If Walmart is your goal in life, good luck on that…

November 29, 2014

To count on it doing any good for any individual worker to pressure Walmart into raising its wages and/or giving its employees more hours or putting more on full-time is pretty much resigning one’s self to extremely low expectations in life. In other words, if Walmart or Walmart-type work is your idea of a career, well good luck with that…

That is not to say that Walmart should not pay its workers more. I mean for one thing, why should the rest of us subsidize Walmart and Walmart-like companies via various forms of public assistance low-wage employees are entitled to?

But from the individual’s standpoint, better to look elsewhere — a career change, a new skill, anything.

But the fact is too that not everyone has the opportunity or ability to go elsewhere. Oh, and I might add I am sure many are quite happy to be employed there and for various reasons, including flexibility of hours, locale, and skill level. And to some extent such work is really designed or best for those who are not depending on it to support a whole family — it could be extra money.

For the shopper, it’s a matter of going there because that is where the stuff is and quite possibly at the most economical price. The shopper can’t right all wrongs or afford to try. On the other hand there may be times when one can get better value by shopping at places that might have higher quality merchandise and better before and after sale service.

Somehow I am dubious that the having the government raise the minimum wage is terribly effective. For one thing, minimum is minimum, as in not enough. And, if suddenly everyone gets more money, guess what happens? Yeah, your rent goes up along with everything else. The trick seems to be making more than the other guy (or gal) not the same. And to do that, pretty much you usually have to have something to offer, better knowledge, skill level, craft, whatever.

One area where government might be effective against outfits like Walmart or indeed Walmart itself is monopoly tactics — not so much the kind that put other retailers at a disadvantage, but the kind that treat suppliers badly. Walmart is such a monopoly in some areas of merchandising that it squeezes suppliers — and of course I suppose that does harm its retail competitors too.

Related to all of this is a suggestion I heard on a radio talk show from a caller: if the minimum wage is raised, then in turn public assistance should be lowered accordingly. I don’t know, just a thought, and probably hard to figure.

Bottom line, one has to look out for one’s self. And the best pressure on a bad employer is for folks to leave…

 

P.s.

And for all the talk of not being able to feed a family on low wages, well while it is certainly true that if wages are low enough, it might make it impossible, there is such a thing as beans and potatoes — it beats the cost of fast food and is better for you. Fixing your own food is becoming a lost skill in our society…

 


Minimum wage is not the answer…

February 21, 2014

I have mixed emotions about talk of raising the minimum wage. I have always thought it mean spirited the way some employers like to keep wages so low but at the same time I have to say there is no future in working at low-pay jobs and the best thing to do is to move out of them — easier said that done, no doubt.

I mean it is a sad state of affairs if you have to depend upon the government setting your wage scale (well that is unless you work directly for the government).

For people too far into the game or for people of just plain limited ability there is not much hope likely. But for everyone else, especially young people, the only way out is to improve your skills and make yourself more valuable to employers. And I know from painful experience that if you choose a line of work that historically does not pay well or is too limited or might be prone to be becoming outdated you’re probably looking for trouble. I mean if you choose something you feel you just have to do then you also must be prepared to live with the good but the bad too.

In this ever-changing and technology-driven world of work there just is no future in unskilled labor. It’s really kind of scary.

As far as mandating that, say, fast food workers, or food service workers make more per hour — that is a government mandate, I’m not sure how that works. The first tactic of the employers will be to hire fewer people and maybe even let some people go — making the ones left work that much harder. And in the food service industry there is already a movement to eliminate many jobs. While I don’t think I have been to such a place, there are restaurants, besides fast food places, I think, that have no waiters — you order through an electronic device (at least I think I saw a story to that effect). And I imagine it would not be too far of a stretch to see robots replace the wait staff.

At some point in the distant future we may start all over again and go back to being human, either through preference or some cataclysmic event. But until then, moving out of minimum wage is the answer. I don’t think a government program is going to be as effective on that as individual initiative. It’s really done one person at a time. Some people are willing to invest in their own future and others not.

And still, there may need to be some government-imposed floor on wages. But you can’t just mandate everyone be paid some artificial figure called a “living wage”. Economics does not work that way. If everyone made the same, whatever they made would be worth nothing — think about that.


Our economic woes may not be as bad as they seem, but we could improve things greatly (and is the minimum wage really a good thing?)

August 15, 2011

As I saw all the people with their boats, some of them quite large, and their muscular pickups or SUVs, all of which cost considerable money to operate and maintain, to include cost of fuel, on my trip to “the lake”, as they call it, yesterday I snarkily wondered, “where’s all the hard times we keep hearing about?”

I was meeting with my daughter and her family who took me on a boat ride for my birthday. They are one of those with a boat.

Most of these boats I talk about are not little fishing boats, but rather large ski boats. My son-law’s boat is not all that large, but it is a ski boat, and all though it is many years old, he has refurbished it and it has one heck of a powerful engine.

So, are my daughter and her family suffering from the Great Recession or hard times or whatever you want to call it? You’d have to ask them. I would say not so much. Are they rolling in dough and living the high life? not so much either, to say the least. They just work and entertain themselves the best they can. And on this day it seemed pretty good.

For that matter, am I suffering from the Great Recession? Hardly. I mean not at all.

But the key here is you must have employment.

My daughter runs a pre-school (she does not own it). My son in-law works in the pool service industry and has been working at the same job for, I don’t know precisely, but at least 25 years I believe. His employer’s clientele are primarily fairly well-paid professionals and some just plain rich folks, I imagine.

I work as an over-the-road truck driver, and fortunately for me, the freight keeps moving across the land, although it has its ups and downs as any business.

But of course we hear on the news that one heck of a lot of our fellow citizens are without jobs. And of course this is partly the result of a huge drop in economic activity due to what we often call the Great Recession, brought on by still another burst in an economic bubble, the kind that seems to often run our economy (which, by the way, we were told was over, the recession that is, but does not really seem to be). This is also further caused by a vast change in the technology and the whole dynamics of the economy. A lot of jobs of yesterday are not coming back.

But let’s get back to those without jobs. I’ve been there done that in my life. For me, though, most or all of it was — well, my fault. I think the only real job I legitimately lost due to the economy was my last newspaper writer job. Newspapers are going the way of the buggy whip and besides that when I lost that one back in the early 90s, corporate takeovers were all the rage, and the corporation I worked for gutted my newspaper and then sold it. That is how corporate business sometimes does no service for the economy. They ruin something to make a quick profit, meanwhile putting people out of work.

But, I moved on. I became a truck driver.

A lot of folks who have lost their jobs probably need to do just that, I don‘t mean become truck drivers necessarily, but they need to move on. A lot easier said that done. I know. But done it must be.

The Great Depression of the 1930s came after a generation had moved from the farm into town, but when hard times hit, a lot of people moved back to the farm with parents or relatives. Or city people moved in with others. Or for the more desperate, many people just moved into empty buildings or lived in tents or whatever.

Today a lot of people, I think, live in foreclosed houses, waiting to be evicted. It can take quite some time for that day to come.

But the federal government became more of a social welfare institution during and after the Great Depression.

These days people tend to expect help from the government as their right when hard times hit.

And I think the vast majority of Americans support government social programs for folks genuinely in need, if for no other reason than they know — and you can predict what I would say here — “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.

What they have trouble with is the over expansion of what was supposed to be a safety net.

The government, funded by the people, does not owe you a living.

I would even be so bold as to say “the rich” do not owe you a living. Even though I am not by any definition rich and as far as I can see, at 62 now, never will be, the idea of taxing the rich to pay for what everyone else wants does not sound well to my ears (I just think they owe a fair share of taxes, and certainly should not get away with paying little to no taxes through loopholes). I also understand that simply making the rich pay the whole cost is probably mathematically impossible. Darn it.

I’ve written all of this to simply say, things are not as bad in America as seems to be presented at times. But I would like to see the following:

1. Quit wasting money on nation building overseas. Withdraw the troops. But do not gut our defenses.

2. Trim the social safety net so it is just that, a safety net, instead of a tax on those who work and invest for the benefit of those who have lost interest or who never have had any interest in the whole thing.

3. Revamp government health care so it is provided to those who have no other way of getting health care — I say this because we seem to prefer a basically privatized system in this nation. I would not be against single-payer government health care, but that does not seem to fly here.

4. Back to the social programs. Whatever we can do to revamp the system so it does not promote the bearing of children outside the traditional family unit. People need families. We have tried to replace the family unit with the government. It does not work well.

5. Most important of all, technology aside, we still need to make things in this country. Whatever we can do to effect a vast renewal of our industrial capacity, we need to do it. The service economy does not work. And while the trading of various financial instruments makes a lot of people a lot of money, it starves many more.

6. I think people really do support environmental regulations and government health and safety regulations. In fact, I think they expect them. But like everything else, including the social safety net, it can be overdone. And it may have been to some extent, although in some areas there is not enough. That is why we need intelligent and reasonable adults in charge. Hard to find them at times.

p.s.

Often people say, fine and dandy, but where are all the jobs going to come from, especially for those at the bottom of the ladder? I’m thinking the minimum wage may not have been such a good idea after all (I’m not really sure on this). But there are all kinds of things, legitimate things, that people will hire others to do if the price is right. The mistake is for government to step in and subsidize low-wage work. Whole sub economies you might call them can be built around servicing the needs of low-wage workers. People who find themselves in this lowly category and who are young enough may then have an incentive to get out of it. Now that may be an area where the government should step in, education and job training. But in even that there has to be some type of entry fee or investment on the part of the trainee in order to weed out the riffraff who are just looking for yet another free ride, albeit temporary. What I mean by what I just wrote is that when I was a reporter I was doing a story about a job training program for the unemployed. I interviewed a woman who said something to the effect, “oh, yeah I’ve been through this before”. Well, what happened? I should have asked. Also, a lot of otherwise quite responsible people will take government jobless assistance of various kinds rather than seek work, and sometimes it makes economic sense in the short run on an individual basis, but in the long run it is counterproductive for the economy of the nation.

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CORRECTION:

For the benefit of anyone who read the original version of my just previous post, and for the benefit of my conscience, I wrote “Tom” instead of “Tim” Pawlenty. I corrected it in an updated version.

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