Why the Minimum Wage Isn’t Enough

I had this image thrown at me in a minimum wage argument recently. What about the cost of producing milk? What about tax rates? Hunh? How do you explain that? If I had real patience with the speaker, I might have explained it this way. A gallon of milk costs one gallon of milk. That is its actual value, because it is a gallon of milk. I didn’t, so that wasn’t my initial argument.

Without refrigeration, milk spoils quickly, which means milk has to be drank quickly.  This is why cheese was so popular before refrigeration, unless you lived on a dairy farm.  Before refrigeration most milk went to make cheese or it was fermented into an alcoholic beverage (try it, it is revolting) because even though you could die from drinking tainted raw milk, it was still an irreplaceable source of protein. What created the market for milk was pasteurization and the discovery of cheap refrigeration (Connections) both of which indirectly impacted farming techniques and allowed farmers to get milk to the stores so that you can enjoy it and the farmer can profit from selling it. No one pays for the knowledge that is utilized to make all this possible. It is gratis, free, part of being in the human community.

However, the cost of educating all these morons so they don’t poison themselves is not factored into the cost of the gallon of milk. Anyone care to guess what that cost would be? I’ll save you the trouble, it can’t be calculated. Why? Because the cost of education raises the cost of production, which in turn raises the cost of education, etc. This incalculable cost is what is known as an externality and people who count beans for a living would like to pretend that externalities don’t exist.

But externalities do exist.  Which is why the cost of a gallon of milk is… one gallon of milk.  Money is a variable that steps into the equation that allows you to get milk without having to raise and milk the cows yourself.  That is really all there is to it.

What we have to decide is, what is money? That is what we need to figure out. If it is a creation of society then we can say everyone gets some, not enough, but some, and if you want enough you have to work for it. That function right now is served (imperfectly) by the minimum wage.  It could easily be served by Universal Basic Income or some other kind of minimum income floor that would allow people to survive without requiring everyone to work all the time. Funds are distributed to everyone or just the poor at a set rate a month, a week or even daily. Not enough money to live lavishly or even easily, just some money for everyone in any given area. What would that do for the economy?

The bogeyman of income tax tacked on at the end of the meme is just that. A bogeyman placed there to scare you. Income tax is a bad vehicle to do what the government wants, and is as subject to change as the minimum wage is. The list of alternatives to progressive taxation is nearly as endless as the numbers of ways that progressive taxation can be calculated. Set dollar amounts should be done away with, in any case. A 99% confiscatory upper tax rate could be set on any income that exceeds 20 times the lowest income in the marketplace. See how fast lower pay increases when you tie upper pay to it. Can the wealthy get by on $160 an hour? That should be an interesting experiment to witness.

Personally I like negative interest rates imposed on money left uninvested. That forces money to be used in the marketplace or lost over time. Impose negative interest rates on all accounts which are not retirement accounts or money market accounts. Invest it, save for retirement, spend it or lose it, Pick one. In any case, the problem is not the minimum wage. The problem is the limits on the imagination of the image creator.

The image was found wild on the internet, and was used in an internet argument against me. Post content written and forgotten on November 13th 2016. I probably had other things on my mind that day.

I am the 99%

I know this photo is from 2011, is part of the Occupy demonstrations for that year. There were quite a few of these images released with the title “I am the 99 percent” about that time.

I reposted it today because of the events in Washington DC, where the congress and His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump are trying to undo all the work done by President Obama. They are trying to repel the ACA which they nicknamed Obamacare specifically trying to denigrate his accomplishments and tar him with the failures of the policy they helped to shape. The ACA, deemed to be not going far enough by most Americans especially the ninety-nine percenters, and condemned as going too far by the most vocal minority segment (self-identified conservatives) of the electorate.

In what should have been an obvious if counter-intuitive turn, the same people who protested that Obama did not go far enough voted for what was popularly seen as the opposition party, the Republicans. However, what the Republicans are is the party that confined Obama to the minimum that he was able to do. What is now transpiring in Washington DC is what happens when fiscal conservatives who think they have a mandate propose doing exactly what the people who voted for them don’t want done. To the utter consternation of the public who doesn’t follow politics as maniacally as I do, the hardliners in the party think that this barbaric proposal they’ve dubbed the AHCA is not punishing enough. The hardliners want it to be more punishing on the poor, the sick and the disabled, the complete opposite of what the popular mandate was.

Candidate Trump in one of his only sane moments said he would protect Medicare and make sure that everyone had healthcare better than they did under Obamacare, the ACA. However, His Electoral Highness has also forgotten his own promises on the subject of healthcare in his efforts to rally the party that saw his stances of protecting Medicare and Social Security as being too liberal.

We now find ourselves caught in an example of the argumentum ad absurdum brought to life. The people who voted for one kind of change, people like the one in the image, discovering their representatives apparently do want to see them die in the streets after all. That the reason conservatives knew there were death panels in Obamacare was because they were planning on creating death panels themselves. Death panels staffed by health insurance insiders who want to protect their profits. I’d laugh at the absurdity of it, if only I weren’t so busy focusing on not giving in to vertigo.

When I stumbled across that image in my Facebook timeline for 2011, I was immediately struck by the notion that I could craft a similar statement. Mine would have to be computer printed like his because dysgraphia would make it take two days to write by hand. It would go something like this,

I worked for 30 years until my health failed me. Unable to sit or stand without pain or dizziness, move without assistance, constantly medicated, I faced a future where the only hope of seeing my family fed or for them to continue to have shelter was to apply for disability. The federal government refused to honor my claim for almost five years. They said I wasn’t really sick. They said I wasn’t an American. I had to proved that I was both before they would pay me anything even though I had faithfully paid my taxes for my entire life.

Now I must stay unemployed in order to keep my family fed and sheltered and keep my insurance, the only thing that allows me to live an almost normal life. In the meantime my wife and children do not qualify for aide because my disability payments amount to more income than is allowed for the poor to make and still qualify for benefits. I have better care with Medicare than any of them receive even though they live in my house and must subsist off of the meager payments the government provides for my disability.

I am the 99%

 If you voted for Republicans in the last election, what happens next to people like me, people like him, will be entirely your fault. Think about that the next time you are tempted to complain about your taxes, or to vote for people who promise to save you money by taking a lifeline away from other people. You could well be me one day. Probably will be.

While the current word is that the AHCA is dead, we should never forget that the hardest of the hardliners, the most conservative of the conservatives, the ludicrously named Freedom Caucus, refused to vote for it because it didn’t strip enough benefits from the poor, the sick and the disabled. Think about that the next time you try to out-conservative your conservative neighbors..


As of this writing, the Senate has postponed their version of the AHCA (which finally did pass the House, a meaningless achievement that they still celebrated on the White House lawn) it won’t come up for a vote until after the July 4th holiday. If there is any justice in this world, it will never be voted upon at all. It is a waste of time, a waste of lives and a waste of fortunes. What needs to happen now is Medicare for all, a basic level of coverage that every American chips in for, so that everyone pays into the system that we need when we get sick, and all of us will be sick at some point in our lives.

Robert Reich: Medicare for All Explained – Jun 28, 2017

I am currently on Medicare and having the least trouble I’ve ever had getting my health problems tended to. Sadly, becoming chronically ill appears to have improved my overall health. That is what making your health a non-commodity will do for you. Make you healthier. 

Driver-less Cars Need Not Equate to Starving Drivers

Uber just announced it’s partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to develop a driverless car (presumably in direct competition with Google’s soon-to-arrive driverless auto). So where will this leave Uber drivers? Uber didn’t say, of course, but we all know the answer: They’ll be replaced — the same way Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, TaskRabbit taskers, HomeJoy cleaners, and 99design contestants, along with legions of lawyers, accountants, engineers, teachers, even doctors will be replaced — by robots. We’ll be left with a single tiny iEverything that will able to do everything for everyone, but no one will be able to afford to buy it because no one will be employed.

Robert Reich on Facebook

…which is why the need for [Universal Basic Income] for all of us to legitimately claim that we have the right to not be left to starve in the streets, is so important.

This kind of anti-progress agitating is something that just sounds ignorant. Technology will not stop. Driverless cars will happen. Shovels made fewer diggers necessary, but that doesn’t mean we should hire an army of diggers equipped with spoons. It means that maybe no one likes to dig and we’d like to have a machine do it for us. But that also doesn’t mean that people who used to dig should simply roll over and die.

Uber is just one ride-sharing app. There are several. I think writing laws to combat how Uber does business is essentially wasting time, because there really isn’t any functional way to stop people from ride-sharing. It’s going to happen, and some of those people will exchange cash for the ride.  I really don’t care about what Uber says they are doing, when faced with a full-court press against them. I didn’t care what the music-sharing software companies said back when they were under attack. When that was the case, I observed that I didn’t think making music sharing illegal was going to stop music sharing. It didn’t. There is a serious vein of Luddite running along this anti-Uber rant I keep hearing. Which is why I pointed out that shovels put people out of work too. There needs to be a reality check involved when people start screaming about loosing their jobs. Loom workers and carriage makers lost their jobs too. Shall we de-automate that process? Go back to using horses? Seems silly to me.

Uber is flouting public transport regulations, I can grant that as a premise with no qualms in hindsight. All of the new internet services disrupt the previous social structures in some significant ways. Music sharing sites destroyed corporate music systems as they existed previously. There is big money behind taxi medallion holders in NYC. I think that’s the only reason Uber is in the news at all. File sharing and corporate music was a similar situation, and the last thing we want is another DMCA that addresses cabbies. Crying for the poor taxi drivers is a front; because that’s not what it’s about. It is about gatekeepers and control, just like the music industry. There is far more music now, and better music, than there ever was when corporate gatekeepers had the lock on music. There are plenty of people (I’m one of them) who pay for things even though they don’t have to, because I know that rewarding effort is how you get more of the things you like. Robert Reich in this instance is fighting against the tide of history. It’s not been shown to be effective in any real way.

One final word. You might be able to take down Uber because they are for-profit. You cannot and will not take down the next app because it will be a grinder-like app that allows people simply to offer and accept open seats in vehicles going where they are going. That is where the demand is, and where the supply is wasted. That trade will continue in the absence of Uber and other profit-making companies.

…which is and was the point I’ve been trying to make.

Facebook status and resulting argument summarized and backdated for the blog. UBI replaces “dole” in the original post. UBI is what I meant at the time but hadn’t stumbled across that concept then, or hadn’t applied that label to the concept.