Matt Walsh writes:
Someone alert Feed the Children. Jeff, who messaged me this week, is fighting to survive:
Matt Walsh…. I first started following you when I read your post defending customer service representatives. You also wrote something blasting people who don’t tip, and then last week you wrote criticizing customers who talk on their phones while they’re in the check out aisle. I’m in a the customer service industry so I greatly appreciated these writings. I read them and thought, hey, this guy is on our side. But then last week I saw you Tweet a sarcastic slam against people fighting for a higher minimum wage.
I went back to see what else you’d said on the subject and discovered a lot of ignorance and hate directed at low wage workers. I realized you’re just a fraud and a liar. You pretend to fight for working class people and to be a “voice of the people” and all that bull sh*t, but then you have a problem with giving us a living wage. I know you’ve never been in our shoes as a big shot wannabe famous blogger, but let me tell you what it’s like to try and live on the poverty level minimum wage. I graduated college a year ago. There were NO JOBS to be found (which you’d know if you had a real job in the first place). Eventually I ended up at a fast food place making minimum wage.
I want to start a family, get married, have kids, buy a home, buy a more reliable car, do all the things people in America should be able to do. But I can’t. I can barely to pay my bills as it is. I’m stuck and I’m struggling. The movement to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour would at least allow me to move into my own place and start a life.
One day maybe I can make money sitting around typing hateful sh*t all day and basically being an assh*le for a living, but right now I don’t have that luxury like you. That’s why I need the minimum wage to be something I can at least survive on. That’s what ALL Americans deserve. If there’s ever a strike or rally in my town, I’ll be there. I’ll be there because of people like you. Or maybe you’d prefer it if all the people serving you food and waiting on you hand and foot just went home and starved to death. I guess that’s what it means to be Christian, right Matt?
Yes, I’ve certainly only ever lived in luxury. I used to go to sleep in my one bedroom apartment and smile about my privileged existence while I listened to the drug addicts down stairs yell at each other until 3 AM. Sometimes I’d even laugh with radiant joy about my stress-free life, as I cooked some Ramen Noodles while watching the roaches crawl across the counter.
And, when I couldn’t afford to pay the cable, or to turn on the heat or the air conditioning, and when I spent weeks at a time eating nothing but gas station hot dogs and peanut butter sandwiches, and when I worked two or three jobs at once, never had any vacations, rarely had a weekend off, and when I paid for gas with quarters, and started selling my few possessions on Craiglist so that I could afford rent for the month, and when sat alone at nights in my rundown pad staring at the wall in silence, I used to thank God that I didn’t have as hard a life as you, Jeff.
Now, here’s the funny thing: even then, I didn’t whine, and I never waved my arms around and screamed about how I was on the verge of starvation.
I mean, really. For goodness sake, man, get a grip.
‘Starve to death’?
Is that a common workplace hazard over at McDonalds? About 15% of American households are food insecure, and I would have to assume that there are some McDonald's workers in there. Anyway, Jeff did not say that he, himself, was starving to death. He said that he cannot afford to start a family. Read his letter again. Are you finding that your co-workers often collapse on the floor and whither away from malnutrition?
“Hey, where’s Steve today? He didn’t show up for his shift.”
“Oh, Steve starved to death last night. He’ll be out for a while.”
Is that a conversation that often takes place in your break room?
It is beyond embarrassing that we live in a country where someone would spend tens of thousands of dollars on a college education often this comes in the form of onerous loans, and then move back in with his parents and complain that he is in a fight for his very survival. But it's not "beyond embarrassing" that we live in a country where so many people with college degrees cannot find anything better than a minimum wage job? In fact, nearly 1/5 (18%) of workers 16 and older with minimum wage jobs have at least a bachelor's degree (and if you subtract those aged 16-21, who are not old enough for a college degree, the percentage would be even higher). Given your contempt for anyone who has decided to pursue a college degree, I am sure you will assert that they are not trying hard enough. I have personally known too many hardworking college classmates who had to resort to minimum wage jobs when they graduated to believe that is true. You cannot deny the fact that our economy sucks. We have a real jobs problem. You can't fault someone for getting a college degree (it does provide a better chance of getting past minimum wage, after all), and you can't blame someone if they can't find a decent paying job when they graduate. Personally, I am a hardworking person who has always had at least 2 jobs at once. However, I have been working for years to attain a position and salary level that matches my education, and I am not even close. It is not for lack of trying.
No, Jeff, your survival is not at stake. Sure, one day you’ll die, but I can guarantee that ‘minimum wage’ won’t make it on the autopsy report under ’cause of death.’ Having spent time in the lower income brackets, surely you can't be ignorant of all the major health problems that result from poverty? (see this and this) By definition, a living wage is the amount of money people require to meet their most basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, medical care). Minimum wage is currently far below a living wage, so by definition it is not enough to meet a human being's most basic survival needs. But, who am I to tell you that you can't make light of this situation all you want...
So I’d recommend that you stop worrying about how you’ll die, and start worrying about how you’re living. That is exactly what Jeff is worried about. He's talking about getting a house and starting a family.
You want a better life, and I don’t blame you. You want more money, and I don’t blame you. The question before you, Jeff, is how to best achieve those results. So you just spent all this time responding to a claim that Jeff never made about dying, mocking him for his concerns, and acting like being poor isn't such a big deal... and it is not until now that we get to the point where Jeff started. Yes, the question is how can people like Jeff, and people worse off than Jeff (who say, are unable to live with their parents), have a better life? Jeff is saying that raising the minimum will help. He is saying that people who have jobs should at the very least be able to afford their most basic survival needs. At the least. Furthermore, Jeff's claim is supported by the fact that the very situation of living in poverty itself is a barrier to economic mobility. For example, applying for jobs requires money and other resources (reliable transportation, time off work, computing/printing for resumes, nice clothes for the interview, etc.). It is easier to find your way into a better paying job if you have some free time and vacation time, don't have major health issues to worry about, can be somewhat flexible about where you live, have a stable and safe living environment, don't have to worry about how you're going to get to work, and (this is key) already have some relevant job experience in that area.
Jeff also points out that you are an anomaly - in fact, you are extremely lucky to be supporting yourself with a blog. EXTREMELY lucky. That is all you owe your success to: pure dumb luck.
But I can only assume that, despite all of this, you are still going to council minimum wage workers to just "work harder" or something like that...
As far as I can tell, you have two options:
1) Continue to use your time surfing the Internet, and writing angry emails to bloggers, and organizing minimum wage protests I believe he said he would join a protest if he found one, not organize it, and sobbing about your tragic lot in life. He was not sobbing about his tragic lot in life. He was saying that he did not appreciate your ignorant posts about these topics. Sit in idle and wait for the government to come along, lift you on its shoulders, and carry you into a paradise of mediocrity. He also did not say anything about the government. He is working, and he is living with his parents. Hope that the law will magically make it possible for entry level burger flippers to afford homes, and cars, and other things that most of us had to actually earn. Wouldn't the concept of "earning" encompass flipping burgers for wages? If he made his money through work, on what basis do you say he hasn't earned it? And once again, given the prevalence of low-skill service-sector jobs in comparison to skilled work, and all the other economic factors that ensure that many adults will have to take these low-skill jobs no matter what, why is it so unreasonable for a working adult to suggest they should be able to afford a home and a car (especially when both are necessary for work)? Is that really so much to ask? Are you really that resentful about a person wanting a place to live and a means of getting to work?
2) Get over yourself. Stop complaining. Stop treading water and start swimming. And if you apply your approach for getting out of poverty to your children's swim lessons, you will have a couple of dead children. Decide what you want out of life and go chase it. Make sacrifices. Take risks. Move out of town for a new opportunity, or out of state, or out of the hemisphere, if that’s what’s necessary. Realize that there are other jobs out there, but you have to be willing to do them uh, if he is working a minimum wage job, I don't think his "willingness" is the issue here, and first you have to be willing to pursue them. Stop insisting that there are ‘no jobs,’ and pay attention to all of the people somehow finding these openings that you claim don’t exist anywhere in the known galaxy. And remain completely oblivious to the real economic conditions that show it is, in fact, objectively, hard to get a job. Stop seeing yourself as entitled to the American Dream he just wants a home and a family just because you bought a fancy college education man, you are really resentful of his education, and have now spent one measly year in the job market. Stop belittling other people’s accomplishments ...like, getting a college degree?, especially when you haven’t yet accomplished much yourself (apply this bit of advice to yourself Matt). Stop looking for sympathy. Start looking for a path up the mountain — however treacherous, however dangerous, however hard — and get to climbing.
Those are your choices, friend.
As usual, one is easy, but the other is right.
Jeff, I think you should also know that you’re begging for your own firing when you talk about a 15 dollar minimum wage. Yup, asking for a raise is definitely grounds for being fired. You aren’t making 15 bucks an hour pushing buttons and frying potatoes because your labor isn’t worth that kind of money. Actually, if that is how much money is required to make that labor possible - to secure the basic needs for life - then labor is, objectively, worth at least that much. If you are not even paying someone the full cost of what it takes them to make that labor available to you in the first place, you are ripping them off. You’re doing something that most people could do, which means your employer doesn’t have to shell out big bucks (the very minimum that a person needs for basic survival = "big bucks"??) to attract highly skilled candidates to do it. If they were forced to shell out big bucks, they’d either become much more discerning about who they employ, or they’d simply cut to the chase and automate your entire profession. Matt, you know what else most people could do? Word-vomit all their unresearched thoughts about stuff and/or repeat cliched partisan talking points (which for you are pretty much indistinguishable things) on a daily basis. From my past experience working in the food service industry, I would say flipping burgers requires more mental and physical skills (responding with grace to cranky customers, doing mental math when customers give you change after you have already entered the amount in, standing on your feet for 8 hours, scrubbing toilets, figuring out why equipment isn't working, lifting stuff) than your blogging masterpieces require.
See, in the mean world of reality, we are forced to confront the fact that when the government comes in with its Hammer of Economic Justice and starts bludgeoning business owners over the head see, if your own earnings were to be reflective of your writing skills, I might actually consider giving you less than a living wage... smh, demanding that all of their lowest skilled workers be given an across-the-board raise, there are real trade-offs that must occur. Even the Congressional Budget Office predicts that half a million jobs will be lost if the federal minimum wage is raised to $10.10.
If you care to pay a few dollars to purchase this 180 page study, you’ll find that two leading researchers conducted a thorough investigation and discovered that the vast majority of the most reliable empirical evidence ("the vast majority of the most reliable empirical evidence" - HAHAHA. I would love to see what happened if I put that phrase in a research paper.) points to a direct causal link between job loss and minimum wage hikes.
Of course, your fellow minimum wage proponents are quick to assert that “most of the studies” somehow “prove” otherwise. Next, they’ll probably tell you about a 1994 study out of New Jersey that actually revealed an INCREASE in employment as a result of a minimum wage hike. What they won’t tell you is that these psychotic claims have been thoroughly debunked.
Listen, Matt. You can pretend that you are capable of parsing and evaluating the minutiae of research design and statistical methodologies that the economists on both sides of this argument are quibbling over. However, I think it's pretty obvious that you cannot. Frankly, I would bet you didn't even read that 180 page study. I doubt you were even able to fully comprehend the abstract. What you are doing (and what anyone is capable of doing) is Google searching and picking out the results that you agree with.
Another thing that you can do is look at the big picture - the reality that is more obviously visible. To start, let's do some geographic comparison. If you compare the minimum wage (WG) and unemployment rates (UE) in other countries, you will see there is no strong correlation between the two, which undermines any notion that there is any "direct causal link" between them. Furthermore, if there is a pattern, it's not what you would expect if MW had such a direct, significant impact on employment (this is especially visible if you look within regions). I pulled a bunch of random countries and pasted below (I tried to select countries on the opposite extremes of MW, with a few in the middle; also MW is in U.S. dollars).
Kenya MW $0.25 UE 42%
Tajikistan MW $0.30 UE 60%
Swaziland MW $0.33 UE 40.6%
Senegal MW $0.36 UE 48%
Nepal MW $0.45 UE 46%
Mozambique MW $0.51 UE 60%
Armenia MW $0.65 UE 17.3%
Mongolia MW $0.82 UE 12.2%
Turkmenistan MW $0.89 UE 70%
Morocco MW $0.92 UE 10%
Syria MW $1.02 UE 18%
Jordan MW $1.29 UE 11.9%
Serbia MW $1.31 UE 20.1%
Macedonia MW $1.32 UE 28.6%
Dominica MW $1.48 UE 23%
Costa Rica MW $1.85 UE 7.8%
Libya MW $2.06 UE 13%
Poland MW $2.07 UE 9.7%
Slovakia MW $2.59 UE 13.9%
Turkey MW $3.05 UE 9.8%
Venezuela MW $3.30 UE 5.6%
Saudi Arabia MW $3.85 UE 12.1%
Israel MW $5.99 UE 5.9%
U.S. MW $7.25 UE 6.3%
Japan MW $8.32 UE 3.9%
UK MW $10.02 UE 6.8%
Netherlands MW $10.99 UE 7.3%
San Marino MW $11.49 UE 7.0%
New Zealand MW $11.59 UE 6.0%
Belgium MW $11.69 UE 8.5%
France MW $12.22 UE 10.4%
Monaco MW $12.83 UE 0.0%
Luxembourg MW $14.24 UE 6.1%
Australia MW $16.88 UE 5.8%
We can also look historically. In the post-WW2 era, the two troughs of lowest unemployment occurred in 1969 and 2000. The year 1969 followed a decade of strong union activity and minimum wage increases. If you look at inflation-adjusted minimum wage graphs, you will see that minimum wage reached its peak at around/over $10.00/hr in the mid-to-late 60s, and that was also the strongest the American economy has been in the post-WW2 period. Likewise, the 2000 trough occurred at the end of a decline in unemployment that began with a couple of large minimum wage hikes in 1996 and 1997.
Finally, I have already questioned the claim that employers are forced to lay people off to save money when wages increase (I even did some calculations for you to show how it is possible to still be really profitable while paying a living wage.) You are letting people with more money than they could ever spend in their lifetimes convince you that they just wouldn't have enough incentive to run a business if they paid their workers sufficient money to live on. They even spend gobs of that more-money-than-they-could-ever-spend to commission studies showing that it's true. But you don't have to believe them, Matt. In fact, if you look at graphs of inequality, it is pretty obvious. As these people make more money, inequality increases and the economy becomes more unstable. They don't need to pay their workers lower wages so that they can stay in business. They need to pay them less money so that they can be more insanely wealthy even if it harms the economy (less purchasing power/lower demand) in the long run. Look here and pay special attention to figures 3 and 5 - particularly to what happens to the concentration of wealth prior to the economic collapses of 1929 and 2008. In fact, you can find similar graphs of this data in many other places.
People with lots of money use all the resources at their disposal to convince everyone else that anything that might challenge the status quo (raise taxes, raise minimum wage, etc.) will make it impossible for businesses to stay afloat and, hence, destroy society. And many people believe them because they don't understand how the economy works and many of their sources of information are ultimately influenced, directly or indirectly, by those people with money. However, if one looks historically, it is pretty easy to see that wealth does not trickle down, that all the things that are "favorable to business" at the direct expense of everyone else just increase inequality and economic instability, and that significantly "lowering the burden" of regulations and taxes has culminated, twice in the last century, in major economic crises. The period of strongest economic growth saw increased taxes on the highest brackets and increases in minimum wage.
Like always, though, there is a broader issue that I am more concerned about. Say you are right and a minimum wage hike will directly increase unemployment. You are okay with that? You're willing to accept that? Do you see absolutely nothing wrong with a society that is structured to force a choice between paying lots of people less money than they require to live, or leaving lots of people without any jobs at all? Is that really the best system we can come up with? And must our highest priority really be some abstract concept of "growth" (without any apparent ultimate goal or limit) and a personified, sanctified "market" that we believe acts independently of real people making real choices? Personally, I willingly pay more for things when I know that the people who made them received higher wages. Are not other people capable of making the same decisions? Do we really want to make our model of a human being the cold, calculating individual who cares about nothing more than personal gain? Or can we build our society with the standard and expectation that human beings are moral creatures who make decisions based on what they believe is ethical and in other people's best interest as well? We act like consumers and CEOs "can't help" but make choices that sacrifice the lives of many people in order to maximize their savings and profits. We talk as if it were all mechanized and beyond anyone's control. Don't you, Matt, as a Christian, believe that we can all act better than that? Are there not things we can value more highly than maximized profits and the latest iPhone? Like... the lives of other human beings?
Or is it only before they're born that you care about the lives of human beings?
But this is all academic. It's actually getting kind of funny, how often you think you are being "academic." It doesn’t matter to you. Says the one who makes fun of college graduates, to the person who went to college.
Put it aside, and go do something with your life. And, working is.... not doing something with your life?
I’m sure you have skills that a lot of people don’t have — that’s why I encourage you to forget about the minimum wage and dedicate all of your available time and energy towards finding a spot in a field that allows you to utilize them. Matt... what could you possibly know about finding a spot to use skills from a college education? You say it because it sounds good, but you have never done it. You worked low-paying jobs just like Jeff (though you criticize him for it). Then you happened to get really lucky when lots of people started reading your blog. So much for your thoughts on the matter. Let's look at what another young man named Matt Walsh once (in March of 2014) had to say: "Can't find a cushy, high paying job with competitive benefits and three weeks paid vacation every year? Join the club, your Highness. Now go flip a burger, dig a ditch, mop a floor. Something. ANYTHING." [Either Matt Walsh has multiple personalities, or he just expresses whatever opinions happen to suit his purposes at the moment.] You’re correct that everyone is worth more than nine bucks an hour, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is worth more than nine bucks an hour while performing a task that a child could just as easily perform. So if those are the only jobs available to a person... it's their fault? They should accept less than what they're worth because society is giving them less than what they're worth?
Albert Einstein was a moderately gifted dude, but if he rose from the grave, knocked on my door, and asked for a job washing my windows, I’d still only pay him the going rate for residential window washers. That's not the point. The point is that, if Einstein doesn't have many options available at the moment but is nevertheless working and contributing something to society, he should be able to afford basic necessities. Einstein was valuable when he was doing that thing which only Einstein could do (unlocking secrets of the universe, styling his hair to give it that ‘just electrocuted’ look, etc.) but he’d be equally as cheap and expendable ouch as the next guy when doing things that anyone could do.
Jeff, even though you hurt my feeling awww... so you do have one feeling? What is that feeling, anger or resentment? and said mean things about me, I still want you to succeed in life. I want you to find that spot where you can blossom. I want you to be The Einstein of something.
But, until then, I regret to inform you that you are being paid exactly what you deserve.