ID IL IN KS KY LA MA MD ME MI MN MO MS MT NC ND NE NH NJ NM NV NY OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VA VT WA WI WV WY

Area Names In New Jersey Include:

Atlantic City, NJ MSA Bergen-Passaic, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Jersey City, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Monmouth-Ocean, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Newark, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area Ocean City, NJ MSA Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA Trenton-Ewing, NJ MSA Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, NJ MSA Warren County, NJ HUD Metro FMR Area


RESULTS FOR TRENTON, NJ

Trenton-Ewing, NJ MSA (NJ)

Two Parents, Two Children

Item

Cost

Monthly Housing

$1206

Monthly Food

$754

Monthly Child Care

$1258

Monthly Transportation

$607

Monthly Health Care

$1519

Monthly Other Necessities

$502

Monthly Taxes

$447

Monthly Total

$6292

Annual Total

$75508

Family budgets are for 2013.

Learn more about EPI’s Family Budget Calculator

DATA: Download source data (Excel)

Breadwinner Moms – A New Pew Research Report

The following report is an important story of America’s demographic shifts with significant impliciations for children. If 40% of households with children are headed by working mothers, and some smaller percentage are headed by working fathers, then we are approaching the point where only about half of the children growing up are coming from two parent families.  What is the impact on tomorrows society when nearly have the young adults have not grown up with a father or mother role model in their life? It also has other significant implications in terms of equal pay for women issues, day care needs, after school programming and much more.  Combine this data with the recent mile stone that there are more poor people living in the suburbs than the city and it all represents some significant social challenges that we must face.

Breadwinner Moms

Mothers Are the Sole or Primary Provider in Four-in-Ten Households with Children; Public Conflicted about the Growing Trend

by  and 

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/29/breadwinner-moms/

CHAPTER 1: OVERVIEW

SDT-2013-05-breadwinner-moms-1-1

A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11% in 1960.

These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers.1

The income gap between the two groups is quite large. The median total family income of married mothers who earn more than their husbands was nearly $80,000 in 2011, well above the national median of $57,100 for all families with children, and nearly four times the $23,000 median for families led by a single mother.2

Continue reading at the following URL: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/29/breadwinner-moms/