Writing & Research: Aaron M. Weis
I’m going to candidly divulge a bit of personal information about myself and admit that I am a bit of a cinephile; that is, I am a lover of cinema, so much so that I’ve taken several film studies as a collegiate student. That being said, one of my all-time favorite, based on a true story type films is that of the 2015 blockbuster by the name, The Big Short, especially in its historical authenticity in describing events that lead to the global recession back in 2007 which were by and large a byproduct of the subprime mortgage crisis that occurred here in the United States.
At some point in the movie, it can be a little disheartening as the main characters break down on the most basic level what was happening with our economy that ultimately lead to their capacity to reap a tremendous fortune by predicting this event and betting against the American economy. However, in recent years stretching back as far as the Presidential election of 2016, there is one comment made by Steve Carroll’s character that has always stuck out in the back of my mind. After profiting on the nation’s tanking economy, instead of rejoicing, Carroll, impersonating Mark Baum, notes, “I have a feeling, in a few years people are going to be doing what they always do when the economy tanks. They will be blaming the immigrants and poor people, and for the first-time teachers.”
So, I can almost hear the skeptical reader inquiring, how is this relative in our current socioeconomic, or sociopolitical climate? Well, with the utmost scrutiny, like a forensic scientist might observe a blood sample under a microscope, let us examine the political arena in the last four years or so.
Since the campaign of the last presidential election, we can clearly observe a platform of political stage created by the two main dominant parties, that on the most fundamental level, pits these two demographics against each other in one way or another. So much so, they the primary emphasis of our current POTUS’s administration has been that of addressing what is ostensibly a problem concerning immigration, and this kind of illusion that we need a wall to protect our borders, and that objective is as reinforced today as it was back in 2016, although there is still no wall to show for it, but unfortunately there are unimaginable United States detainment camps in Texas.
But, conversely speaking, what is the pedagogy that we’ve seen being pushed by his opponents in the more blue, liberal states? Through this transparent dichotomy, what we can observe is an entire ideology, that comparatively has been likened to socialism, built upon a premises of free education, free healthcare, more intensely addressing Social Security and other related programs, increasing the salary of our teachers or professors, and, drumroll please, a matter of increasing the federal minimum wage limit to 15 dollars as has gained tremendous support and attention as of late. However, through said stark juxtaposition, it becomes painstakingly obvious that what Mark Baum was so wary about is transpiring before our very eyes; we as a nation are pitting these two demographics against each other, blaming the poor and the immigrants in the process.
And, when deciding against two greater evils, at a glance, free services sound wonderful, and if not, ideal or desirable, especially in the areas that we are discussing. Let’s be honest, on a national level, we are not getting what we are paying for in terms of education, and the numbers and statistics irrevocably substantiate this fact. As a nation, we owe more than 1.5 trillion dollars in federal student loan debt. According to such sources as The Pew Research Center, and Business Insider, both our education and healthcare systems are abysmal for a developed nation, when considering that they rank approximately 27th in the world despite what we are paying, and that doesn’t account for the fact that are literacy levels are appalling. We pay more than any other nation in these regards, yet this is the grim truth or results that we face, while countries that offer free education or healthcare perform better in these areas.
That being said, in our otherwise capitalistic and global economy that caters to the rich, yes that is another aspect of our subjective reality that we must face, that in terms of what America is great at, that we are the home of more billionaires than any other nation in the world, all of whom are only concerned with putting money in their friends and relatives pocketbooks, this structural system greatly agitates these individuals because there is no such thing as a free meal, and such propositions means that those families with higher incomes will inevitably be footing the bill, through taxes and other means, which will consequentially result in their harboring resentment towards those individuals that they deem as poor; so again, a point of blaming the poor and the immigrants for what happened. Doesn’t that raise any kind of historical alarm? Because I don’t know about you, but I can recall quite a few wars, and a whole lot of bloodshed that was the direct result of similar pretenses. After all, historically speaking, nothing stimulates an economy more than war. For instance, companies like Raytheon reap tremendous profits in selling weapons to all sides involved, just as Rockefeller’s Standard Oil did back in the 1940’s, selling resources to both the allies and the axis parties alike if you know your WWII history well enough.
However, in terms of a national 15-dollar minimum wage, in the same way, it is a matter that we as a people must approach with extreme caution, when considering the very serious ramifications that such a measure would impose.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to utilize a 1967 Duck Tales episode as an analogy of what we can typically expect. In the episode, Scrooge McDuck’s nephews come across a device that on the most rudimentary level created money out of nothing. So, like the federal reserve, the nephew’s created a bunch of non-existent money that could not be backed which made its way throughout the town. The cartoon, as simple as it is in its contrivance, spoke to the matter of inflation. At first it was received as a tremendously positive thing, however, it was not long before the prices of all the consumable goods rose so high as a consequence, that the money circulating throughout the town was practically invaluable.
In the same way, this is pretty consistent with what we could expect through such a measure. Typically speaking, the response will be that in order to compensate for the money lost by companies in this scenario, not only will they cut back on employers hours to make up for this expense, but at the same time simultaneously, inflation will rear in its nasty head with businesses being forced to increase the overall price of the goods and services that they offer. Cause and effect in full motion.
This is fairly conclusive in the light of various research and reports being conducted on the matter by leading economists, such as that conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, which highlighted that a 15 dollar minimum wage would potentially lead to 1.3 to 3.7 millions jobs lost by the year 2025, in addition to compounding negative impacts causing for more job losses over time. Back in 2011, the Heritage Foundation made a similar estimation with projected that the numbers would be higher at around 7 million lost jobs.
At the end of the day, there are six things of note that we should really be concerned about in this regard. The ramifications of this increase leads to the fact that in all actuality it would act as a job-killer. Not only that, but it would create for a cutthroat. Rockefeller like market, that would be an all out survival of the fittest environment. While driving up prices through inflation, the bill would also increase the speed of automation, shrink the overall economy through increasing deficits, interests, and inflation. It is for this reason that there are those in the economic field that are urging that this would lead to an economic disaster, and others still saying that it is an unnecessary risk that would ultimately create for undesired and unintended consequences.
On that finalizing note, it would seem that the real issue at the very core of this conversation is not one relating to a national minimum wage. Rather, the real conversation that we should be collectively addressing as a body of people is the fact that as one of the most developed nations in the world, that we have one of the lowest wage rates in all of the world. So much so, that it is a sad fact that the U.N. actually conducted a report that revealed that America is one of the most unequal developed nations in the world when considering its homeless and poverty levels nationwide.
So, instead of talking about what a viable minimum wage rate should be, it would seem that the real discussion that we should be having is one pertaining to addressing the exigency that is creating for a livable wage across the board, respectively speaking. Because as one of the most developed countries in the world, it should not be a reality that on average, most American’s bring home 30-40,000 dollars a year according, a price bracket that is twice that of someone working minimum wage. And despite that fact, it is the reality that to the average American family 500 dollars is a lot of money. Now, that may not seem accurate or like it is the case, but I assure you that it is. Typically speaking, the average American family cannot afford the cost of an unforeseeable 500 dollar expense that they had not otherwise expected. And this is in a global world where cars break down, your pets need to see the vet, and for the most part, most consumer goods are not built to last. Just as it is the case that the single mom making about 30,000 dollars a year can expect to be about 500 dollars in the red at the end of each month after all bills, utilizes, and expenses have been paid for. That is the real issue at hand that need be addressed. Not a minimum wage, but a livable one. a