Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hard Truth: The Minimum Wage Is the New Slavery, and Hispanics -- and Some Blacks and Poor Whites -- Are the New Slaves

Hispanics waiting for work, at low wages, outside a Home Depot. Familiar sight?

This is not a new trend, and I've been watching it for years. When I went away to college some fifty -- half a century! -- years ago, I spent my last summer after high school making minimum wage at a Jack-in-the-Box, then $1.20 an hour. My co-workers and I, as well as my boss, were all white.

These days, most fast food jobs still pay minimum wage, but the big change is that almost all of these minimum wage workers are Hispanics. Yes, some of them are as young as high-schoolers, but a great deal of them are often adult Hispanic women, probably supplementing their husbands' income.

Where do their husbands work? You find them waiting for work outside the local Home Depot, or you see them doing the weekly landscaping at homes, condos, and apartment complexes. If you're in Iowa, you see them in the factory farms and slaughter houses. If you're in wine country like I am, you see them in the vineyards, pruning the vines and repairing the irrigation lines.

Why -- except in high-cost-of-living-cities like San Francisco -- do we see no pressure to raise the minimum wage? And why -- except for some cosmetic actions around the U.S. borders -- do we see little effort at clearing the millions of undocumented workers out of the country in order to put our real citizens back to work? Let me count the ways:
  • Wages are suppressed organically because we have a surplus of workers, again mostly Hispanic, keeping these wages down.
  • Wages are squeezed as labor unions, like the carpenters' union, for example, have been decimated because in fields, construction sites, and factories there's an army of non-union workers ready to take union jobs at half-pay or worse.
  • Business owners are more than happy with the status quo. Hell, they helped manufacture this situation because they love the low wages, which is why programs aimed at catching undocumented workers, such as e-Verify, are a complete joke.
  • Our society has always had its invisible jobs, like landscaping, field work, and clothing sweat-shops, that thrive on the undocumented. This kind of work has expanded in line with the number of workers who fear discovery in more conventional employment. Businesses know this and hire accordingly at wages they'd never get away with in broad daylight.
Most of America, myself included, are willing co-conspirators in this charade because we all benefit by the low prices many of these jobs grant us. Only those victimized have obvious cause to object, and they don't for fear of losing their jobs.

A moral country would not tolerate this. So what does that make us? I suppose it makes us the new salve masters or, at the very least, the lackeys of the new slave master class. For some, I guess it's invigorating, even thrilling, as they count their profits. For those of us that survive the system intact -- or who even thrive under it -- there's a sense of relief. For those who are victimized by it, there's humiliation and the day-to-day struggle to survive.

Though I've done okay in this life since I quit my one -- and only -- minimum-wage job fifty years ago, even I have been victimized, as policy after policy is maintained to hold all wages and salaries down, at many levels of enterprise.

And I could pretend that I'm a man of conscience because I boycott Walmart. Big whoop. If I divested myself of all the stock I own, individually or in mutual funds, of companies that thrive in this new slave society, I'd be equity-poor and cash-rich, and in worse shape than I should be in retirement. so I grumble in righteous indignation. What a guy. What a society. Pretty disgusting.

Think I'll have a mint julep and read the Wall Street Journal.

Note. Despite what some may imagine from what I say above, I'm pro-immigration reform, meaning I'm for a path to citizenship for the undocumented, as well as a faster path to citizenship for the children without papers who have known no other home than the U.S. These so-called Dreamers deserve to win citizenship faster via programs advocated by Barack Obama and fellow Democrats. Yes, that will lead to more voting foreign-born citizens who will likely vote, in the main, for Democrats. So be it. The Republican alternative is to celebrate the new slavery. Shame on them.

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