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A Minimum Wage is Not Enough: We Need a Living Wage For All

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If you walk down Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping thoroughfare, you might think that you’re in wealthy country. Bulging bags hang from shoppers’ arms, enticing window displays beckon you inside, where racks are packed with expensive temptations.

Yet what few shoppers know is that the assistants who serve them have no chance to participate in this cornucopia, or even, most likely to buy themselves a cup of tea as they take the weight off their feet. For as a report in the Evening Standard newspaper revealed today, just two — TWO! — of the 300 shops here pay staff the London living wage – the hourly rate calculated as the minimum necessary for a decent basic standard of life in the British capital.

There was much excitement when the Labour government introduced a national minimum wage in the UK in 1999, and certainly that’s better than the previous situation, where employers could legally pay peanuts, but that full-time work can still leave many in a state of poverty cannot be acceptable in a rich country like Britain.

A couple of things make this possible. One is a culture that regards far too many jobs as not proper jobs at all. They’re “jobs” done by students, by “resting” actors, by short-term immigrants, not proper professions in which you can spend career.

The second is the fact that the country seems prepared to accept huge numbers of adults, and of children, living in poverty. A recent report showed that 2.1 million British children whose parents work still be in poverty. When attempts have been made to do something about this, they have come in the form of government payments, not action for fair pay. This amounts to corporate welfare; payments that allow companies to keep scooping up excess profits, and paying their executives farcically high salaries and bonuses, while resting on the back of the taxpayer.

It also makes no economic sense. There’s plentiful evidence that employers actually benefit by reducing staff turnover, improving productivity and company image.

Those are solid, but the benefits for society are irresistible. As the brilliant book The Spirit Level explains so clearly, large inequalities in society are bad for every member of that society, rich as well as poor, into poverty pay is a huge contributor to the dreadful inequality in Britain today. And if large numbers of people are on poverty pay, they can’t participate fully in society, either as consumers, or often, as parents, volunteers, or just productive members of the community.

Working several jobs, or just having to worry about every penny, consumes energy,  drains enthusiasm, simply wears people out and makes them ill. It should not be countenanced in 2011.

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
  • Boeke

    Providing a basic level of income, housing, food, to all citizens is very advantageous idea, economically.

    We are suffering from Insufficient Demand in the USA. People are not spending. Money is stagnant: $2trillion in retained earnings, sitting on the sidelines, and $2trillion frozen in banks. The way to bust the logjam is give money to people guaranteed to spend it with High Marginal Propensity to Spend.

    Giving money to business is a loser: they are already sitting on plenty of capital. Giving money to Finance is a loser: they are already sitting on plenty of credit.

    We need to pump money into spending, and we have a lot of consumers ready to go.

    The current craze for government budget cutting is counter productive: it will deprive our best consumers of the money they need to pump up the economy.

  • Same to you, Doug. Later.

  • Doug Hunter

    Roger, you and I both know that’s not how the human mind works. It’s got a stack of little boxes with labels and it’s going to try and pack everyone very neatly into one or more of them.

    In any case, have a great weekend.

  • Doug, we can only go by the comments each person posts. What more can I say?

  • Doug Hunter


    Could be. My experience is mainly with rural poor who essentially have many of the same opportunites, i.e. they live in the same area and go to the same schools as everyone else. In the city the ghetto is cordoned off by police and gated communities, the poor go to their schools, the middle class to theirs, etc. Additionally, the general cost of living is higher therefore the assistance doesn’t go as far. I think those factors may contribute to the different voting patterns.

    I’ve been interested in alternatives to ‘projects’ perhaps vouchers that would let families disperse instead of clumping the bad and good poor apples in one bunch. Unfortunately, vouchers mean the money gets dispersed to different groups as well instead of to one politically connected developer. Government subsidized low income housing is big, dirty, corrupt business with moneyed, connected interests behind it. Vouchers and choice don’t lead to such easy corruption or big money for developers and actually remove people from the situation instead of packing them together in a hopeless ghetto. I’d even support a reverse redline where vouchers need to be used or their values were increased to move into an area with lower poverty levels and changes to discriminatory zoning laws that would enable the creation of affordable housing in any neighborhood (just imagine the backlash on that one!).

    People on here know I’m vaguely for some form of capitalism so they assume I want to ‘kill’ people and have no ideas for progress… that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you think I don’t have an idea, just ask, I’ll bore you to death with my opinions, some good, some bad… just don’t assume you know me.

  • Doug Hunter


    You don’t say! You could counter that the trawler would depelete fish stocks leaving the people who formerly were satisfied as fisherman nothing to do but work on the capitalist’s opulent palace at slave wages. I’m not unfamiliar with the general arguments.

  • @66

    “Believe it or not to some people, even among the poor, there are more important things in life than money.”

    That’s precisely what I was not suggesting. Nor was I suggesting a “picture of the bitter downtrodden victim of calamity just yearning for an opportunity. And since your conception is comprehensive enough (and based on personal experiences, as I can gather), you should do better expressing yourself by not sending out mixed messages.

    Anyway, the faces of poverty are many, it is a culture or one might say, many cultures; and there is certain hopelessness, perhaps resignation, associated with it, having to do perhaps with the feeling of being left out, being on the fringe. Those who are incarcerated or doing community service for minor drug offenses are quite vocal expressing these themes.

    A great many people in America form a second or third tier.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    But those are the bad apples – do you not understand that for every bad apple among the poor, there are many, many good apples?

  • troll

    …a pleasant and romantic fantasy

  • Doug Hunter


    I’ve known a handful of thieves, had some stuff stolen from my business, and in all cases they were stealing to feed a drug addiction not a family. There’s a tough problem in there, I’m for trying legalization and support for them… our current ‘war on drugs’ is a failure even if built on a solid idea (if I could eliminate certain drugs with the stroke of a pen I would).


    Then it becomes who’s worse, the one who has to choose indentured servitude or (pay) or violence, or the one who puts others in that position. You can despise the former and glorify the latter, I’ll make my own choice.

    ***although I’m not sure where I’ve advocated anything that would result in death, I laud quite often the improvements in food and medical technology developed through the government and private industry and fueled by the money from capitalism which really has resulted in great gains everywhere in the world. For example, with medicine lots of coutries have handed their populations more/better care than us but none of them have done as much to move the profession and technology forward as much as we have. If you sacrifice the former for the latter the world is worse off.

    It’s simplistic and straightforward and makes you feel good to give a man a fish, some will even take the time to teach him which is a fantastic calling, both will ridicule the capitalist, call him selfish and hateful and accue him of hording his earnings as he ignores them on the way to build a trawler that will feed the entire village in perpetuity.

  • Clavos

    Doug has decided NOT to pay. He’d rather kill.


  • troll

    that’s a complete misreading of Doug who is a well-defended empath

  • Boeke

    Doug has decided NOT to pay. He’d rather kill.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    But that’s just it, Doug – if you forget about the poor and take away the social safety net…you get crime, and lots of it. And that costs us a lot more tax dollars than anything we give now. The rise in crime would not only result in more prisoners and prisons, but it would also adversely affect our schools, our property values, our insurance rates…it’s a big, nebulous mess.

    Remember the old commercial about oil changes? It’s the one that went “You can pay me now, or you can pay me [a lot more] later.” So it goes with social safety nets, or the lack thereof.

    So which would you rather do? Pay a bit more taxes to help those that you think don’t deserve it? Or pay a bit MORE taxes for the overall effects of the rise in crime that will come otherwise?

    You may not like paying to maintain a social safety net…but you will pay more in the long run without it.

  • Doug Hunter


    I don’t know what type of experience you’re looking for but I live in a rural area and my friends come from all walks of life. I also managed non government supported low income apartments for awhile. Got a peak at financials, became friends with more than a few, and saw how many of them managed to make ends meet. This picture of the bitter downtrodden victim of calamity just yearning for an opportunity wasn’t always accurate. Believe it or not to some people, even among the poor, there are more important things in life than money.

  • Doug Hunter


    Traveling provides perspective, I remember eating in a Pizza Hut in Mexico City (I also ate there in Germany, US, Tunisia… all localized… cream cheese in the stuffed crust? Really Mexico!?) and children in real poverty coming and begging for the crusts. We gave them some but the shop owner came over and ran them off with a broom. Mexico’s not even that poor by world standards and these beggars were everywhere. That type of poverty barely exists in the US if at all.

    Now it’s not pleasant and it doesn’t make Uncle Sam’s heart beat, but when those factory jobs go overseas they often go to people with families like the beggar children I saw. They got the job because they needed it and wanted it more and they’re human and deserve a shot just like you. It’s a challenging world, hard to justify our lifestyle in the face of billions living on $2 a day or less. That’s why I’m thankful I have so much for giving so little, I could have been the one born in the Somali hut destined for nothing but misery and starvation but I wasn’t.

    It’s not all doom and gloom, we can keep moving forward and moving the world forward, businesses have a role, government has a role, and individuals drive both. We can do it but we can’t do it by resting on our laurels, or going bankrupt, or whining about our situations. We have limited resources at the government’s disposal and the things we’ve been spending them on haven’t been well targeted or achieving the desired results. Many policies from both sides have been expensive boondoggles while fewer have achieved great result. You’ve got to be extremely cautious using the government to arrange things because they become entrenched and self sustaining and difficult to ever rid of… you must choose wisely and some of the best decisions were compromises that have come about when congress and the president were of different parties as is the situation today.

    Understanding the plight of those in poverty, the poor, the handicapped, the least among us is critical but a singular focus on their situation is unhealthy. It shortchanges the other 80% of us. If you spend much to ensure that the last kid never gets left behind but forget to explore the potential of the rest of the children you have failed. Just in education, compare how many programs, teachers aides, special education instructors that are required to make sure those barely functional get a diploma with how much we spend to identify and enrich those with the most potential. It’s quantity over quality. We need to develop the innovators and leaders for government and business with a vision for tomorrow and the rest will follow.

  • You’re approaching the subject as a PI or a social worker who must qualify the applicant for this benefit or that. What I’m saying, try to get some experience with people in that condition, get to know them, try to relate to them. These are different realms.

    Anyway, my stupid two-cents’s worth. Later.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    On poverty, you don’t hear me complain – I have no reason to. My wife’s family overseas is in much, much deeper poverty than most of those in what passes for ‘poverty’ in America. When you drive by and see someone begging for money, how often is it an Asian? How often is the beggar not strictly white or black? Where I live, the beggars are almost all white, and only occasionally black. I saw one Hispanic man standing at a street corner…but he wasn’t begging – he was selling cases of strawberries that he’d bought off a truck, and while it was obvious that the local Safeway didn’t take the strawberries because they were too ripe and wouldn’t last on the shelf and so the Hispanic man got them very cheaply (or possibly with a five-finger discount), he wasn’t begging. He was selling.

    In the P.I., I learned that there, if one doesn’t have a job, one makes a job. How? By selling something, anything that one can get hold of. You get stuck in a traffic jam, and suddenly you’re accosted by people – even children – selling rags or cigarettes or loops of sweet-smelling jasmine flowers. And it breaks my heart to see a little girl begging for a few pisos to eat. Give her twenty pisos – a little under 50 cents – and she’s happy, ’cause she can get something to eat. “Food first, before anything else!” – that’s one of the local mottos. How often do you hear that in America?

    So don’t get me wrong – my heart isn’t bleeding for America’s poor, for those in poverty here would be considered middle-class there. BUT do we have to allow things to go so badly that our nation is brought down to the level of a third-world country? We can do better…

    …and we WERE doing better for several decades by providing jobs for most and education for all. But unlike those that live in third-world countries, people here don’t know “if you don’t have a job, make a job”…but the only way that Americans will learn that particular lesson and make it a part of the national culture is if we’re brought down to the level of a third-world country.

    And one more thing about third-world countries – they don’t have a reliable tax base, and therefore do not have enough tax revenue to build their country’s infrastructure.

    And is that what you really want? Or should we choose to do what we did from WWII to the end of the Carter administration and use tax dollars to provide the opportunities for people to build lives and businesses of their own?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    But the previous comment aside, it is still wrong to blame the poor for their plight – after all, hundreds of thousands of job openings cannot help millions of unemployed.

  • Doug Hunter


    Don’t mistake not agreeing or disliking what I think as lack thereof. We just think differently. Someone may as well bash their brains out against a rock as try to get me to respond respond no matter how many times they mention words like: victim, poverty, poor, etc. I want to know details, not labels. When someone says they have it bad I’m wondering whether they were born with physical deformity or in a Somalian hut without food or running water, not that their unemployment benefits are running out after ‘only’ two years and they might have to give the SUV back to the financing company. We keep coming back to the mental status of the population and presumably how wrong my ideas are: are messages of postivity, hope, and not taking things for granted really that bad?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    I appreciate that – I really do. I wish that the other conservatives on BC would take the time to find and post factual references to back up their claims – if they did so, they might find that we liberals aren’t exactly hidebound to liberal talking points.

    The reference was rather enlightening, and shows more than anything the plight of the middle class. According to your reference, the poorest have access to most medical care – but that still doesn’t change the fact that half of all bankruptcies in America (and only in America) are due at least in part to medical expenses…and I suspect that a case can be made that bankruptcy is something done more often by those in the middle class than by those in poverty.

    Medicaid does not deny care to people due to preexisting conditions as health insurance agencies do. Neither does Medicaid ration health care as insurance agencies do, and Medicaid has no kind of ‘death panel’ as Arizona seems to have implemented since they cut down on transplant eligibility while also cutting taxes for the wealthy.

    In other words, I’m still strongly for the Affordable Care Act so that health insurance agencies can’t get away with this crap that is bankrupting and killing people all in the name of profit.

    But I really am grateful for what you pointed out – that’s a load off my mind, not only for the sake of the poor, but also to know that there’s a conservative on BC who backs up what he says with a good reference.

  • Doug Hunter

    Originally, I typed in medicaid eligibility and took the first state link (I don’t know which one it was) to see if I would qualify. I couldn’t find the exact form from last time, but each state is different and parents are not required to be covered,
    details in the report below
    PDF, page 14. This chart is based off a family of 3 rather than 4 but it indicates adults would be covered in 30 out of 50 states, the 2 kids and the mother, if pregnant, are mandated coverage.

    For the $16,000 figure I typed in ‘average healthcare cost for a family of 4’ in google and found something from US Weekly indicating that was the cost. In my comment I provided a disclaimer that many people could probably get coverage for less but they may be sacrificing quality or letting healthier members go without coverage. I don’t know why you’re arguing with me, my point was that the working class is working their tail off and they’re barely ahead of the poor. What they have is an illusion bought by credit cards and cutting themselves short on essentials like healthcare. It’s actually a strong argument for Obamacare, as many of the truly poor already get government coverage, Obamacare would extend that to more struggling blue collar workers.

  • “I just function on logic over emotion.”

    Well, perhaps if you’ll start thinking of people and their lives, the logic part of your argument will fall by the wayside. The sociological type of argument goes only so far. People are people, and we all want the same thing – self-respect, respect of others, sense of accomplishment, all of the above. Even the dregs of society, I daresay, unless you believe otherwise, in a double tier or double standard, that is.

    Real problems require real solutions. Blaming the victim just doesn’t cut it. There’s just got to be the way of inspiring hope in wasted lives. Granted, the welfare system doesn’t do it. Nor does the criminal justice system. Nor does the cut-throat, crony capitalist system whereby only the rich and well-connected stand to gain the best possible advantage, the rest be damned. There has got to be a better way.

    Meanwhile, let’s not be so quick to damn the poor for all their failings. It’s the kind of people we produce.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug #55 –

    Yes, I’m SURE that there’s SO many jobs available in America that when 42,000 factories close, well, those unemployed workers can just up and get employed right away, huh? Gee, I just wish I knew where I could find where those millions of help-wanted ads are!

    I mean, in the metropolitan area of Seattle, which contains over 500K people, there’s tens of thousands of unemployed…and a few hundred want-ads in the paper, most of which are for specific fields as health care.

    But I’m SURE you’re right that there’s just beaucoup jobs out there, and the millions who lost jobs when those 42,000 factories closed up – not only from the factories, but from the surrounding restaurants and such – are just being LAZY, right?


    Yep! 42K factories close up and millions out of work – but no big deal! PLENTY of jobs out there, if they’d only get off their collective butts! How do I know this? Because DOUG SAYS SO!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    You STILL have not said exactly how that family automatically qualifies for Medicare – or Medicaid. I’m sure that was a simple oversight, that you weren’t at all mistaken about adding the cost of Medicare or Medicaid to the alleged yearly income of that family.

    Just answer the question – that’s all I ask!

  • Doug Hunter


    If I hadn’t found another situation to feed my kids after 2 years of government unemployment benefits following losing my job then I’d certainly blame myself. It’s really a philosophical question that can be taken to absurdity. Is anyone responsible for anything? Are we not just chemical reactions and perfect products of our environment? How can we do that but which was preordained? You can’t ‘blame’ me for typing this any more than you can ‘blame’ vinegar and baking soda for foaming when combined! Is that not so!

  • And just to clarify, you meant Medicaid, not Medicare, which unfortunately are quite different.

  • Doug Hunter



    Natalie Bennett #25

    “With a 40 hour week, a family of 4 with one minimum wage earner would earn $15,080”

    I used that as the basis to determine benefits, I did take the liberty of assuming 2 adults, 2 children rather than 3-1.

    You always assume I’m cherrypicking for some reason???

  • Doug Hunter


    It was tongue in cheek, if I wanted a nice sanitized euphemism I would have used it. I’m not a martian, I just function on logic over emotion. You talk hopelessness and how blame makes people ‘feel’, I’m thinking about how much we have and waste and take for granted… I live by example the opposite of hopelessness and teach it to anyone who’ll listen (as I don’t believe in government top down programs that’s all I can do).

    If hopelessness is your problem perhaps maybe, just maybe, telling people to wait until a government $14 trillion in the hole comes to save them, that the deck is stacked against them based on race, class, politics, etc., that they can’t improve themselves that society must do it, that everyone is to blame but them and the American dream is dead isn’t such a hot message. I’d be more ‘hopeless’ blaming my situation on a culture of poverty (what the hell can I do about being born into that?) thatn to realize that my decisions resulted in where I am today, and today I can start changing them for the better… but that’s just me and I’m not in poverty to start with.

    You guys can keep on selling the woe is me negativity and how pitiful and hopeless and terrible things are then top it off with bitching about hopelessness, I’ll continue looking at the world through my eyes, content not to live the misery of the bleeding heart.

    (Before you miss the point and roll out the obligatory strawman remark, I’ll preemptively explain. No, you may not hold every position listed in paragraph two they were listed as the types of messages people often get in generally, not that you specifically espouse each one)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Doug –

    If the parents don’t make enough money and their children are in poverty as a result, it’s automatically their fault? So when a factory in a town in America closes up and moves to China, the people in that town are automatically at fault for their sudden poverty?

    From a Senate session on C-Span:

    …the United States has lost 42,000 factories since 2001, and 75 percent of those factories employed more than 500 workers. The bigger factories leave. Forty-two thousand factories closed, most of them employing more than 500 people.

    Yep! But according to Doug – it’s the PARENTS’ fault that kids are in poverty! Of course deregulation – and tax breaks for companies who move jobs overseas – have nothing at all to do with it.

    Yeah, right. Sure.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    “provided by another poster” – where?

    YOU have to take responsibility for what YOU post. So show me how every family in the situation YOU described is eligible for full coverage for Medicare – and I really do hope that’s the case. Either that, or admit that you provided a bogus example and adjust your numbers accordingly.

  • “sounds like poor people causing childhood poverty to ms.”

    But that is assigning blame. Why not just say there is a culture of poverty in America?

  • Doug Hunter


    If the children are in poverty I’d assume it’s because the parent’s don’t make the required magic number of income… sounds like poor people causing childhood poverty to me. But seriously, I don’t think assigning blame is helpful and don’t really see where I did that.

  • Doug Hunter


    My specific example was provided by another poster— a family of 4 with one person working full time minimum wage. In that case they would qualify. You can definitely be in ‘poverty’ and not qualify, just not in the specific example I was using.

  • Hunter thinks of the poor in terms of such superficial categories of thought as how it affects me personally, the neighborhood in which I happen to live, poor parenting and poor schools, crime, all the while extolling the virtues of being able to meet one’s material needs while exerting no effort, at everybody else’s expense. He doesn’t see it in terms of wasted lives and lives of hopelessness.

    One could have a more fruitful dialog with an honest to goodness Martian.

  • Blaming the poor for their poverty is an old, tired, endlessly repellent tic of the right. 20% of children in the US are living in poverty right now. It isn’t their fault, and it will continue to have corrosive effects both on their futures and on the whole country.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    Answer #35, please.

  • Generalize much there, Mr Hunter? Sheesh.

  • Doug Hunter


    I’m sorry if the words ‘poverty’ and the ‘poor’ don’t do a Pavlov’s bell on my tear ducts as it would in your circles.

    It’s not pleasurable to be poor because usually you’re financially restricted to living around other poor people which means lots of crime and terrible schools (caused not by lack of funding and bad teachers, but poor parenting and unruly students). The important things… healthcare, food, and sometimes housing are taken care of gratis from the sweat of someone else’s brow.

  • Clavos

    …Or appealing, depending on your POV…

  • Yes, those lucky, lucky Medicaid/welfare/food stamp recipients. Doug recites all those figures as though that’s a pleasurable way for anyone to survive.

    Medicaid is necessary, but it’s godawful. Like all civilized countries, we should have a single-payer health plan for everyone. The fact that it was considered untouchably controversial during the health reform debate is appalling.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –


    The only time I don’t like Bugs Bunny is when I’m the idiot who winds up playing the part of Yosemite Sam. But if that’s gotta be the way it is, then so be it!

    OOOOOHHHHH, I’m a-gonna GET that wabbit! ‘Cause even if Teddy DID speak softly can carry a big stick, I speak LOUD! And I carry a BI-I-I-IIIGGER shtick!

    Now where did I put my stash of black powder and minie balls?

  • zingzing

    when the grammar nazis make a typo, do the grammar nazis gas themselves? clavos must fart upon himself now. clavos, if you will…

  • Clavos

    Glenn, from the same soiurce you linked (Wikipedia), here is exactly what you’re doing when I call you on it:

    The opposite belief, correlation proves causation, is a logical fallacy by which two events that occur together are claimed to have a cause-and-effect relationship. The fallacy is also known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for “with this, therefore because of this”) and false cause.

    It’s not denying your data, in fact I can’t recall ever having done that (in the case of AGW, I DO question the forecasts derived from computer models), what I DO call you on, is the conclusions YOU arrive at from your data (which isn’t actually your data; it’s invariably quoted from another source, which is fine — just clarifying here); it’s in those conclusions where I question your logic for the reason stated above (and many, many times before). And that is exactly what the fallacy is. I am NOT, as you allege here, misinterpreting it.

    It is, as it says in the snip from wiki, your invariable insistence that, because two sets of data are connected, one is caused by the other.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    If the minimum wage doesn’t mean anything, then why is it that the GOP is so determined to get rid of it? If you think for one moment that as soon as the minimum wage goes away, there will be businesses in every state that will “suddenly be forced by economic pressure” to start paying less than what the minimum wage is now. The only proof you need of this is to see how many already try to make their employees work extra hours for no pay (Wal-Mart, McDonald’s are two fairly recent examples), and then there’s those who will exploit their workers, particularly if those workers are new to America or don’t have an HS diploma! Do you really, truly think this wouldn’t happen just as I’ve described?

    And as far as your statement is concerned:

    the fallacy is expressed as “correlation does not imply causation.”

    It’s becoming apparent that YOU don’t understand it! To wit:

    The idea that correlation and causation are connected is certainly true; where there is causation, there is likely to be correlation. Indeed, correlation is used when inferring causation; the important point is that such inferences are not always correct because there are other possibilities

    That last sentence is the heart of the logical fallacy. Problem is, what YOU have done time and again has been to insist that since you don’t want to believe the data I’ve presented, and because there MIGHT be other possibilities, then the correlations I’ve presented MUST somehow be false…and you then refuse to present any other possibilities. Frankly, to me, it is intellectually dishonest to flatly state that an observation based on hard data is wrong if one cannot provide reasonable doubt using hard data why said observation is wrong.

    Tis he article goes on to suggest that the shortest true statement that can be made about causality and correlation is one of the following:

    * “Empirically observed covariation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for causality.”
    * “Correlation is not causation but it sure is a hint.”

    I like that last one. Okay, Clavos? Instead of simply dismissing outright the correlations I’ve pointed out time and time and time again, you must consider the fact that you are in error for being so quick to resort to said logical fallacy.

    Now I don’t expect this to change you one whit – but every time you pull the same stunt in the future, I’ll simply point out to you once more how you yourself made the causation/correlation fallacy mean something else than it actually does.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    The BIG mistake you just made was to ASSUME that Medicare would pay all the family’s expenses, and then you add that $16,771 to the family of four’s total income, thereby making it seem as if a family living in poverty somehow has it “just as good” as a middle class family!

    Where did you get the idea that if a family’s household income is below the poverty level, that they are automatically eligible for full coverage under Medicare? Maybe I’m WILDLY wrong about this – I could be! And if you can show me that I am, then I’m grateful for it! ‘Cause I know quite a few families who are living in poverty who’d LOVE to know that all their medical expenses are already covered under Medicare!

  • Just wanted to get your attention since you haven’t been around for a while. Hope things are looking better.

  • cindy

    Lmao, Roger…how did you ever get me to lol after reading one of Dave’s posts?

    (Or as Demetri Martin might say…lqtm (laugh quietly to myself)…he thinks it’s more honest.)

  • I see. Dave must be calculating the real living wage for midgets – midget portions on the plate, midget-size places of dwelling, midget-furniture and amenities. Now, that makes sense. Midget needs minuscule, or shall we say niggardly?

  • cindy

    Dave thinks if midgets could depilitate themselves an rent themselves out as fantasy child sex slaves then at least they’d have a job. Dave has said that.

  • cindy

    Good article Natalie. Not sure capitalists are reading The Spirit Level, or ever will be. Look at Dave’s post. Read it carefully. No matter what baindaids you apply, what is in that post is what you are in for. Wealthy people created the system, to insure that slaves would continue to provide their wealth. They have devised a system of education which indoctrinates each new generation into replicating the system.

    Davespeak is in the end, all capitalism has. It is soul crushing and mind warping.

  • cindy

    Dave says, “A real living wage is best set by the marketplace.”

    Really? Does that even make sense? How can the marketplace set a living wage? The marketplace will set a living wage? WHEN WILL IT DO THAT?

    What the by fuck is wrong with LIBERTARIANS?

  • Doug Hunter


    Not too well, I made a huge mistake that undercut my point. A family of four with only $15,000 in income would actually get almost $7,000 in negative income tax payments. I didn’t properly fill out the calculator the first time and realized it when I went back to compare a family of 4 making $50,000/year.

    The actual numbers for $15K should include $0 income tax liability with around $850 in FICA/medicaid witholding. For 2010 there is an $800 making work pay tax credit that virtually eliminates withholding then if the family was composed of 2 children and 2 adults you’d get a $5036 “Earned Income Credit” as well as a $1812 “Additional Child Tax Credit” both of which are refundable (I also verified this on the IRS website to make double sure I don’t post incorrect information). That would make the actual calculation.

    $15,080 Earned Income
    $6,598 Excess Refund
    $6,576 Food Stamp Benefit
    $16,771 Health Cost savings

    $45,025 — “Adjusted” relative income Minimum wage earner (no employer health plan)

    Compare that to a skilled “middle” income laborer who works construction at $50,000 in the private sector who earns what appears decent but at a small company with no health plan. This worker has no tax liability after credits but has nothing to offset $2824 in withholding, does not qualify for food stamps or section 8 or free healthcare.

    $50,000 actual income
    -$2,824 FICA/Medicare taxes
    $0 Food Stamps
    $0 Health Saving (any savings are going to come through cheap coverage or dad and mom going unisured)

    $47,176 — “Adjusted” relative income $50K/year worker (no employer health insurance)

    Now, if the $50K worker is a teacher rather than a construction worker a health plan covering most of the $16,771 cost, say $15K with the rest coming out of pocket you could tack an additional $15K over that.

    $62,176 — “Adjusted” relative income $50K/year worker (good health insurance)

    That’s the situation in this country. Well, you say there’s no way the McDonald’s burger flipper makes just as much as the $50K/year construction worker, just look at how they live. You’re right. The construction worker goes without medical care for himself and puts the rest of the family on a plan with a deductible high enough to bankrupt them so they can free up an extra few hundred dollars a month to afford to spend a couple hundred on housing and on their vehicle to make sure people know they’re ‘better off’ than those in ‘poverty’.

  • Clavos

    They will if they must, Clavos.

    But that’s exactly my point, Roger. Even flipping burgers makes more money than minimum (though not much, true, but it’s flipping burgers, not rocket science). And, as Doug points out so well above, by the time you add in all the other resources this country provides its poor, they wind up MUCH better off than the poor almost everywhere else.

    Take a look at the squatters’ barrios on the outskirts of Mexico City or the favelas in Rio and Sao Paulo — that’s poverty.

  • Doug Hunter

    They would make $15,080, but with earned income and child tax credits they get back all they paid in taxes and withholding plus a total of $1064 according to HR block 2010 calculator. Additionally, you would qualify for $6576 in food stamps according to the food stamp calculator. Medicare will pay all healthcare costs with I believe no deductible which according to US weekly cost the average family of four $16,771 in 2009.

    So even without HUD or section 8 or counting discounted meals or low income heating assistance you’re looking at an equivalent earning of:

    $15,080 regular pay
    $1,064 excess tax ‘refund’
    $6,576 food stamp benefit
    $16,771 health cost saving

    $39,491 Total (the only thing that realistically overshoots is probably the healthcare, but maternity coverage is very expensive to get outside of company coverage so it may not be far off)

    Once you get on housing assistance you push that up even more. I feel sorrier for the workers working their tails off for $40K per year that can’t afford to live any better than a McDonald’s clerk than I do for the one family that believes taking fry orders a few hours a week should earn them a ticket to the middle class!

  • A telling statistic:
    “In 2008, the official U.S. poverty level for a family of 4 was $21,834 ( Census Bureau “Poverty Thresholds”). With a 40 hour week, a family of 4 with one minimum wage earner would earn $15,080, only 69 percent of the poverty level. The minimum wage level is not indexed to inflation, which means that the real benefits will be eroded by inflation.”

  • “Most Americans (by far) won’t work for minimum.”

    They will if they must, Clavos. Not everyone is on welfare, physically or mentally disabled, or can make do with the help of family. Your pronouncement seems to suggest that these three conditions define the poor in America.

  • Clavos

    And please try to not dodge the question by claiming ‘causation/correlation logical fallacy’, because that ONLY applies when the two factors involved are completely unrelated.

    Um, Glenn…no. Without regard to the minimum wage issue, just the fallacy itself: the fallacy is expressed as “correlation does not imply causation.” The word “correlation,” just as it sounds, means relationship. Dictionarydotcom gives its meaning as, “mutual relation of two or more things, parts, etc.”

    Now I know why you’ve never gotten that; you don’t understand it.

  • Clavos

    Most Americans (by far) won’t work for minimum; in fact, it’s often the case that the combination of welfare plus food stamps results in a better lifestyle than working for minimum. If there are children and the family receives AFDC, it’s the icing on the cake.

    This phenomenon is a major reason why we have so many illegal immigrants, many of whom are willing to work for less than minimum and do.

  • Clavos

    Once again, you miss my point entirely, Glenn. It doesn’t matter that the USA has a minimum wage, since it is mostly ignored, even to the point that one of the most menial jobs in America, burger flipper, makes more money than the minimum wage, and its always been that way.

    The minimum wage, as practiced here, is largely irrelevant, so I agree with you, those who fight it do so purely reflexively.

    Not every country that has a minimum wage is better off than America

    If you’re speaking in terms of how well their “poor” live, then with the exception of some (not all) of the other first tier countries, none, even those with minimums, have a poor class better off than America. Again, with the exception of some not all, of the other first tier countries.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    Granted that the poverty rate is objective and is more useful on a local level…but those of us who have traveled a great deal have gotten a fairly strong idea for which countries have a real problem with poverty, and which ones don’t. Not every country that has a minimum wage is better off than America…but NO country that doesn’t have a minimum wage is better off.

    Also, one needs to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. Singapore and (for the most part) Hong Kong are both city-states and cannot be used as comparisons to true nations. I’ve been to both several times and I’ve enjoyed every visit…but you can’t compare them to true nations.

    My challenge still stands.

  • Doug Hunter

    Poverty being an arbitrary income level and relative measure that relates to no objective physical reality barely means anything within a country much less between nations. It probably tracks the Gini index pretty well, the US being high on Gini means there aren’t too many to compare with.

    Your best bets and better models of capitalism are probably Hong Kong which didn’t have one until 2010 and Singapore which still doesn’t. Both have showcased dynamic free market economies and limited government along with impressive growth transforming societies with limited natural resources. There are model socialist economies too, given the choice I’d live in the former though.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    BUT I can certainly point out to you lots of countries that DO have minimum wages whose poverty levels are lower than in America.

    And that begs the question: If having a minimum wage is SO VERY BAD, then why is it that there’s NO countries without a minimum wage that have a poverty rate lower than America’s, but there’s lots of countries WITH minimum wages with poverty rates lower than America’s?

    And please try to not dodge the question by claiming ‘causation/correlation logical fallacy’, because that ONLY applies when the two factors involved are completely unrelated.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    And you know very well your answer cannot apply because America already has a minimum wage and IIRC has had one since FDR.

    So…try again – but I really don’t think you will because I don’t think you’ll be able to point out a modern country without a minimum wage, where the marketplace sets the living wage, that has a poverty level not higher than America’s already is.

  • Clavos

    America, Glenn. That was the point of my post with the minimum wage data.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    You didn’t answer my question – and it’s not your fault because I see that I could have phrased it better. Can you show me a modern-day example of a country that has no minimum wage, wherein the marketplace is setting the living wage…and where poverty is not higher than it already is in America?

  • Boeke

    It’s a failure of our current system that while the highest of our citizens are allowed to achieve as high as they like, the lowest find their very existence imperilled.

  • Doug Hunter

    I’ve solved the problem. There’s simply not enough little brown people working at slave wages to provide me all my ‘rights’. I hear alot of talk about how we have a ‘right’ to a roof over our head, a right to healthy food, and a right to healthcare… but when I look on my roof I see former third world laborers, when I look at the workers in the fields I see hispanic immigrants, when I go to the doctor I often get in to someone from a India or another third world country.

    We’ve exported as much as we could of the ugly underside of what keeps our gilded lives afloat, for that we can’t export we reimport illegal workers for a share. Roger is right, neither side has an answer for just as we can’t all be independently wealthy capitalist not everyone can have a cushy government or union job. Every fluff position, from CEO to bureacrat, rests their boots on the backs of untold numbers of low wage laborers.

    No one is a slave to my rights.

  • But our government, Natalie, supports this economic system, Chinese government, socialist as it may be, supports this economic system. Obviously, the problems you’re raising go beyond mere capitalist or socialist solutions, beyond the party line, beyond the liberal or conservative thought.

  • Clavos

    Care to show me even one modern-day example of this?

    Glenn, I assume you are aware that the current federal minimum wage is $7.25/Hr. and that McDonald’s lowest starting hourly wage is currently a national average of $7.30?

  • By “civilisation” here I mean a society in which everyone has a roof over their head, a decent diet — and doesn’t have to worry about whether that will still be there next week — and a chance to feel like they are part of the society, not excluded from it.
    Those are things that our current rampant neoliberal capitalism have patently failed to deliver.

  • BTW, no reflection on your intentions, Natalie, just got to express yourself better.

  • @6

    Good for you, Clav.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave (and Clavos) –

    A real living wage is best set by the marketplace.

    Care to show me even one modern-day example of this?

  • Clavos

    If we want civilisation it needs to be carefully controlled and not allowed to run wild.

    If that’s the price to be paid, then I, for one, don’t want that version of “civilization.”

  • “Business competitiveness” somehow allows bankers and executives to pay themselves many millions in bonuses – while ensuring that their cleaners can’t afford their products. The “market” is a blind, thoughtless behemouth. If we want civilisation it needs to be carefully controlled and not allowed to run wild.

  • We do indeed have the same problem here in the US. [Edited] leftists are promoting this ridiculous idea of a massively inflated and unjustifiable minimum wage aggressively here as well.

    A real living wage is best set by the marketplace. To do otherwise is to destroy business competitiveness and force economization through the cutting of jobs. We have seen the damage which these crazy wage schemes have wrought in some of the more socialist European countries. Why anyone would want to follow their lead is beyond me.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    I wonder how many of those who oppose even the idea of minimum wage could raise a child by themselves on minimum wage…

    …as hundreds of thousands of single mothers here in the U.S. are struggling to do.

  • I realize that the author is writing about the UK, but we have the same problems here in the U.S.

  • I agree. Obviously, that any child should live in poverty in this time is absolutely horrific. I see many hungry children in Vermont; I’d like to commend the Bethel, VT. schoolboard and all involved for providing some meals for children even during the summer. I wish more people would be concerned with this than with “balancing the budget.” I’m sure it’s important, for we don’t want to be slaves to China, and all that, but we also want our kids to grow up healthy– and grow up!