Once upon a time, I heard a woman speak about an organization that had united women who considered themselves pro-life with women who considered themselves pro-choice to work on a common goal – fewer unwanted pregnancies among teenagers. The idea was, as vitriolic as the fight about abortion could be, there were still some things that pretty much everyone could agree on, one of them being, teenagers should not be having babies. (Of course, I saw this woman speak when I was in high school. Ah, the late ’90s. We thought we were a country divided then. We had no idea what was to come.) To that end, this group created the Baby-Think-It-Over that would be used in high school classrooms across America to stimulate what having a newborn was actually like. It was like making teenagers carry around an egg or a sack of flour and pretending that was a baby, only for the Next Generation. The baby doll had a computer inside it that would get it to cry and stuff, at random hours, with very slightly different cries for “hungry,” “tired,” “need a diaper change,” and “don’t give a shit, just gonna cry until you want to throw me off something.” And then the computer would record how long it took you to tend to the crying baby, how often you fed it, changed it, burped it, etc., and even whether or not you did, in fact, shake it or throw it off of something. I was never in the class that distributed these, but my sister was, and guess what? I have a kid now and she doesn’t. Coincidence? Probably. Yes. But that’s not my point.
My point is that there was this organization that said, “Look, we don’t agree when it comes to whether or not a fetus is a viable being with its own right to life separate from its mother. Fine. But we do agree that teenagers shouldn’t have babies. What could we do to work together on that project?”
Right now there is a protest going in Chicago – and it’s part of a country-wide protest – about raising the minimum wage. People who disagree with the notion tend to say things like, “Look, it’s a minimum wage – you’re supposed to get promoted and get more money!” and “Why are these people looking for handouts from their employers?” and “It’s unskilled work – how much do you think you should get paid to do it?” And I disagree with these sentiments pretty vehemently. Not everyone is going to get promoted. The whole point of having a minimum wage is that it should be a living wage, which is not. Getting paid does not equal getting a handout. Etc.
But the comments miss a point, and it’s a point I think we could all agree on. The point is, multi-billion dollar corporations should not be getting government handouts. Our taxes should not go to padding the wallets of people who are going to use our money to buy that third man-made island off the coast of Dubai that they’ve always wanted.
And that’s what not raising the minimum wage does. Look, every company needs employees who have had enough to eat, who have a safe place to sleep and a stable home where they can be found by their employers, who have the transportation necessary to get to and from work, who are healthy and energetic enough to come in to work and perform their tasks. At the very barest minimum. The current minimum wage in most places is not high enough to pay for those things. Not even for a single person, never mind a person who has any kind of family to support.
And yet, McDonald’s, et al, finds employees who have had enough to eat, who have safe(ish) homes, who can (by hook or by crook) get to and from work, and who are (sort of) healthy and energetic enough to perform their tasks. How?
Because minimum wage workers are making so little – even when they work two full-time minimum wage jobs – that they qualify for public assistance. Because your taxes fund food stamps and housing vouchers and bus passes and Medicaid and an assortment of other programs that do their damnedest to make up the difference between what their pay can afford them and what they actually need to function. Do those government programs always work really well? No! Should there be serious inquiries into how they allocate their money and whether the programs are actually serving the needs of the people they’re supposed to serve while not wasting the money of the taxpayers whose taxes feed those funds? Absolutely yes! But do they work well enough to ensure that McDonald’s doesn’t have to pay their employees better?
Yes. Yes, they do.
Those corporate officers are living the high life on YOUR taxpayer dollar. They can afford to give themselves billions in bonuses because they know that you, the taxpayer, are picking up the tab to keep their employees fed and housed and transported and all the rest. Forget about minimum-wage workers asking for hand-outs; this is already-incredibly-profitable COMPANIES asking for handouts, asking you, the taxpayer, to pay their employees so that those employees can help the companies make an even bigger profit.
We can all, left or right, bleeding-heart or bootstraps-believer, agree that that’s fucking bullshit, can’t we?