Paying a "living wage" for menial jobs

We don't live in anything remotely close to a meritocracy. Not sure why you are even bringing that up.

Citation needed.

runeba: What the heck argument are you even trying to support any more, and what does it have to do with paying a living wage?

Hypatian wrote:

runeba: What the heck argument are you even trying to support any more, and what does it have to do with paying a living wage?

Recap: I came in to this thread and suggested that paying what you people consider a "living wage" is incompatible with massive unskilled immigration. Someone upthread suggested that education would be a solution to poor people being made worse off by competition for jobs from other poor immigrants. I said that education wouldn't work because not everyone is smart enough to take advantage of education, which raised the issue of the genetic lottery and which I defended in subsequent posts. That's where we are now.

The linked reports were, indeed, good, and showed some effect of immigration on the poor. Enough of an effect in the face of the host of other factors to be worth considering? Sadly, no.

I see. So you basically don't give a sh*t about America's poor and working class and instead prefer the poor of Mexico and Guatamala who decide to move over here. Now that's what i call caring about your fellow countryman!

I honestly don't value Americans over citizens of other countries.

Also: nice straw man.

runeba wrote:

I see. So you basically don't give a sh*t about America's poor and working class and instead prefer the poor of Mexico and Guatamala who decide to move over here. Now that's what i call caring about your fellow countryman!

Woah! You should probably not do that. He agreed that it is a factor. He also said there are other factors. How about we don't twist that into "you hate 'murica!" because that doesn't play well here. Disagreeing with your beliefs on how to improve this country does not mean he hates this country any more than the opposite would be true. If you want to get into that Bush II/Vietnam war supporters kind of rhetoric... well, we reeeeally don't do that here.

Also, as noted by SixteenBlue, you'll notice a lot of us are humanists of a sort. I see everyone as equal and equally deserving of life and happiness where possible. I genuinely believe everyone everywhere should have enough to live and have a bit of fun mow and again. Regardless of their education, race, country of origin, sexuality, bubblegum flavor, etc...

Demosthenes wrote:

bubblegum flavor

I was with you until this.

Okay, then, let's take the first one:

"A 'living wage' is incompatible with massive unskilled immigration."

Let us assume that undocumented workers are frequently paid significantly less than current minimum wage ($7.25/hour Federal minimum). How about $5.00/hour as a guess? Under this assumption, a person working 40 hours a week would bring home $200 a week. Assuming they never ever took time off, and work year-round rather than seasonally, and never get sick, and never go jobless for any amount of time, that would result in take-home pay of ~$10k/year, just barely shy of the ~$11k/year that is the HHS's official poverty line for a single-member household. A family of four with two full-time workers would be ~$21k/year, again just shy of the official poverty line for a four-member household.

Now, of course, those incomes are ridiculously low. In fact, the $15k/year of $7.50/hour is pretty ridiculously low, too. But anyway, let's assume that every one of those jobs could be filled by a U.S. citizen if only there weren't so many undocumented workers around to work them, and that they'd be paid $7.50/hour for their labor, which is more than the undocumented workers are supposedly getting.

The U.S. population in 2010 was approximately 309 million. The estimated resident unauthorized immigrant population in 2009 was 11 million (~3.5%). The approximate number of people living under the poverty line in 2009 was 46 million (~15%).

So, assuming that the proportion of workers in those populations aren't wildly different, if every undocumented worker's job was taken over by a person under the poverty line, and none of those people already had some sort of income (which would result in the maximum benefit to their income of taking over that job), that would bring less than 1/4 of the U.S. citizens currently living in poverty up to around the poverty line. (Which, as I have noted above, is a ridiculously small amount of income for working 40 hours a week.)

Of course, undocumented workers work more than 40 hours a week to actually make enough to get by, but documented workers would have to do that as well.

I find it difficult, given these numbers, to imagine how even the complete elimination of undocumented workers would solve any problems.

But more importantly, I really don't understand why undocumented workers are relevant at all. People who employ undocumented workers are, under current rules, breaking the law. So we already have a law against doing that. If raising minimum wage would drive more employers to employ undocumented workers, then... it would still be illegal.

And if all of the undocumented workers were magically ejected, the existing Federal minimum wage would still be a ridiculously small amount of money to make for any hour's work.

As for your other arguments... I'm not sure how this is particularly supposed to make sense. Does being "not smart" make one's labor valueless? Are we really the sort of society that believes that someone who does brute labor is somehow so much less "deserving" than their more educated "betters" that they should be punished by having to work much longer hours just to get by?

And I'm damned sure that we're not the kind of society that supports the idea that 20% of people are genetically destined from birth to be no good for anything except menial tasks.

I said that education wouldn't work because not everyone is smart enough to take advantage of education, which raised the issue of the genetic lottery and which I defended in subsequent posts. That's where we are now.

Everyone benefits from education. It is just different degrees and rates. And it may not work out in ways you propose. A less cerebral and more hands on person could become a plummer or a mechanic and lift themselves further in income mobility. Likewise, a more cerebral person could become a librarian or english teacher and move lower down in income mobility.

And I disagree with lumping all immigrants into unskilled labor because I feel that the greater barrier that causes more permanent abuse is the language barrier.

I thought the articles Runeba posted re: the ill effects of immigration on the poor were interesting, but diametrically opposed to what I've seen from Cato. Specifically:

1) immigrants, and especially poor, illegal immigrants, pay far more into the public social safety nets than they take out

2) the overall effects of relaxed immigration policy spurs economic growth so greatly that it outweighs any potential negative effects by orders of magnitude.

Thing is, I'm not in a position to back up these claim (posting from a phone, too lazy to do research, etc); so my assertions can be ignored for now. Just wondered if your thoughts lay in a direction similar to mine.

runeba wrote:
Jonman wrote:

IMore to the point, have you looked into what "CHOICE" the immigration system offers? The TL:DR version is "precious few", the largest of which is "sorry, back home you go." You conveniently sidestep reality by painting illegal immigrants as refusing to take a valid legal path when very often there is no such thing.

And we designed the law that way for a reason. We already take something like a million legal immigrants a year. Why should those who feel entitled to simply coming here illegally be allowed to do so?

The reason the immigration laws were designed the way they were was because of racism.

I'm just saying, my 19th century political cartoon was awesome.

Runeba wrote:

The rich and wealthy use their advantages to protect their not-so-bright offspring from the consequences of being average or below average. As it stands though we have to look at the pernicious aspects of this "meritocracy," because it often leads people who are close together in cognitive capability to mate with each other (college grads amongst themselves, Ph.Ds amongs themselves etc.) The consequence is that there is a good chance their kids stand close to inheriting some of the mental capabilities of their parents. Like, two Harvard grads siring kids who, while not exactly Harvard material themselves, are nonetheless in the upper 20% of the population in intelligence. Eventually we will have a "genetic elite" who find it easy to use their mental advantages to gain access through the doors of power and wealth.

Heritability of brain volume may be as high as 0.5, depending on the part of the brain you look at , and general cognitive skills like speed of processing are around .4-.6 at most. Heritability of general cognitive ability is tied to development of a part of the brain whose genetic size influence is around .35.

I think what you've got there is based on some seriously old work that has been outdated. It's almost a eugenics argument. There's no way that intelligence is inherited at at an 80% rate, and recent work (post-90's), while still not able to pinpoint the origin of specific types of intelligence, shows that environment has approximately the same overall influence as genetics for most types. What that means is that if you're smart, but poor, you're just as likely to have a bad outcome as if you're stupid, but rich. And anecdotally, the rich are not really different from us, outside the money. Otherwise, TMZ would be broke.

Besides, isn't the argument that the smarter people are, the *fewer* kids they have? Kind of shoots the idea of a "genetic elite" out of the water, if the fact that it has not arisen since the 1850's has not convinced you already. Last I checked, the Rockefellers and Goulds and Crockers are not winning Nobel prizes, in spite of their overwhelming economic advantages.

runeba wrote:
Jonman wrote:

The effects of the genetic lottery pale in comparison to the effects of the economic one.

What the genetic lottery you refer to determines is how much of a benefit education might bring, not whether it brings any at all. And again, the socio-economic lottery is more prevalent there too. Learning itself is an acquired skill, and if you don't have the opportunities to acquire that skill in early life, you're going to struggle to learn more in later life.

Economic fate in a a meritocracy is often, but not always, a signal of cognitive capability.

IMAGE(http://openclipart.org/people/Master-Sayien/trollface.svg)

As SixteenBlue noted, if you think that America if anything close to a meritocracy, then you and reality need to have a serious discussion about what's happened to your relationship.

I'm an MD. My IQ is rated at 148.

It's bullsh*t.

All of it is BS. Not only is IQ an overrated and usually inaccurate way to gauge intelligence, intelligence itself is not as divergent as some people seem to think it is. I've met some really, truly mentally incapable people in my time here on earth, but those people come very rarely, and even they are trainable. It may horrify you that some of those people can be trained to pass the US medical license exams, but, well, that's actually doable.

Without proof, I will not accept the assumption that any person short of people with documented genetic abnormalities (and even most of them are trainable) cannot be trained to perform a profession that would be considered skilled.

As for immigration, the US has basically shut its door to everyone short of very powerful and rich people. Many Filipino MDs of my acquaintance wanted to migrate to the US for better paying jobs. It is very complicated, very difficult, and for some people, impossible. It is not just unskilled workers that the US is shunning. It's gotten so bad that many folks have simply given up and immigrated to Australia and Canada instead, where they were almost treated like royalty, comparatively. Even the British NHS is comparatively more open to nurse applicants these days.

Don't say that illegal immigrants ignored the choice to immigrate legally when that choice doesn't exist.

Re: inflation

Labor costs for unskilled workers are not the only factor that goes into the cost of a good. There's the labor cost of every other person in the company, efficiency costs, utilities, maintenance, and raw materials. Raising the minimum wage will only directly affect the cost of goods, if none of those other costs are slashed to compensate. Ideally, the cost of labor would remain exactly the same, with the cost of raising minimum wage being taken directly from the wages of the upper income brackets, especially the highest ones.

Finally, small businesses, in my experience, try NOT to pay minimum wage because they typically have very small worker bases, so each worker's unique talents and motivations affects the company significantly. A burger flipper's culinary skill rarely develops into that of a chef, but his or her entertainment skills may evolve to match that of a stand up comedian. Such an employee is still classed as "unskilled" but the canny entrepreneur should realize the value such an employee truly has. She cannot afford to lose this employee, without dire consequences.

Truly gifted small business entrepreneurs develop their human capital, but hold onto them long term through benefits and personal relationships. That's the edge they have over large franchise outfits. This explains why most minimum wage earners do not work at small businesses. Hiring minimum wage earners for minimum labor inputs is, ironically, too expensive for small outfits.

jdzappa wrote:

One thing I'll say - you guys have convinced me that a slight increase in minimum wage - say $9 - is likely appropriate. Still don't approve of doubling it.

Here are some counterarguments.

Even the OECD has criticized Sweden for having a too high minimum wage, citing that it leads to massive unemployment among youth and others just entering the job market:

http://www.thelocal.se/jobs/?site=tl...

Another good op-ed looking at sky-rocketing rates of youth unemployment in Europe, and a good explanation of how its not the exact amount that the minimum wage is that matters, but rather how the new minimum wage compares to the median wage. The only European country that is bucking the trend is Germany which doesn't have a set minimum wage for young and new workers.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworst...

The issue I have with those counterarguments is that they make it seem like the minimum wage is the primary driver for unemployment when that really isn't the case. The primary driver, especially for youth unemployment, is that European countries typically have much, much stronger labor laws.

For example, here in the states most jobs fall under the concept of at-will employment. That basically means you can be fired (or quit) at any time. The company doesn't have to justify the firing and they certainly don't have to provide you with any termination compensation, assistance, or anything else.

In a country like Germany there is no such thing as at-will employment. In fact, there's a slew of laws and regulations that are designed to protect workers from being unfairly fired: companies can only fire an employee for specific reasons that have to be enumerated and explained; they have to provide advance notice of termination (in writing); and, depending on how long the worker has been there, that written notice of termination might have to be given months in advance.

Those law makes the European labor market, well, stickier.

Those laws mean that European companies are less eager to higher employees than an American company. If they decide to hire someone and it doesn't quite work out, they can't just fire that person and hire someone else. They have to follow the law and it could be months before they could finally get rid of that employee.

And this is why youth unemployment is typically higher in European countries: companies can't just fire a teenager who can't/won't do the job. They have to live with them for awhile. It's just safer to not to higher a worker that doesn't have any experience.

And I'll have to criticize the Forbes' chart for leaving out the little fact that Germany's economy has been booming, especially compared to every other country mentioned. The level of youth unemployment has a heck of a lot more to do with the overall economic health of a country than it does with the minimum wage.

Alright guys,

LarryC wrote:

I'm an MD. My IQ is rated at 148.

It's bullsh*t.

All of it is BS. Not only is IQ an overrated and usually inaccurate way to gauge intelligence, intelligence itself is not as divergent as some people seem to think it is. I've met some really, truly mentally incapable people in my time here on earth, but those people come very rarely, and even they are trainable. It may horrify you that some of those people can be trained to pass the US medical license exams, but, well, that's actually doable.

Without proof, I will not accept the assumption that any person short of people with documented genetic abnormalities (and even most of them are trainable) cannot be trained to perform a profession that would be considered skilled.

As for immigration, the US has basically shut its door to everyone short of very powerful and rich people. Many Filipino MDs of my acquaintance wanted to migrate to the US for better paying jobs. It is very complicated, very difficult, and for some people, impossible. It is not just unskilled workers that the US is shunning. It's gotten so bad that many folks have simply given up and immigrated to Australia and Canada instead, where they were almost treated like royalty, comparatively. Even the British NHS is comparatively more open to nurse applicants these days.

Don't say that illegal immigrants ignored the choice to immigrate legally when that choice doesn't exist.

Re: inflation

Labor costs for unskilled workers are not the only factor that goes into the cost of a good. There's the labor cost of every other person in the company, efficiency costs, utilities, maintenance, and raw materials. Raising the minimum wage will only directly affect the cost of goods, if none of those other costs are slashed to compensate. Ideally, the cost of labor would remain exactly the same, with the cost of raising minimum wage being taken directly from the wages of the upper income brackets, especially the highest ones.

Finally, small businesses, in my experience, try NOT to pay minimum wage because they typically have very small worker bases, so each worker's unique talents and motivations affects the company significantly. A burger flipper's culinary skill rarely develops into that of a chef, but his or her entertainment skills may evolve to match that of a stand up comedian. Such an employee is still classed as "unskilled" but the canny entrepreneur should realize the value such an employee truly has. She cannot afford to lose this employee, without dire consequences.

Truly gifted small business entrepreneurs develop their human capital, but hold onto them long term through benefits and personal relationships. That's the edge they have over large franchise outfits. This explains why most minimum wage earners do not work at small businesses. Hiring minimum wage earners for minimum labor inputs is, ironically, too expensive for small outfits.

1 in 1000 people have your IQ or higher, Larry. And you've made good use of it. There's no need to feel guilt about it and pretend that your station in life was is not in significant part dependent on your genetic endowment (in addition to your upbringing/decision to make use of that endowment). You may or may not consider yourself an intellectual but there's no denying that you've been blessed with the mental capability to succeed in many professions that society rewards amply. If your IQ was 95 you would have found your academic courses too rigorous and difficult and that would have influenced your decision to become an MD.

I got an amazing lecture when I entered law school from the then dean. 90 percent of you will not graduate in the top 10 percent.

That lecture needs to be given in public schools.

runeba:

I do not pretend and I do not feel guilt about any intellect I may or may not possess. The bare truth of it is that I am simply very good at English and reading which endows me with a peculiar advantage in "book learnin." I am hopeless at any kinesthetic pursuit and my grasp of mechanisms is juvenile at best, among my many, many, many, many shortcomings.

I have encountered people who have IQs of below 100, and they were very well suited to many professions considered "skilled." I daresay more than a few could be trained to be MDs if they could be presented the material in their preferred manner. They may never become great experimental scientists, but few clinicians are.

Many posters here can and have acquired a good understanding of many pathologies of their interest just from browsing the Internet, which is a peculiar skill selected by Internet forums. With enough such knowledge and skill training for manual and clinical skills, I daresay many could have become excellent MDs, if they wanted to.

However, the barrier to professions isn't just skill and knowledge acquisition. They must attend a medical college of some kind, which represents a tremendous financial hurdle, and pass created tests, which poses a written language barrier. Finally, they must secure a position, which above all else is driven by that special "who you know," which is also a barrier to entry and excellence in medical college.

Only the top 0.01%, in my estimate, are savvy enough to have what it takes to be an MD and also surpass financial and social barriers through scholarship applications and suchlike. There is no reason for those barriers to be there. They are unjust. They also waste human resources.

Finally, people can acquire a great disparity of actual skill in professions that are typically classed as "unskilled." Skilled fruit pickers waste less fruit, gather more per hour, and maintain higher morale in the face of seemingly impossible picking loads. Experienced elite janitors don't just clean the floor - they know everything there is to know about cleaning and repairing anything and do so with efficiency and speed.

Why is their skill valued exponentially less than mine, just because I happened to luck into a peculiarly useful skill for acing written tests?

EDIT:

Just in case it's missed. My special quality isn't that I'm intelligent or smart. It's that I test well. I test everything well so long as it's written. That includes IQ tests. IQ testing is problematic to begin with, but given my skill, it's especially bad at rating me.

The worst part of it is that while it's fantastic for me, it's totally useless to society at large.

runeba wrote:

There's no need to feel guilt about it and pretend that your station in life was is not in significant part dependent on your genetic endowment (in addition to your upbringing/decision to make use of that endowment).

I suggest you read Robear's post about the heritability of intellectual capacity again before bringing genetics back in to your argument.

It's been documented that human tribal groups are naturally egalitarian. The ego of the successful hunter is often kept in check by the other men of the group who tease him endlessly lest he lets his successes get to his head, and no doubt a part of him plays along lest he inspire murderous jealousy. These groups often go to elaborate steps to suppress status issues amongst themselves, such as the men equally dividing amongst themselves the spoils of a hunt so that no one could claim to the women that he is the best hunter. We are complex creatures, driven towards seeking status and, at the same time, underplaying our status when it can prove problematic.

It is kind of you Larry to claim that you are not special and that other people could have as easily achieved what you did, but I think what you say here is pernicious. It can lead a person who absolutely does not have the capability to do the work necessary to earn an MD to believe that he can simply choose to become an MD never mind his or her limitations. Your guilt over your genetic endowment can result in more harm than you simply acknowledging you have more raw brain power than most people and that's why you're in the top 5% in income.

We'll have to disagree. I think it is the more pernicious to think that skilled labor is the purview of the genetic chosen. For one thing, it leads people to justify paying other people less wages!

LarryC wrote:

We'll have to disagree. I think it is the more pernicious to think that skilled labor is the purview of the genetic chosen. For one thing, it leads people to justify paying other people less wages!

Yes it can, under the logic of absolute capitalism which, I believe, goes against human nature as much as communism. I believe that people should be given the incentive to work hard but that they should be cushioned from failing to lucky enough to be born to the right parents or failing to be lucky enough to be born with the right genetic disposition towards academic success. I'm favorable towards John Rawls' "A Theory of Justice" in regards to how we should organize our society:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Theor...

I'm a liberal, and an immigrant to the U.S. It just really bothers me that elite business men want to use immigration to create more competition in the lower sectors of society as to lower wages.

I'm completely with LarryC on this subject. I know it was glossed over a few pages ago but my post laid out my thoughts on this subject.

I really think the problem is with the cost of living and inflation but since we can't really control those very well without creating a completely artificial economy minimum wage is the only mechanism I can see that we have to force companies to treat their lowest paid employees as fairly as their highest.

LarryC wrote:

I have encountered people who have IQs of below 100, and they were very well suited to many professions considered "skilled."

Do you go around asking people what there IQ is? I really don't know the IQ of anyone I work with or even know on a personal level.

Duoae wrote:

I really think the problem is with the cost of living and inflation but since we can't really control those very well without creating a completely artificial economy minimum wage is the only mechanism I can see that we have to force companies to treat their lowest paid employees as fairly as their highest.

But if you increase the pay of minimum wage employees, then the products they produce or sell go up to compensate the companies that are paying them. This causes people who make more then minimum wage to ask for more money from their companies. Either

1. the companies comply causing more goods and services to become more expensive which is the cause of inflation. This pushes the minimum wage employees back below the poverty line which yields no gains (though the dollar would now be worth less)

2. the companies refuse the raises and this pushes the middle class down closer to the poverty line. The dollar may stay roughly the same, but we would have more poor people.

I really don't see how the solution to the problem is increasing minimum wage. I see it as a band-aid approach that will just speed up inflation. Maybe the better action would be focus on education and start getting production back in the US instead of importing everything.

kazar wrote:
LarryC wrote:

I have encountered people who have IQs of below 100, and they were very well suited to many professions considered "skilled."

Do you go around asking people what there IQ is? I really don't know the IQ of anyone I work with or even know on a personal level.

He's a doctor, he probably has patients that have had to have cognitive tests as part of therapy or diagnosis..

kazar wrote:
Duoae wrote:

I really think the problem is with the cost of living and inflation but since we can't really control those very well without creating a completely artificial economy minimum wage is the only mechanism I can see that we have to force companies to treat their lowest paid employees as fairly as their highest.

But if you increase the pay of minimum wage employees, then the products they produce or sell go up to compensate the companies that are paying them. This causes people who make more then minimum wage to ask for more money from their companies. Either

1. the companies comply causing more goods and services to become more expensive which is the cause of inflation. This pushes the minimum wage employees back below the poverty line which yields no gains (though the dollar would now be worth less)

2. the companies refuse the raises and this pushes the middle class down closer to the poverty line. The dollar may stay roughly the same, but we would have more poor people.

I really don't see how the solution to the problem is increasing minimum wage. I see it as a band-aid approach that will just speed up inflation. Maybe the better action would be focus on education and start getting production back in the US instead of importing everything.

The interesting thing is that companies have increased wages themselves so are the companies driving the inflation or is inflation a natural by-product of the free (ish) market? CEO and executive pay increases over the decades have to come from somewhere. Yes, there are increased efficiencies from automation and new technologies but overall all wage rises across the business factor into the overall cost of product (as well as dividend payouts to shareholders). It's safe to say that increasing the executive pay from eg 250,000 to 270,000 will pay for a very slight increase to minimum wage earners who are actually making the company achieve its goals a.d targets.

kazar wrote:

focus on education

I used to agree with this but these days I do not think more education is the answer. I've discovered that rather often the person working that "unskilled" job has completed college or university, even things like trade school, law school, and engineering do not seem immune to this; there simply does not seem to be enough work for the number of graduates. Go long enough without a source of income and regardless of your educational background you'll probably take an 'unskilled' job just to feed yourself and to pay for the student loan you needed for said education.

kazar wrote:

start getting production back in the US instead of importing everything.

This would also result in inflation no? Due to the far higher cost of labor in the US vs elsewhere with these higher costs again getting passed right onto the consumer.