A little reasoning

This post may seem a little dry, but bear with me.

  1. Let’s start with a basic premise: There are millions of square feet of retail, office, and light industrial space in this nation, and it all requires cleaning on a regular basis. I think everybody sane should be able to agree on this point.
  2. For practical reasons, most of this space needs to be cleaned when it is not in use. That usually means somebody needs to clean it at night, after closing.
  3. I can think of several very good reasons this work should be done by adults. First — remember that the cleaning is being done after business hours — the cleaning staff needs to be someone that can be trusted with keys. Second, adults have more experience cleaning things in a safe manner. Third, if we really think education is important, young people should be studying and sleeping so they can do good work in school (add the implied “you don’t want to be working as a janitor when you’re 50, do you kid?”). These are just a few reasons off the top of my head; give me a while and I am confident I can come up with more.
  4. I reject the idea that the minimum wage “is for kids who are going to work their way up to a better job” based on the reasoning above. In fact, the original law mandating the existence of a minimum wage said the idea was to create a “minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency and general well-being, without substantially curtailing employment”.
  5. Adults who work full time jobs deserve a wage that allows them to pay their bills. Ok, the cleaning staff maybe don’t need to drive Ferraris, but they do deserve to be able to pay the rent, the power bill, and still have money for groceries. I don’t see how anybody can say with a straight face that an executive who sits behind a desk all day works harder than the guy who spends the night cleaning the office toilets.
  6. Someone working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at minimum wage earns $15,080 annually. Do the math yourself if you like. That’s no vacations, no getting sick, actually getting scheduled 40 hours every week, and no getting stiffed on hours (I can hear the laughter). The poverty line for a family of two is $15,730. That’s an average across the lower 48; obviously $15,730 is not going to go as far in some areas.

I think it’s fairly obvious that I support raising the minimum wage. You’ve heard news reports over the last few days about how the CBO report on this proposal offers conflicting opinions. It turns out that some of that reporting may be misunderstood. I’m not an economist, but I do know that when people who have a hard time paying the bills, they spend money. And I also know that consumer spending is a major factor in our economy. More people with more money buying spending more money means more demand, and that is a good thing right now. As a bonus, more wages means more taxes collected — including Social Security contributions. Seeing that certain people in Congress are still clutching their pearls about how there’s not enough money in the Federal coffers, that has to be a good thing too.

A special announcement: I have been asked to share a little information with you. If you’ve ever thought that medical coding and billing might be a great new career for you, you should really check out this site and their free ebook.

In Closing: Wheeee, let’s have some fun NSA, NSA, and NSA links to start off (you know, if they had come clean in the first place, we might not still be talking about it months later); flood zone; rich people problems; political reality set in; be careful buying a used car but not for the reason you think; engineering marvel; and the Bobcats.

Music Monday: The Jimmy Webb Principle

In his book, Jimmy Webb tells us that the very best popular songs are actually complete plays in 3 to 5 minutes. We will be exploring that idea for a while on Music Monday, but let’s start with the Master himself….

 

In Closing: I seem to recall Jesus saying something about how the poor would always be with us; a few choice items on dietary choices; now that’s just plain dumb; Janet Yellen; glad I’m not up north; follow-up; oops; bwahahaha; reality check; Cambodia; free house, just add land; and I’m not sure how anybody is dumb enough to think that a for profit company can reduce costs without also reducing service.

The Last Will and Shorties of Rosalind Leigh

On Education: Children living in poverty are everywhere, and standardized tests are not ready for them. For pity sake, we’re wasting time teaching kids who are still figuring out how to hold a pencil how to fill in little bubbles on scantrons. All hail the holy power of earning a completion certificate degree.

On Spying on American Citizens: Hilary says we need an adult conversation. Good luck in a world where we are all apparently afraid there’s a terrorist under the bed. But if they can track all Americans (illegally), how are they going to sort through enough information to find anything useful? Unless the goal is to be able to blackmail every single one of us? No wonder Snowden doesn’t think the internal reporting system works. There’s hope for reform, but it still looks like whitewashing to me.

Fat People with Thin Skins: Apparently don’t understand how the Unfollow button works.

Coolest Pope since Ever: Sold Harley, gave proceeds to charity.

On the working poor: It’s more than possible to work full time and still live in poverty. Some argue that the low wages paid to fast food workers turns into high profits for companies and high taxes for the rest of us who must subsidize their food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. Then the poor have to put up with food stamp systems that go down, and risk losing their job for helping a fellow human being.

Whatever Happened to Vanilla Ice?: He cleaned himself up, realized he owned a bunch of property, fixed it up, and started hanging out with the Amish.

On Republicans: When Pat Robertson says your too extreme, it might be time to revisit your views. I’m still a little worried that the current “dialog” on a budget is going to turn into “dialog” on how we “have to” cut Social Security, Medicare, and anything else that doesn’t directly help rich people and/or influential Congresscritters.

Common Misconceptions: Enjoy.

Bankrupt, yet record profits?: How does that work, American Airlines??

Yeah, we could use some good news: Iran appears to want to talk like sensible people about nukes.

Human Rights: the comic.

And now for something adorable: 4 new cubs at a Vegas lion habitat.

Music Monday: Pinching Pennies

Before me in line at a suburban Super Wal-Mart was a woman, somewhere around 30 by my best guess, and her son, who I supposed might have been ten. In a nation where 2 out of 3 people are overweight, they were skinny. Their clothes were clean and in keeping with the unspoken dress code of suburbia, but showed signs of wear. Her sandals didn’t fit quite right. Her son’s hair was done neatly in an urban style, perhaps at home. I’d been dodging young people darting about the store with a sense of entitlement all through my shopping voyage — including the kids behind me loudly begging their parents for candy — so I was struck by his remarkably good behavior. He patiently put checked groceries into their cart while mom watched the display of scanned items like a hawk.

They had a small order. Food included four loaves of the cheapest house-brand bread available, a case of ramen, a family-sized package of house brand hot dogs, American cheese, and a small can of baby formula — the only name brand item on the conveyor belt. No fruits or vegetables of any sort. They also had a comb, store-brand maxi-pads, pencils, and a couple cheap children’s backpacks. There was no baby with them, so I had to assume there was somebody at home watching the baby and whoever was waiting for the second backpack. I found it curious that they were buying school supplies at the very end of September. Perhaps they were waiting for a clearance sale? She paid with a combination of cash and some sort of scan card before leaving.

In Closing: A few links on Obamacare, the impending government shutdown, and birth control pills (and reproductive rights in general); the media and graphs.

On Poverty

Let me begin by apologizing for the recent lack of substance around here. Between classwork and increasing frustration with both political parties, it’s been hard to get inspired.

So, poverty is up again this year. It’s almost un-news this time. Reuters calls it “the latest sign that an economic recovery marked by a stock market boom has not trickled down to ordinary Americans.” Not just the sign or a sign: the latest sign. And gee, surprise surprise, keeping the interest rate that banks can charge one another low doesn’t seem to help Joe Average pay his bills! Imagine that! Here’s some facts for you:

Numbers released this week by the Census Department show exactly how pervasive poverty is in the U.S. To be defined as poor by the government, a single person can earn no more than $11,490 per year, while for a family of four the threshold is $23,550. About 46.5 million Americans, or 1 in 7, lived at or below that level last year. Extend the definition just slightly to 125 percent of the poverty level — $14,362 for one person and $29,437 for a family of four — and the ratio drops to 1 in 5, fully 20 percent of the population.

Almost 42 percent of U.S. households below the poverty line are headed by single women, that’s up from 28 percent in 2007. Many of the people who live close to or below the poverty line have jobs: More than 30 percent of working-age adults earning 125 percent of the poverty line or less worked year-round in 2012, according to the Census Bureau. Roughly a quarter of the officially impoverished worked part-time, while 5.5 percent worked full-time. Nearly 9 percent of those working part-time earned less than half of the poverty level.

So no, we aren’t talking about lazy slobs who don’t want to work. We’re talking about 1 out of every 7 people you’re likely to encounter on the street, more if you know people of color. Even if you live in some “nice” suburb somewhere. And for those people, advice like “Max your 401k contribution” or “have savings of at least three months of living expenses” are sick jokes. How do you save that kind of money when you aren’t even sure you’ll cover the rent on the first of the month?

The Japan Times recently published a commentary titled “Politicians hardly ever mention America’s poor.” Now think about that a moment. The Japanese know we have a poverty problem. This isn’t an article about poverty in Bolivia or India, but America and it’s poor. And our politicians are too busy to talk about them. That’s actually probably for the best, seeing as their challenges are often misunderstood, the solutions are sometimes tangential, and Washington appears to be doing their very best to push them [further] under the bus.

And that brings me to food stamps — or as it is officially known, the SNAP program. As we all remember, the House voted to cut $4,000,000,000 ($4 billion with a b, or $4000 million if you’d like to think about how big that is) from SNAP, while the Senate only wants to cut $400,000,000 ($400 M). Mighty nice of them Senators. The House also wants to let states impose work requirements despite the fact that many of the poor have jobs (and many more are disabled) and drug testing (proven to be a waste of money, but it does serve the primary purpose of humiliating the person in poverty further). It’s hard enough to feed yourself on SNAP, but the politicians who never mention the poor directly want to make it harder.

I guess none of them paid much attention to the plot of last year’s critically acclaimed movie, Les Misérables. Desperate people do desperate things.

I’m not a Catholic by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe Pope Francis speaks words Jesus would have approved of when he said “We want a just [economic] system that helps everyone.”

In Closing:like “will cost much less than expected”; perspective; I bet more of us use math regularly than play football regularly; “The Tithe” is worth reading, here’s part one; maybe the start of a someday HIV cure?; and may you never have to choose which bills go unpaid.

Music Monday: An Interesting Discovery

It turns out that locally, used economy cars are much more expensive than similar used luxury cars. A 10 year old Toyota or Scion in decent condition is $2000-4000 more than a 10 year old Lexus, despite the fact that they have almost identical drivetrains. The same holds true for Honda vs. Acura.

One more thing: JP is having a rough time. If you are in a position to help (or better yet, offer him a job!), please reach out.

In Closing: on employment, unemployment, underemployment, wages, poverty, the minimum wage, and the new normal.

Music Monday: The Boss Has Spoken

Ladies and gentlemen, the unvarnished truth:

 

The economy is crap unless you are ridiculously wealthy. And even then, you might have the sense that something is amiss. It is no longer possible to just work a little harder and get out of this mess. Four out of five Americans “struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.” An alarming number of families spend over half their income on housing, with many still paying far too much on property that will never be worth what is owed — property that traps them in places where jobs might not exist. And that’s before I get to 35 facts that should scare Baby Boomers.

Follow up: Be careful hiking in areas that have recently experienced forest fires.

In Closing: on human trafficking; seriously??; some more stuff on the NSA (contact your Congressmouse and Senatwhores and remind them that you vote); MSRA; don’t say stupid stuff in job interviews; and Farewell Lindy.

Music Monday: I Love Trash

Thank Jukkou for this one:

 

In Closing: Must see pictures from Turkey; Always Low Wages; Four Horsemen; Duhpartment of Research shows young people are generally progressive; right, because I totally am going to go to a drugstore for sushi and a makeover</sarcasm>; food stamps are a good thing (heh); tax breaks; I kinda like this lady’s style; and how lazy do you have to be for this to seem like a good idea?

 

 

Open Letter to Los Angeles

Hi L.A., How are you?

This is a little awkward. See, the thing is that I do like you. I don’t mind your sprawl. I love your museums. How many cities have their very own tar pit?  You have a cute little Chinatown.

The thing is, I don’t think you are safe anymore. The problem isn’t you. It’s that police force of yours. I think he’s bad for you and I wish you could dump him for somebody better.

It isn’t just the thing with Chris Dorner — even though it’s obvious that LAPD never intended to bring him in alive for a trial. I mean really, they shot up two different pickup trucks, not one of which met the description of Dorner’s truck, and not one of whose occupants was even the same race as Dorner.

Unfortunately, this is just part of a trend for LAPD. I know there’s more to the story, but shooting somebody in the back as they run away from you isn’t exactly the textbook definition of “self defense.” And do you know what happens if you search Youtube for “LAPD Shoots”? Over 300 videos at the moment: shooting carjackers, shooting murder suspects, shooting those pickup trucks, shooting a deaf mute man, shooting a young Muslim man 90 times. Sure, there are films of the shooting range, and about cops being shot, commentary about people being shot, and of course some multiple-camera-angles-of-same-incident. An alarming number of these clips are recent.

I am starting to think that the real gun control needs to involve taking guns away from your officers.

Sorry Los Angeles. I’ll keep in touch, I promise. But don’t expect my tourist dollars any time soon.

In Closing: break the silence; broadband; nosy neighbors confuse maple syrup rig for meth lab; apparently, some cops think a car sticker is “probable cause”; not just at airports; glad Joe Biden cleared that up!; mainstream nutrition; Dave Johnson uses this thing called logic; have no fear, your homeowner’s policy covers meteor crashes; on Elizabeth Warren; please notice the very careful wording about 2/3 down; on consumer education; I guess she’s hoping no future employers Google her; and pot.

To the Lady in Workout Clothes ahead of me at the Grocery Store

Hey dear, let me tell you why you’re never going to lose that 10 to 20 pounds around your hips and waist and why your hubby is never going to lose the gut unless you change your ways.

I’m not going to put all the blame on the expensive whole wheat crap that you think is good for you, even though you should probably only eat half that at most, and even though there is a case to be made for that being your biggest problem. Many experts think that’s good stuff, but you still should put some of it back on the shelf.

I’m not going to be too hard on you for the gallon of frozen yogurt. Again, you think you’re doing the right diet thing, even though it’s still got far too much sugar in it to be truly healthy. Maybe you only eat a tablespoon a day? Maybe I wasn’t close enough to see that it was one of those fat-free or sugar-free chemistry sets masquerading as real food?

I’m not going to put all the blame on the plentiful sports drinks in your cart, even though there is simply no way you are working out hard enough for them to be beneficial to you. Have you ever looked at the nutrition panel? It’s probably replenishing every calorie you “worked” off, and many of those drinks contain corn syrup. If you seriously worked out hard enough for these to be a good idea, you would never dream of wearing your disgusting sweaty workout clothes to a grocery store — even fresh out of the wash!

I am going to rag on you just a little bit for the 3 boxes of different kinds of crackers. For pity sake, if you want to eat something that goes crunch, try an apple or a carrot! You might get some vitamins out of the deal.

I am going to rag on you just a little bit for the fact that the only protein I saw in your cart was a pound of ground beef. Come on, that’s going to last a week? If you don’t eat some protein, your body is just going to steal it from your muscles. In case you didn’t know, muscle is what keeps you from looking like a complete blob.

But the one thing that I think is your biggest problem was the stack of 6 frozen pizzas. That proves that you only give the faintest lip service to eating healthy: pizza is neither low carb nor low fat. Ever. Just, please, tell me that’s not a one week supply. Lie to me if you must. You want a pizza? Learn to make that stuff from scratch. I can guarantee you’ll eat less of it because it’s harder than stuffing that frozen crap in a hot oven, it will be better tasting because you’ll use better ingredients, and healthier. Why healthier? You’ll actually burn some calories kneeding the dough, shaping it, and putting quality stuff on top!

Want to make that gut vanish? Try eating real, minimally processed food. Sure, you’ll have to spend more than 3 minutes preparing it, but you and your husband will both be better off.

I’d like to say at least your dog eats well, but you didn’t buy any dog food.

In Closing: would you like to play a game?; playing it safe; poverty tax; ever wonder what the numbers mean?; duh; travel tips; “let’s just take these laptops with no anti-virus to a hacker’s conference! What could possibly go wrong???”; parks; make “the PillOTC, prevent abortions; we don’t need “administrators” with no common sense having any authority over children, ever, for any reason.