Where did this idea come from— that if you raise the minimum wage, there’ll be an economic disaster? That if you give poor people money they’ll just hoard it, that the money just disappears into a black hole and everybody stops hiring and unemployment soars because it’s too expensive to hire people…?
You know what happens when you give poor people a bigger cash flow?
Suddenly we’re not living paycheck to paycheck. We don’t have to choose between paying the electric bill and the groceries, we can actually cover both. Suddenly we’re not nervously eyeballing the first of the month, because covering rent is no big deal.
We get that funny noise in the car engine fixed even if it’s several hundred dollars, instead of just putting up with the knocking and driving to work with our teeth gritted and fingers crossed every day waiting for the car to just up and die (and then end up spending several thousand on a new used car— being poor can actually be very expensive). We get the house’s leaky windows patched up and hey, the heating bill just went down, look at that. We’re less tempted to rack up debt on credit cards buying— not luxuries, but essential things like food or medicine.
We’ll pay for nannies and babysitters for our kids so we can show up to work that job flipping your burgers. We’ll pay for after-school programs and extracurricular activities so our kids are happy, socialized, and well-rounded.
We’ll funnel that money into more books, movie tickets, weekend getaways, art supplies, a hobby vegetable garden, community involvement, whatever— things that enrich our lives and take away the stress of the working day, because we’re no longer sinking all our time and energy into two or three jobs just to scrape up enough to make the most meager of ends meet. We’ll buy gifts for our loved ones on holidays. We’ll go out to eat more, shop for clothes more— patronizing the businesses that hire minimum wage workers. (How ‘bout that.)
We might put some money in a savings account, yes, but eventually spend it— on major purchases like college or a house, or spend it when retirement rolls around. But by and large all that extra money gets fed right back into the local economy— by workers who are more likely to be happy, less likely to be stressed and exhausted.
I’m not saying having more income will magically fix all problems min-wage workers have. But it will take care of the biggest ones, and enable us to take care of many more.
And you can be damn sure if you give us more income the one thing we won’t be doing with it is hiding it in a mattress and never spending it.
Rich people do that.
Humans now are trained to scan for the most important bits of information and move on, like how we read online. But that’s not how you’re supposed to read Moby Dick, or Middlemarch. Longer sentences require concentration and attention, not a break to check Twitter every 45 seconds. The Internet, and how it has changed our reading habits, is making it difficult for people, particularly young people, to read classic works of literature because our brains are trained to bob and weave from one piece of writing to the next. And 600 pages is just so many pages, you know? Pagination is like, the worst thing to happen to my life, and without a “Read All” option? Melville definitely needed a UX developer.
Economists have noted how work hours for white collar, college-educated workers began to become extreme in about the 1980s, and at the same time, social surveys were picking up a heightened sense of economic insecurity in this same group. Some people say we’re working more because we want more stuff (like that stupid Cadillac commercial that made me so angry I wrote a piece about it). While it’s true that household debt and spending on “luxury” items have gone up at the same time, it’s also true that wages have been stagnating and the costs of basic things like health care, housing, and education have gone through the roof—the cost of college has blown up nearly 900 percent in recent decades. When was the last time anyone outside hedge fund managers and the 1 percent got a 900 percent raise? Against that backdrop comes technology and the ability to be connected 24/7 - which leads to a feeling of constantly being “on call,” that you can never quite get away from work, that the boundaries that used to keep work more contained have bled and spilled over into the hours of the day that used to be for family, for self, for leisure, for sleep.