The Great Wage Rage

*So about halfway through I lost my train of thought so if it starts getting a bit incoherent I shall apologize in advance*

Here I go diving into another highly controversial topic again. This time about the recent attention on the proposed minimum wage hike. Speaking from the point of view from someone in the top 10% and a non-economist, I will admit that my views will be biased and skewed to a certain extent. And to add, I will be making some general assumptions throughout just to simplify things knowing that many of these assumptions may vary depending on geographical location. So first off, my stance on the issue is that I oppose the notion for demanding a wage increase because some people are paid too little. I’m not making a point on whether or not it is good for the economy, whether trickle down or bottom-up is the correct model to follow. Politicians and economists have long debated this issue and really there hasn’t been much consensus on the effects of either, and as such I don’t know which I feel is better. The idea of being treated unfairly due to the low minimum wage and that it is insufficient to survive on, however, is an issue where I stand firmly against.

What annoys me are all these people who complain that the wage they get from working at a someplace like a fast food chain is too low. I’m sorry to say, but working at a fast food chain should not be a career unless you are a manager or owner. These positions are considered to be unskilled labor. They don’t require any degree or education other than training which is provided when they get the job. Where I was raised, I don’t think anyone said as a kid, “Golly, I sure would love to flip burgers for the rest of my life.” That is just ridiculous. These jobs, in my eyes, are meant to be transitional jobs at best. The kind of job that you pick up part time to earn a little extra spending money, or the kind that you turn to while you try to make ends meet while you pursue  something better. Increasing the minimum wage for these workers is just a slap in the face to everyone else who went through the effort to better themselves for a little better lifestyle. Now clearly if you increase the minimum wage, then other wages near minimum will also be affected and would require some adjustment, but then we get into the ‘inflationary effect debate’ which I wont get into here.

The other claim that you cant survive off the current minimum wage just seems bogus to me. What does it mean to survive? A place to sleep, food, clothing, transportation (can include public transportation). These 4 things are what i deem to be necessities in today’s society. So lets break down how much each of these things cost (and here come all the assumptions). Living in Texas, I know land and cost of living is cheap. You can find a plethora of apartments for around $350-$400/month but i realize the rest of America is not like Texas, so I will assume that you can find an apartment within a reasonable commute to where you work for around $500/month. It’s not going to be the prettiest of places but it will work if you’re ‘barely making a living’. Even still I feel $500/month is a little high. Utilities such as Electricity and water I will assume on average $50/month. For some, this will mean shorter showers and being more conscientious about electricity usage. For transportation I will allow for $100/month. Again, some will need to resort to carpooling or public transport but the $100/month limit should be able to achieve. As for food, I will assume $200/month. Now this number is one I am fairly confident in. As college years are still clear in my memory, $50/week is plenty to keep you fed. So if we add these all up, we get a grand total of $850 /month. Multiply by 12 and we require $10,200/year to just survive. Assuming full time minimum wage at $7.25/hr your yearly wages will be $17,400. After federal taxes you’re left with a little over $13,000 before state taxes. So that leaves a good $2800 wiggle room for state income tax (if it even applies), adjustments to assumptions and luxury/savings. Luxury items include things like eating out, shopping, emergencies, internet, cable, etc. Many things that most of us take for granted everyday are considered luxuries in terms of survival. So as far as being able to survive and afford the bare basics, minimum wage appears to be able to cover the expenses. Credit card debt, student loans, car payments, house payments, luxury items, non-essential expenditures, these are all personal decisions that you make of your own volition and are not forced into making them. To demand a wage increase so that you can afford to cover these costs is not the employer’s responsibility. If you want a higher pay, work on making yourself better so that you can get a better job with a better pay. Simple.

Now switching gears to what’s important, there was another claim that minimum wage workers are being treated unfairly and that big corporations are earning too much. My opinion on this? Is corporate America making more money? Numbers show yes, they are. That cant be refuted. Can they pay their workers more? Most likely. Should they be obligated by law to pay them more? Here is where I say no. And here is also where I believe the root of the problem with the demand for wage increase comes from. The minimum wage argument isn’t about not making enough to survive. To me it’s about the increasing wealth gap in America and people’s perception of the wealth gap. Why should the wealth gap be so important for someone who is just trying to make ends meet. Sure it’s important for analysts who want to determine the health of a nation’s economy, but for your everyday average Joe or Jane, why should you compare yourself to someone at the top of the economic ladder? The idea of equality and the American dream is great and all, but there comes a time when you need to be realistic. Rome wasn’t built in a day and those at the top who have become successful (or at least most of them) have had to put in the effort and make huge risks to get to where they are. The reason minimum wage jobs even exist is because someone else has fronted all the risk involved with starting, owning and running a business. What does the minimum wage employee risk? In terms of the company, he or she risks virtually nothing. So why should it be that investors, owners and the others at the top who risk their own assets be forced to give up the return on their investments? Now should they pay more on based a moral reasoning? That is subject to opinion, but as far as a legal standpoint, I don’t feel they should be obligated at all.

In the end, I think it’s human nature to always want more. We always look up and say, “I want to be like that some day.” The society we live in has always told us more is better. It’s what drives those at the top to continue improving. If there were no wealth gap and we all made relatively the same amount, where’s that competitive drive and nature to improve ourselves? No one is ever completely satisfied with what they have, there’s always something better. But to just demand more without doing anything different seems irrational and childish. If you want something you have to work for it, and if you run in to obstacles along the way then you need to either find a way around it or better yourself to overcome them, but don’t expect someone to just hand you a free pass. If you want to earn more money, go find a different job that pays more. According to jobs reports there are millions of unfilled jobs due to lack of skilled workers. If you can’t find a job with your current skill set, then expand your skill set. Nothing in life comes easy and if you are not willing to put in the effort to improve yourself and find better employment then you should not be complaining.

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Science vs. Religion

So if you’ve been paying attention the last couple days online you may have noticed the ‘historic debate’ between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. I’m not going to focus too much on any of the specifics and arguments so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend seeing it in its entirety (preferably before you continue if you don’t want spoilers). There have been many opinions on who won and who lost and in my opinion, Ken Ham is the winner. Wait, what? Did you just read something wrong? Was there a typo? For those who know me, I am about as non-religious as they come. I’m not a Christian. I’m not not Buddhist. I don’t consider myself to be Agnostic, or even Atheist. Quite frankly, each of those suggests that you have some opinion about life and spirituality and all that good stuff. I personally just don’t care. Is there a God? There could be or there couldn’t be, but I don’t care to expend any energy to find out. Maybe in the future I may divulge myself into different schools of religion and find something to believe in or reject, but as of now, I simply don’t care. So then why do I say Ken Ham was the clear winner? Simply put, I believe the debate between Science and Religion is akin to that of an adult to a child. Not to define childish as others commenting on the debate as being un-intellectual or irrational, but rather the way a child responds.

So we need to set victory conditions for each side of the debate. For Ken Ham, it’s simple; just rationalize his model of creationism. For Bill Nye on the other hand, he holds the massive burden of having to absolutely disprove Ken Ham’s claim. This isn’t like the justice system where he only has to convince us beyond reasonable doubt. No, he must make it so there is 0% chance of Ken Ham’s hypothesis to be true. Even if there is the smallest sliver of chance of being true, Bill Nye has not disproven Ken Ham’s theory, and Ken Ham will have defended his position and have won the debate.

So Adult vs Child. Science takes on the role of the adult, and Religion takes on the role of the child, not only in this debate, but in virtually all debates or disagreements of Science vs Religion. Remember, we are not talking adult and child in terms of knowledge but in terms of rationalism. Usually, Science vs Religion debates go something along the terms of Science pointing out that something we observe is inconsistent with scripture. Religion then counters to make an explanation that to them, resolves this contradiction. This can then continue several times until Religion makes an argument or challenge that Science just has no way of proving or disproving.

An easy way of illustrating this is with the adult-child model. Say a Child claims to have an Imaginary Friend. We shall call him ‘Bob’ for shorthand sake. The Adult in this case will make a suggestion that Bob is in fact not real and is just made up. The Child them makes claims that Bob is ‘invisible to everyone but the Child’ and can move through objects. The Adult may then ask the Child to see if ‘Bob’ would like to reveal himself to the Adult, but the Child, being Bob’s proxy, says ‘No, Bob doesn’t want to.’ In this case, the Adult has no way to prove that Bob is or is not invisible and can move through objects. In essence, Bob does indeed exist simply because the Child believes it to be true and the Adult has no way of proving to the Child that Bob does not exist.

Does this scenario sound similar to a certain series of exchanges between Bill and Ken? It should. Some examples: Bill points out that Noah would not have been able to build a seaworthy arc. Ken claims God gave him the knowledge to do so. Bill says the layers of sedimentary rock in the Grand Canyon must be laid down over millions of year. Ken claims that the rate at which deposits were laid down were much much faster in the past. Bill asserts that the speed at which the universe is expanding confirms the big bang theory and the age of the universe to be billions of years old. Ken simply claims that God made the heavens the way they are now and has decided to expand them to show man his greatness. And, when asked to justify his claims, Ken Ham simply points to the Scripture, a piece of literature which is claimed to be a collection of accurate historical records, and poetry written several millennia ago. Bill Nye has no way of going back in time to witness the writing of the Scripture to prove if it was indeed historic or poetry. In poker terminology, Ken Ham is still the winner if he’s got at least on ‘out’ and the inability to witness the writing of or ask the author of the Scripture give Ken Ham that one ‘out’ he needs.

Furthermore,  a question by an audience member sums up the entire global Science vs Religion debate. “What would change your mind?” Sometimes in debates, if you can change the other person’s opinion, you win. Bill Nye’s response? Any piece of evidence that contradicts on of the many “Natural Laws”. Just one. Ken Ham’s response? Nothing. How is it possible to win against someone who is unwilling to even consider the idea of being wrong. What inevitably happens is rationalization of contradictions that only satisfy one party until the both are unable to prove or disprove.

In summary, the great debate between Science and Religion will always be a one sided fight. The fundamental nature of Science is that there are always unanswered questions. (edit: so I got off on a tangent here and strayed from the main point of the article which was is not about a particular debate which confused both me and others after reading. so it has been removed). Meanwhile those who are adamant and stand by their faith will not be swayed and will continue to attempt to rationalize any challenge to their beliefs. The Nye-Ham debate as it played out to be, is really not so dissimilar from any other debate or argument over conventional science and faith. From the side of Science, it will always be an uphill unwinnable argument.