Monday, September 2, 2013

Week of 09/02/2013

The Labor Script Is A Lie
– by David Matthews 2

There is a particular script that gets pulled out anytime the discussion comes up about raising the federal minimum wage or trying to set up a so-called “living wage”.  Champions of the status quo will roll their eyes and give a condescending sigh and then pretend to “educate” people with this prefabricated script that suggests that you can’t do that without rising prices of goods to unrealistic levels, like having to pay $6 for a Big Mac.

The script, as crafted by Wall Street and regurgitated through conservatives and neo-conservatives and their paid whores in talk radio and cable news channels, says that wages are determined through a delicate balance of cost versus profit.  The greater the profit, the more money the employer has to invest back into the business and thus increase the wages of the employees according to their value to the company.

That’s the theory that they drag out and recite as religious gospel in the Most-High Extremist Cult of Capitalism.  Holy, holy, praise the almighty God-given profit!

And on the face of it, I would tend to agree with the theory.

If it was being practiced as they preach it to be.

But then you come across stories about how fast food companies are making sizable profits while still keeping workers at minimum wage and how they could afford to pay more but choose not to.  And, yes, according to one source that includes those fast food places deemed “franchise-owned”.

And then you come across a report that says that workers at almost all levels have been dealing with stagnant wages for the past decade, even during those pre-Recession times when big corporations were posting record profits.  We’re talking stifling wages for almost every employment level.  Except, of course, for the ones up at the very top. The CEOs that were getting record wages while the rest of American workers were told to scrimp and struggle and make do with what little they had and goddamn it they have to like it and beg for seconds.

So riddle me this, capitalist crusaders: when you pompously dictate a certain script to the masses about the only way they could get better wages and then you refuse to adhere to that dictate, what does that make you?

It makes you a goddamned self-serving hypocrite.  Granted, it can make you a rich goddamned self-serving hypocrite, but a goddamned self-serving hypocrite nonetheless.

Let’s get brutally honest here… there is no excuse for the business world to play this sort of game. If you claim that employee wages are determined by profit, and then hold on to that profit and keep wages lower than the cost of living so you can make even more profit, then you’re not just making yourself into a liar.  You’re also making that very script into a goddamed lie!

It’s even worse when the business world then uses that same script to justify the outrageous salaries of CEOs.  Follow along here: corporate “genius” keeps employee wages low, which keeps overhead low and thus boosts profit margins, which makes corporate investors happy, who then turn around and give the “genius” a bigger paycheck.  The same script that is used to justify the CEO’s over-inflated pay is proven false when it comes to everyone else down the totem pole.

I haven’t even needed to bring up Wal-Mart’s reported program of telling employees to enroll for food stamps; or McDonald’s arrogant, condescending, unrealistic, and insulting “McBudget” website – partnered by a Too Big To Fail institution no less! – that actually tells its minimum wage workers that they need to get a second job in order to pay for their already unrealistic lowball expectations of what food, utilities, and insurance should cost.  This is not just insulting; it actually makes the “Let Them Eat Cake” mindset of 18th Century French nobility seem downright philanthropic.

This goes way beyond miserly greed.  We’re talking institutionalized and systematic malicious hoarding.  The very mindset that created the need for unions; that sparked revolutions in the 18th Century; that even led to the invention of the guillotine.  You would think that these supposed “geniuses” would be smart enough to learn from the lessons of history, wouldn’t you?

I get that businesses want to make as much money as they can.  I don’t blame executives for doing everything they can to achieve that.  But if you expect the masses to accept your script, then you need to actually live up to it and apply it for everyone; not just for those so-called “geniuses” at the top.  Don’t just roll your eyes and try to sell us a script that we know from experience is a lie. 

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