5 Signs That America Has Gone Bonkers — And a Glimmer of Hope

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Joshua Collins, 24, demonstrates outside the Burger King restaurant where he works during a protest calling for higher wages and a worker's union, Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. AP Photo/David Goldman)
Joshua Collins, 24, demonstrates outside the Burger King restaurant where he works during a protest calling for higher wages and a worker's union on Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

This post originally appeared at AlterNet.

It might appear that the U-S-of-A has gone bonkers. So let me clear up any confusion that you might have: Yes, it has!

Yet, it hasn’t. More on that in a moment.

First, though — whether looking at the “tea party” congress critters who’ve swerved our nation’s political debate to the hard right, or at the peacocks of Wall Street who continue to preen and profit atop the wreckage they’ve made of our real economy — it’s plain to see that America is suffering a pestilence of nuts and narcissists in high places. These “leaders” are hell bent to enthrone themselves and their ilk as the potentates of our economic, governmental and social systems and they are aggressively trying to snuff out the light of egalitarianism that historically has been our society’s unifying force.

Bill Moyers, America’s most public-spirited journalist, summarized the state of or nation in these terms: “The delusion is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe to sit at the seat of power.” Symptoms of this national insanity include these examples:

We can’t even keep the doors of our government open. In October of last year, Washington’s tea party Republican faction, unable to win the budget cuts it had demanded, threw a procedural fit to get what its acolytes wanted.

— We can’t even keep the doors of our government open. In October of last year, Washington’s tea party Republican faction, unable to win the budget cuts it had demanded, threw a procedural fit to get what its acolytes wanted. Their stunt literally shut down the nation’s government for 16 days and bled $24 billion from the US economy. They won nothing except the widespread public scorn they earned for being self-aggrandizing political fools.

— Lloyd Blankfein, bankster-in-chief of Goldman Sachs, runs a financial casino that has bilked its own customers, been so reckless that it took a $10 billion taxpayer bailout to keep it afloat and lobbied furiously to kill regulatory reforms that would’ve reined in its ongoing destructiveness. So has this wrongdoer faced prosecution and jail? Ha! Blankfein continues to reign, retaining his CEOship at Goldman and hauling in $23 million last year in personal pay.

— A narrow, five-man majority of the US Supreme Court has decreed that corporations are “persons” with the right to spend unlimited sums of their shareholders’ money to elect or defeat whomever they want — and to do so secretly. This year, in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Court also overturned the campaign finance rules limiting individual’s contributions on aggregate federal campaign contributions — thus enthroning a tiny elite as America’s ruling electoral power.

— Big Money’s control of politics gives it control of public policy. Thus long-term joblessness and underemployment rage on unabated, middle-class income is plummeting, the majority is finding upward mobility roped off, labor unions are being systematically disempowered and our social safety net is being shredded.

— From retail workers to adjunct college professors, the new normal for workaday people is poverty-wage, part-time, temporary, no-benefit employment. At McDonald’s, the world’s biggest burger chain with 860,000 US workers and $5.5 billion in profits, typical pay is only $8.20 an hour and “full-time” jobs amount to only 30 hours a week. McDonald’s business plan: Shift the bulk of its labor costs to taxpayers and workers themselves. The top executives calculate that employees will subsidize their gross underpayment by finding second jobs and then get health care from emergency rooms and go to welfare offices for food and other basic needs.

From retail workers to adjunct college professors, the new normal for workaday people is poverty-wage, part-time, temporary, no-benefit employment. At McDonald’s, the world’s biggest burger chain with 860,000 US workers and $5.5 billion in profits, typical pay is only $8.20 an hour and “full-time” jobs amount to only 30 hours a week.

All this (and more) explains the popularity in America of this bumper sticker: “Where are we going? And what am I doing in this hand basket?”

Most people know that things are screwy, that this is not the America that’s supposed to be. And therein lies the good news: The USA hasn’t gone crazy — its leaders have and they can be changed.

In opinion polls, tea party Republicans are becoming less popular than swine flu, while solid progressives are on the rise. Such undiluted populist voices as Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ in the Senate, Alan Grayson’s in the House and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s in New York City are shifting the debate from the corporate agenda to the people’s.

The anthem by rocker Patti Smith sums up where we Americans are — and where I think we’re going: “People have the power — to dream, to rule, to wrestle the world from fools.” Ordinary folks are awakening to the realization that the fools have seized power and the folks are now making moves (and movements) to seize the fools by their short hairs and reclaim our dreams.

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of the book Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow. He publishes the monthly Hightower Lowdown, co-edited by Phillip Frazer.
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  • Anonymous

    “At McDonald’s, the world’s biggest burger chain with 860,000 US workers”

    McDonalds has approximately 440,000 employees worldwide, with approximately half in the US.

    So the author has his numbers wrong by a factor of four!!!

    Perhaps that author doesn’t know that 4 out of 5 McDonalds is actually an independent franchise, typically a small business, not a large corporation.

    How much credibility should the rest of the column have?

    “A narrow, five-man majority of the US Supreme Court has decreed that”

    5 out of 9 votes is 56% of the votes.

    By contrast, the Affordable Care Act passed the house of representatives with only 51% of the votes (50.6% be exact). Does that mean that the ACA is less legitimate than any of the 5-4 SCOTUS decisions?

    How about the 5-4 decision to uphold the ACA? Is that also not legitimate? Or are only the decisions the author doesn’t like illegitimate “decrees”?

    “Their stunt literally shut down the nation’s government for 16 days and bled $24 billion from the US economy. They won nothing ”

    Actually, they put the proponents of runaway government and debt, and the creditors of the US, that at some point a group of legislators may very well say enough is enough. That may bring a bit more discipline next time around.

    And DeBlasio?

    Has he done anything, or, like Obama, he has mostly chanted “yes we can”?

  • Dude

    McDonalds profits in absolute terms is not relevant. What is relevant is ROE and profits per share. The cost of labor for most restaurants is 30 pct of gross sales. If you raise the average stores pay to 15 dollars an hour and don’t raise prices 30 pct each and every McDonalds will go out of business. There is this concept in the real world called competition. McDonalds can’t unilaterally raise their pay if the completion does not also raise their pay. Otherwise they will be uncompetitive vis a vis Burger King for example. Raising pay can also impact the rate of inflation. If inflation increases the additional benefit of higher wages is nullified to some degree. The economy is a world where,many times, an positive action has a corresponding opposite negative reaction.

    The Supreme Courts ruling is consistent with the constitution and existing law. Yes, in a sense corporations are people. At least legally they are and have been for a very long time. I am all for limits on campaign contributions, but limiting big money influence on our politics may take a constitutional amendment.

    I am no fan of the so called tea party as it currently seems to exist. I am for raising the minimum wage gradually. $10.10 seems realistic over a couple of years, but the silly ill informed left wing propaganda machine is an impediment to solutions. If you want to be taken seriously you need to display a basic understanding of just how complex the issues are from both sides of the political spectrum.

  • Anonymous

    people do not have a right to a business as people do not have a right to a living wage

    that is the invisible hand

  • JJ042804

    If you own a Business in a country and you make profits, you are responsible for the welfare of the City, State or Country you’re doing your Business in. It’s a moral obligation. And the Law, because that’s what you pay Taxes for.Same as if you are a Citizen of a Country, you have the moral obligation to further the success of the Country’s Economy by obeying the Laws and by paying Taxes.
    It is of “vital” importance that every Citizen and Resident of the Country fulfill’s his/her moral obligation. We are seeing now the consequences of when a part of the Citizens and Resident’s don’t fulfill their obligation.

  • Dude

    Don’t conflate business and charity. They each have their place in society. Do I think that businesses should consider the moral impact of their actions, yes I do, but they are no more obligated to give their money away than you are on a personal level.

  • JJ042804

    Paying your fair share of Taxes to prevent your country from going bankrupt is not “giving their Money away”. Do you know the implication if everyone would stop paying Taxes? If you think we have problems now, just wait until the whole Country is completely “de-funded”! All the Borders will be open for everyone to march in at their leisure, there will be no Police, no Hospitals, no Ambulances, your wages will be so small, you will need a Telescope to find them. You wont have any Benefits, like medical, you will be lucky if you have a Place you can call home, it is more likely that you will be living in Barracks with the rest of your coworkers. Also don’t worry about a safe work environment, because there wont be a safe work environment. And “that” is just the start! And if you protest, you will be shot, no questions ask!

  • Racer X

    I suggest you study up on the origins of the corporation in the United States.

  • Anonymous

    The Dictator’s Handbook by Bueno De Mesquita & Smith, is very enlightening about power. On a personal note; My 100 yr old church changed it’s name to improve the brand. Now their holding First Time Home Buyers classes, while 52% of home sales are to hedge funds? I just read the Salvation Army”s April 2014 magazine (War Cry). 35 out of 40 pages talked about money. “The church has been captured by capitalism.” H. Robert Neihbor 1935

  • AnnaFrieda

    Save your faux economic lesson for another day. There is nothing complex about wage theft, the destruction of unions and the systematic devaluation of workers. That any true small business can’t pay a lot is no surprise, that’s why they frequently hire family members. We are talking about wealthy corporations who bestow lavish pay packages on their executives while having their workers qualify for food stamps. This classic form of economics is commonly known as a rip-off and, while legally not a crime (yet), it is a crime against humanity.

  • Nora Bourke King

    And I would add Plato’s “Republic” to that reading list.

  • Anonymous

    What is your point?

    80% of McDonalds restaurants are franchises. From the McDonalds annual report, it states it has 440,000 employees world wide.

    The author and Bill Moyers and its editor in general, don’t grasp the fact that most of the people you see working at McDonalds and other fast food chains, do NOT work for McDonalds, they work for mom-and-pop small businesses who own a McDonalds franchise.

    They constantly publish things like “McDonalds settles wage theft claims”, when it is patently false. It was a group of franchisees mom-and-pop business owners who settle it.

    It is an absurd lack of knowledge and understanding of the very industry they are writing about.

    The author is wrong by a factor of 4.

    As to your point on the SCOTUS. What is the difference between the Citizen united 5-4 and the affirmation of ObamaCare by 5-4.

    You like one, don’t like the other. Therefore one is legitimate, the other is not?

    Don’t you see how flawed this line of argument is?

    We have laws and a process established by the constitution. It goes both ways. You don’t get to delegitimize something legally decided because you don’t like the decision.

    But I’m sure it won’t stop Bill Moyers, this author and you from trying your best to be selective in the facts and overstate them by a factor of 4 or more.

    Good luck.

  • Dude

    I don’t get the impression you have really taken the time to understand the underlying legal, economics and business analysis I put forth. Lavish pay (and it often is excessive) is an issue for the stockholders of a company to deal with, not everyone else. The owners (stockholders) of a company determine pay for executives not the general public. The stockholders are harmed if executives are excessively compensated not the general public. I stated some pretty basic facts (and a dose of opinion) as a counterpoint to the author’s comments. His analysis is overly simplistic and lacking in my estimation. Why be so upset? Perhaps these facts are contrary to neo liberal orthodoxy? Reality often interferes with ideology? You are offering up red meat for the extreme left and I am offering up a relatively neutral factual analysis. The facts and reality need to be put forth or we wont be able to solve the problems that beset our country. Accusing America’s executive class of “theft” and “crimes against humanity” may be emotionally satisfying, but its not a path to positive change nor is it generally true. Its not a faux economics lesson I have presented, its reality. Your entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

  • Dude

    Your are conflating the concept of minimum wage and living wage. Minimum wage was never intended to be a “living wage”. Defining and conflating the two concepts to mean the same thing is not correct.

  • Dude

    So, per your logic,we should disband the Supreme Court and put a bunch of elected officials in their place? God help us if that happens. There is a way to change Supreme Court rulings. Its called an amendment to the constitution. B95 is just putting forth facts on this point. He is not being “obtuse” or “dense” as you put it. Unless putting forth facts is being “dense”. The legal concept of a business having attributes like a “person” is by no means new. Legal corporations have been around for centuries.

    The independent franchises are distinct and separate legal business enterprises – that is probably the confusion here.They are not part of the McDonalds Corp. listed on the NYSE.

  • Dude

    Please do elaborate.

  • Dude

    I never said corporations should not pay their fair share of taxes.

  • Franklin Bacon

    I think the most effective solution would be to set up Unemployed Workers unions/co-ops. These would collect information on employers for members’ use, and be able to make comparisons as to which employers have the best/worst working conditions, wages and flexibility in hours. This would set up competition between employers that would cause them to improve wages, hours etc. and allow workers to more easily change employers if the need arises.

  • ElC

    “If you want to be taken seriously by people that have influence you need to display a basic understanding of the real world of politics and BUSINESS”

    Same goes for you. Normally I wouldn’t bother responding but as they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and some people are easily swayed when they hear a bunch of jargon being thrown around

    To start with leverage ratio has nothing to with labor cost, and ROE and earnings are not affected by labor costs if they are passed through to the consumer.

    Corporate personhood is a legal fiction created so corporations can enter contracts, sue or be sued etc etc, nothing more. Giving them free speech rights and a right to spend unlimited sums secretly on elections is a complete bastardization of the intent, and frankly it fails the sniff test to anyone with a bit of common sense.

    Re the impact of McD’s raising prices your numbers are completely off, bumping the wage from the current McD average of $8.50 to $10.10, a 20% increase, doesnt raise every other cost by 20% as well, so you dont just add an extra 20% to the cost of a Big Mac. Labor is a third of the cost at McDonalds, so it’s more like a 7% increase. And McDonalds doesnt instantly go out of business because every other fast food place will boost their pay at the same time. Also that’s totally ignoring the fact that workers who dont have to work 2 or 3 jobs to get by, or work sick, will be a lot more productive. And that’s not taking into account the cost to society of the “top up” currently paid by every taxpayer for welfare/food stamps etc for McD employees that may be avoided.

    And that’s not even getting into the whole question of whether it’s morally acceptable to pay people less than it costs to live. Personally I think any business that can’t/won’t pay it’s employees a living wage shouldn’t exist.

  • AnnaFrieda

    If stockholders determine excessive pay packages while keeping workers pay so low that they have to rely on government services, it becomes my business. I am not blind to reality, which is why I am upset. This lop-sided economy has too few beneficiaries. I am lucky in that I have a decent job that pays my bills, I have benefits and can afford to eat good food. But this should not be “lucky”, this should be the norm for all working people.

  • ElC

    Frankly your ‘facts’ are completely wrong.

  • Dude

    Your completely wrong and obviously don’t understand financial analysis. My references pertaining to ROE and leverage ratios, etc have to do with the viability of a business not labor costs specifically. Just because a business has profits does not mean its a well run or fianancially viable enterprise.That was my point. The absolute profitability does not mean they can absorb a doubling of labor costs. A point the author does not seem to understand. As I said, just because a company makes money does not mean it can absorb large increases in labor costs. Also, the franchisees financials are totally seperate from the MC Donlads Corporate financials. I can assure you they can’t absorb an approx 50 pct increase in labor costs. I know how restaurants work and how their financial ratios need to work from Real World Experience.

    I am not happpy the SC ruled in the manner it did concerning corporate contributions to political causes, but alas its the law – thats it. A real argument was put forth based on a lot of legal precedent and the SC ruled as it did.

    When I was referring to increased labor costs I was calculatng my numbers based on approx $7.50 an hr increased to the typically requested increase to approx $15 hr. Its a doubling of labor costs. So my numbers are spot on. EIC I have been reviewing financial statements for over 30 years. You are mixing up business concepts.

    And yes, if Micky D’s meal costs 13 dollars and Burger King’s cost 10 dollars, for more or less the same thing, McDonalds restaurants will go out of business all over America. Its business Marketing 101 – my major in college.

    I am simply showing people that its not so easy to double a restaurants labor costs. There are financial consequences for the franchisees. MD’s can’t compete if their costs are 30 pct higher than everyone elses. I think I made my point. You can moralize about that all you want, but it does not change the math and the financial reality. It is what it is.

  • Dude

    Donate money to charity. That is what I do. The government is not very efficient at providing services. Its all very upsetting, but I think the country needs to be pragmatic and intelligent about building coalitions to make needed change. There are a lot of people hurting out there.

  • Dude

    The SC was designed to be a conservative judicial body that did not sway and change with every change of the direction of the wind. We may not always like that, but that is how the government was established. It works for and against us. It depends on the issue at hand.

  • Anonymous

    Jim Hightower wrote the article. You should check out his site.

  • Cynthia Newlin

    Nice idea. However the problem is that there are still so many folks out of work that they don’t care about people. If you’re unhappy, then they’ll just find some other hungry mouth to hire.

  • Crystal Crosby

    Well, then, if corporations are people, why haven’t they been recognized as people from the start? When I was married into a small time family farm in WI, incorporating was a device that helped improve a farm’s profitability & longevity. A lot of farms traditionally under sole proprietorship suffered greatly when the owner died: inheritance taxes on traditional family farms literally helped pave the way for WI to lose its distinction of being the “Dairy State.” WI did reform it’s inheritance laws to take pressure off of family farms, but it was too little, too late for many.

    Corporations in no way fit the discription of a human being. It’s something people made, but its not another person. It’s no more human than a pile of excrement.

  • Reason0Politics1

    I admire Bill’s voice, persistence in this space. I admire Hightower’s essay. The thing is, I agree with the dissent, not proposed solutions.

    Challenge All authority. Thats a very Humanist concept, even a patriotic one at that.

    Our system is in a very predictable and natural state: consolidation of power. End game, whether it be capitalism, socialism, ( insert all “ism’s) looks like this my friends. End game for those born into controlling places, wealthy powerful families and circles, naturally seeks to maintain and enlarge their power. that is basic human nature.

    Monopolization is the ONLY end game state sought.

    so today we have fake L vs fake R, while the evidence is plain: neither serves the constituents, or even tries to, only the rhetoric maybe, but not in action.

    I celebrated the earliest version of the Tea party, just as I celebrated the OWS movement. We should all celebrate dissent. Of course both were diverted and overcome with fundies from both sides.

    The greatest lie sold for a century or more,, is that anyone can be trusted with authority, with power, with condensed wealth. They can not. even ghandi would inevitably make selfish choices were he born to those circles. Before anything can change, we must recognize our systems of accountability have failed us, that trust can not be given, it must be earned, and will only statistically be done with violent accountability.

  • Anonymous

    Arguing that ONLY stockholders are harmed when CEO salaries are obscenely high just shot a hole in your argument. It harms the employee whose labor afforded the high profits and it hurts the common man. Because we are a country that is suppose to care about the vulnerable and pay taxes toward that end (social net programs) to assist them…knowing it could be one of us or a member of the family.on any given day.
    The workers right to collective bargaining and the right to form a union has practically been eliminated, It wasn’t a coincidence the Republican majority held state governments, entrenched since 2010, immediately began to dismantle unions and/or the rights of the work force to demand a fair wage through collective bargaining. Wisconsin, once a prosperous state with strong unions, is a shadow of what it once was. The citizens fought very hard to protect its workers and save the middle class..It is legal for employees to demand fairness from their employer. The problem…the laws have been dismantled and replaced to prevent union formations and protect corporations.
    If you want facts, access the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee web site as Hal Rogers (R) of Ky, the chairman, proudly announces amendments attached to the appropriation package for the Department of Labor will protect corporations. Republicans refused to approve any Presidential nominees to the Labor Board confident it weakens a board that needs a quorum of five. The board finally had five approved after Harry Reid threatened to enact the nuclear option on filibusters.While you purport to be an expert on corporate CEO compensation, you have no clue about our union history. Just another example how corporations use members of Congress to stack the deck in their favor. It was Republicans that shut down the government to the tune of $24 billion and filibustered the VA bill because the cost was to be $24 billion (over a ten year period).

  • DrFilth

    Well stated.

  • Reason0Politics1

    what I would really love to see from Bill or his circle of influence, is deep dive into Bernay’s work, Gustave Le Bon ‘s “the Crowd”, Chomsky has spoken to this in the past, “manufacturing consent”. the pervasive use of group psychology and how nations are managed psychologically. the hows and whys.. of the real science driving public opinions, false paradigms promoting meaningless ends, madison avenues pursuit of increasing “self” as a tool for consumerism, but more importantly, false meaningless conflict.

  • Bill Britton

    One of the most heavily subsidized corporations in America is Wal-Mart. It underpays its workers who, in turn, rely on food stamps to survive. This costs taxpayers more than $2 billion each year. Wal-Mart employees redeem many of those food stamps at their employer’s stores. Great deal for Wal-Mart.

  • Dude

    That may be your opinion, but its not reflective of the law as interpreted by the SC.

  • JonThomas

    Sorry Dude, but your statement is wrong.

    From the very start of the Federal Minimum Wage Laws, it was meant to be exactly that… a LIVING WAGE.

    In 1933 President Roosevelt upon introducing that first foray into a Federal Minimum Wage Said:

    No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.

    Can we now move on? Did you learn and will you and others now assimilate this fact into your consciousness?

  • Pearl Orlind Bailey

    Che Guevara agreed, the struggle against imperialism won only with violence.

  • Crystal Crosby

    They can make and interpret the law all they want, it still doesn’t turn a corporation into a human being. Why? Because human beings MUST obey higher laws that were never written by man. Laws of physics. Humans live & humans die. Magical thinking never changed anything. If a corporation fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it , would it make a sound? You can’t see a corporation, you can’t touch it. It’s an IDEA. A concept. You CAN see it’s physical manifestation and see what it does, but it is not autonomous and it CANNOT exist without people. Come to think of it, neither can most diseases.

  • Dude

    “It harms the employee whose labor afforded the high profits and it hurts the common man”. I dont think this statement in an of itself established cause and effect. If you cut the top executives pay by half at most large companies, even assuming that money would then be redistributed amongst the other employees, it would not amount to anything subsantive to the average worker. Top executive pay as a pct of total employee payroll is typically a very small fraction. Also, even if you cut the top executives pay, it probably won’t be redistributed to the average employee. That money would more probably make its way to the bottom line and the sharholders would be the beneficiaries of the additional profit and earning per share.

    The better model may be for employees to get paid in salary and in stock. That way everyones interest form the top to the bottom are aligned. Employees would have shares and voting rights and top executives would not be over compensated because the employees are looking over his or her shoulder as part owners. The employees and executives would share in the ups and downs of the organization. Unions would not find it in thier interest to be overpaid and executives would have to be more responsive, fair and careful with the shareholders money.

  • Dude

    I am in my fifties and the minimum wage was and has never been a living wage. I have worked minimum wage jobs. Historically Its a floor thats all. You can quote FDR, but he was deemed a liberal and I am sure he had a liberal view on the topic. That was also during the depression when people were starving in the streets. Read the Grapes of Wrath. That was a very different time. A “living wage” as most people understand “living” today is obviously higher than $10.10 / hr. (proposed by the President) From a practical point of view minimum wage has never been a living wage.

  • Tex

    Could someone please check my math: McD had an annual profit of $5.5B. Divide that by 860,000 employees working 1500 hours, and I see a profit of $4.25 per hour per employee. Seems a small raise might be affordable, but not one one that would lift many workers out of poverty.

  • Dude

    Wiki has a good explanation of the concept. Please do read it.

  • http://ronnisrants.blogspot.com Anonymous

    It’s supposed to be enough to get by on. Maybe not put your kids through college on, but enough to pay rent and feed yourself.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t believe your version of the facts are neutral, rather than trying to neuter any debate which doesn’t chime with your own account. Concern trolling, in the modern argot. If you refuse to include basic social requirements and business ethics into the mix, you end up with the dessicated mess we find ourselves in presently, with bloated parasites sucking the life out of whatever they can, by any means necessary. Well-rewarded goverments aid in creating an unhealthy environment for the many – both figuratively and literally – and one day it will blow up their faces. There are many historical precedents for this – obviously. It is to be hoped that this happens before our descendants’ habitat is rendered uninhabitable.

  • Anonymous

    So you feel charity as well as welfare subsidies should be afforded indirectly to companies who refuse to pay their workers a living wage? You are a comedian, surely?

  • JonThomas

    How old you are and whether or not you worked for minimum wages is not in the least bit relevant.

    Whether or not political and economic interests have changed the status of the Federal Minimum Wage also in of no concern to the point I made.

    Even your statement about President Roosevelt being a liberal is not relevant.

    The time period is also of no concern.

    The fact remains that, from it’s first inception, the Federal Minimum Wage WAS intended to be a LIVING WAGE.

    Again… if you are an earnest person, and truly interested in honest debate and discussion, then you will learn and adjust.

    I have no control over whether you are honest with yourself, but the fact I presented will now force you to be honest here.

    You now have the opportunity to stop the inaccuracy and the propaganda against the Federal Minimum Wage being conceptually instituted as a living wage.

  • Al Skeptic

    Let me be the first to fall at your feet in awe of your “marketing degree” and altruistic charitable predisposition. You argue economic universal rules yet economic “experts” throughout academia are firmly entrenched in their own idealogical camps regarding the effects of one economic policy over another. A theorerical debate over economic philosophies makes great entertainment, but let’s talk about reality from the perspective of a “common” man: me.

    I played by the “rules”–got a college education, went to work for corporate America, paid into all the right “plans”, bought a house, and all of the other myriad things deemed necessary to be financially secure. (Side note: I was also a dyed-in-the-wool conervative Republican.) Among many other things, two significant events occurred that drastically altered my outlook: 1) The company I worked for went public. The company continued to be be profitable and prosperous. However, it wasn’t profitable “enough” for Wall Street and thousands of lives were subsequently affected for the worse (I was “downsized” along with countless others), and 2) through the wreckless and irresponsible greed of a few self-centered financial market czars, a vast majority of my wealth vaporized.

    The roots of our current economic system were forged thousands of years ago to facilitate a workable method of monetary exchange. There have always been those who attempted to game the system for their own advantage, but this effort really took off in an unprecedented and methodical fashion since, say, 1913 AD.

    Never forget that that these economic laws were created by humankind; they ARE NOT irrefutable laws of nature. They can be changed. At a minimum, they are in dire need of a significant re-regulation. It is not the system itself that is dysfunctional, it is the handful of elites and plutocrats whose bought-and-paid-for (read: legal bribery) favors that have wreaked havoc upon the world.

    And then you have the audacity to insist that the common man donate to charites as the be-all, end-all solution to what ails the poor and disadvantaged. That would be nice if the common man actually had anything leftover at the end of the month.

    I don’t see this ending well short of meaningful reversal of the policies that put us in this situation to begin with and enactment of effective regulation.

  • Brea Plum

    It would not cause any improvement because it would not set up any competition. No matter how poor the conditions, a worker with a family to feed will take that paycheck and that company will never be at a loss for workers.

  • Brea Plum

    The minimum wage was a living wage until the late 1970s. Read some nonfiction economics and social science instead of fiction.

  • Brea Plum

    Um, yes, SCOTUS’ interpretation of law does and has, in fact, turned corporations into human beings. Electromagnetism can not be heard or touched or seen, but it’s function and effect is evident, same as a corporation’s.

  • Dude

    I never suggested charity is the be-all end all solution. That was your interpretation. It typically is more efficient than bloated overhead government programs. Charity is certainly a part of the equation, but only part. The governments status quo solutions don’t seem to be working very well. I think your correct that change is needed. I pointed pointed out I have a marketing degree and that it is Marketing 101 and common sense that you can’t survive as a business charging 30 pct more for the same thing. I have been laid off, its not a good experience. Sorry to hear that. Its sounds like the stock you held in your previous employer tanked. You can yell at me if it makes you feel better, but its not a solution to anything. By the way, I typically vote Democratic 95 pct of the time.

  • Dude

    Sorry, I just don’t agree.

  • Dude

    I don’t believe that charity and welfare subsidies go to corporations in the manner typically described here or in the manner you imply. So I don’t think the question is valid. By your logic all social welfare is a corporate subsidy. Its not a logical statement. The correct question is : “Do all Americans benefit from a reasonable level of social welfare?”. The answer to that question is yes.

  • Anonymous

    OK – so if all corporations paid a living wage, what the effects of that be on the welfare bill of the USA?

  • Dude

    Facts are an essential part of real debate and real solutions. Blind ideology and emotion are not.

  • Dude

    All corporations can’t afford to pay people $15 to $20 an hour. Can you afford to pay the baby sitter $15 or $20 dollars an hour? Many companies would go out of business if they were forced to pay all employees $15 / hr. Businesses compete on a local and international level. Its a big ugly difficult competitive economic world out there. If businesses were forced to pay everyone $15 / hr the welfare bill would skyrocket as unemployment soared. That would be the impact of paying everyone $15 / hr. The world is a very complex place.

  • Thomas Michael Bub Jr.

    The world is increasingly being captured by capitalism, which by all accounts is indeed a failed economic system. I listened to Richard Wolffs program through truthout in which he stated, as one piece of evidence, that the world spending yearly on advertisement is roughly half a trillion dollars. And this cost is paid by consumers to the corporations who decide to spend the money to get people to purchase their product. So estimates are that roughly 90% of the cost of pepsi is the cost of advertisement. Not to single out pepsi, this applies to any product in varying percentages. The question posed is can any reasonable critique of this allocation of resources be deemed efficient? The answer can only be no.

  • Thomas Michael Bub Jr.

    But electromagnetism has not been deemed a person by the SC, which by the way, also blessed slavery.

  • Thomas Michael Bub Jr.

    I see you’ve completely missed the point of the article.

  • The Bean

    The employees’ underpayment also allows McDonald’s to keep prices artificially low. Similar to many other industries, consumers don’t pay the real cost of a product up front. In exchange for low prices we pay a much more dear cost later, in the form of poverty and underemployment and their concomitant social costs, pollution and other environmental damage, etc. This is part of the chain that needs to be broken.

  • Anonymous

    So here we are with all our human ingenuity and, from what you are saying above, we can’t improve on a system which creates mountains of cash for a small bandwidth, whilst providing insufficient funds to sustain life for the people who make that wealth possible. That would suggest to me that the complexities of which you speak are deliberate and will be sustained till something breaks. As it has before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RPManke.solar RevPhil Manke

    Just a few words. It is not dreams we need to reclaim, but the reality of freedom. Dreams are illusions.
    Freedom is reality guaranteed by God. People are born free, and all we write about this world is written upon that free mind. Politicians and their minions like to spout that freedom has a cost, and that may be true insofar as it is sophisticated by other men.
    Those who would write laws upon that one had better use sound reasoning and will to put other peoples children and values on its way..

  • http://www.facebook.com/RPManke.solar RevPhil Manke

    Vote Green Party! The two corporate parties are the problem!!!!!!

  • Edward Rink

    Wait… First, it was not meant to be ideologically conservative. Second, it already does sway and change with the direction of the wind and this is the problem. Far from being buffered from politics, it is a highly ideological and partisan institution now.

  • Anonymous

    Blind ideology has led us to where we are now. Emotion is what differentiates us from robots. But then the ideology expounded by you and your corporate heroes is only fit for robots.

  • Anonymous

    I would love to think that progressives and the people have a chance but I’m afraid that the Republicans own the voting machines and have redistricted so many states to their advantage that Congress could just get worse. And in studies lately, they only listen to the moneyed crowd. It would be heartwarming to be wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RPManke.solar RevPhil Manke

    To differ, politics and BUSINESS is not the real world at all, but far from it. You seem to be a devoted corporatist minion because of your supposed “learning”, and have convinced yourself it is true beyond all doubt. The real world was not made by men in suits, but has been indeed parasitized by them. If they were to dissappear tomorrow, (without some nuclear war), he world economy would effectively revert to an agricultural socialist neighborhood with losses due to lack of inherited knowledge. Fancy ad boys and pencil pushers may indeed be the major cost. As you may guess, ˆ I haven’t much respect for the “necktied set” because of their disconnect from the” real world” that I see!.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RPManke.solar RevPhil Manke

    Part of the thrust of this article, Dude, is that the SCOTUS is a big part of the problems.

  • Edward Rink

    So you don’t agree that FDR said that, or you still think the minimum wage isn’t supposed to be a living wage in spite of the intentions of the 75th Congress in passing the Fair Labor Standards Act? The purpose of the act is “the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers,” and that’s lifted directly from the Congressional finding and declaration of policy in section 202. So a living wage it must be unless you base your argument on hair-splitting the semantics. What I mean is that you have a responsibility in a reasoned debate to acknowledge certain facts. You can remain honest in this debate by declaring ideological opposition to FDR and to the original passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act. If that is the case you want to make, then you’ll have to make peace with an extremely ideological position far, far to the right of where you probably think you should be.

  • jamiejoy

    “False meaningless conflict”–yes, right. It’s a key distraction maintaining the status quo while the rich just keep getting richer and richer, and individual rights grow weaker and weaker. I have stopped blogging on social media for exactly this reason–waste of time and aggravating for no benefit. Instead taking action in the REAL WORLD. Thank you for this great phrase.

  • Reason0Politics1

    wow.. my original comment, the one the above is posted as reply… was deleted. not even polemic or questionable… I guess moyers site admins dislike unapproved thoughts, or candid discussion…

  • MIDstuckintheDLE

    The current minimum wage doesn’t allow people to have electricity, heat, water, food, a roof over their head, and clothing all at the same time. Those are the minimum standards of living. You can’t have savings on minimum wage. You can’t take vacations. You can’t have a family. You can’t survive without aid on minimum wage. I want a living wage that will allow people to live.

  • Dude

    From WIKI: “The living wage differs from the minimum wage
    in that the latter is set by law and can fail to meet the requirements to have a basic quality of life and leaves the family to rely on government programs for additional income. It differs somewhat from basic needs in that the basic needs model usually measures a minimum level of consumption, without regard for the source of the income.

    Living wage is defined by the wage that can meet the basic needs to maintain a safe, decent standard of living within the community.[1] The particular amount that must be earned per hour to meet these needs varies depending on location. In 1990 the first living wage campaigns were launched by community initiatives in the US addressing increasing poverty faced by workers and their families”

    I don’t ever recall the minimum wage being set at a level that is commensurate with the standards you have outlined.

    You have to understand something. From my perspective it would be great if everyone could have a fine living wage. I am not debating whether or not its an admirable goal, it is. What I am trying to explain through these posts is that getting there is a lot harder than just saying your going to raise the wage to $15 or $20 / hr. There are very dramatic economic impediments and consequences to doing that. It may well have the exact opposite effect. It may make it even harder to get any job at all. It may very well cause a lot of jobs to go away. The real solution is getting people trained so that they have more value to offer an employer. Then the employer can pay a living wage that is commensurate with the greater value received. That is a real solution. Flipping burgers does not justify $15 – $20 / hr. That is economic reality for most all fast food stores. They simply cant afford to pay that much. It will price them out of the market. Go talk to people that own fast food restaurants. The margins are not there to pay wages that are that high.

  • Eva Cutler

    RIGHT YOU ARE! Facts are not debatable. OPINIONS ARE.

  • Dude

    He was considered an uber liberal for that time in history. Of course he was going to phrase it in an idealized manner. I betrayed nothing. I like intelligent liberals and I like some responsible conservatives. I see good points being made by both sides of the political spectrum. I can argue both sides of the debate. I am simply stating facts here. Its germane because of course FDR would phrase it that way. He was deemed incredibly liberal for that time. He was faced with an enormous depression that makes the more recent recession look like a day at the beach. People were starving in the streets all over America. There was an active communist movement brewing in the west. Insurrection was in the air. The mid west was a dust bowl and people were losing their farms. The banks went bust. People lost everything all over the country. There was NO (repeat no) safety net at all until he put one in place. There were no jobs. People in my family committed suicide.

    I am not putting forth complicated stuff. Its straight ahead basic business and history. These are not complicated concepts.

  • Dude

    I am not professing any ideology other than lets look at facts clearly and intelligently. Put emotion aside and put ideology aside and get to solutions. We are a nation politically paralyzed by left and right wing ideology. If you want be call analysis of facts ideology – then so be it.

  • Dude

    The “necktie set” is no better or worse than the blue collar set. The country needs both. We need to find common ground. Be nice to your neighbors and people you don’t know. I am no corporate minion, but I do have an understanding of business. A reverend should be more open, accepting and loving of people.

  • Anonymous

    Your last sentence makes little sense, but I guess you are trying to say that *you* hold the only cool analysis of facts and that peoples’ real, lived experiences (and those pesky emotions which arise when people feel they are being sold down many a polluted river) count for nothing in the teeth of your cleverness. If only you were in charge, then we could could continue exactly as we are now – circling the drain. There are solutions, but more of the same isn’t one of them.

  • Dude

    Sorry you feel that way. I don’t respond to these types of comments. Have a good night.

  • TheYankeeBoy

    I honestly believe that people do not understand or appreciate the concept of “civic duty” anymore. The notion of shared sacrifice. Of doing for the “greater good.”

    It’s all about “I got mine you get yours.” Go off to foreign wars as long as my kid doesn’t have to go. Unless they feel like it or are hoping for a college education without drowning in debt. We think privatizing everything is the solution to our problems with a malfunction government everywhere. We have leased or sold our water treatment plants, sewage plants, toll bridges, toll roads, lotteries, airports, parking meters…all with almost universal dissatisfaction once the deal is done and we are trapped.

    Now we have privatized our public schools. Charter schools, vouchers, parochial schools and the latest, virtual classrooms. No buildings at all. Students are left to socialize at home or in their basements. One of these is headed by a well known convicted Wall Street felon. What could be more enticing for these moochers than an opportunity to put their hands directly into the public treasury? In the mean time, those students (mostly poor) left with no guidance are dumped into what remains of a crumbing public school system. Lavatories with no running water and plastic sheeting preventing falling plaster are common. Yet we trudge on down this road of civic madness because it’s easier to tell the government where to mail a check than to bother with a PTA meeting. We are, simply, lazy.

    For our Republic to remain successful two things are mandatory. A decent, basic, public education for ALL. And ongoing personal involvement in our schools and our government. You can not dump these responsibilities off onto corporations and Wall Street and expect results. It takes an involved citizenry. Freedom isn’t free and democracy isn’t either easy nor cheap.

  • Anonymous

    I strongly agree with the closing statement of this article.

    “Ordinary folks are awakening to the realization that the fools have
    seized power and the folks are now making moves (and movements) to seize
    the fools by their short hairs and reclaim our dreams.”

    What most liberals don’t comprehend is that the Tea Party fired the first volley to rid Washington of the Progressive fools currently in power and trying to take our country in a direction that a majority of Americans don’t want to go.

  • Anonymous

    How is that relevant?

  • Edward Rink

    That’s Wikipedia. The Congressional finding in section 202 of the Fair Labor Standards Act is a more authoritative source.

    And we’ve gone over and over the ramifications. We can compare states that have set their own minimum wages higher than the federal minimum wage with states that haven’t. We find that states that have a higher minimum wage actually tend to have less unemployment. We can do the same with municipalities that set their own minimum wage and reach the same conclusion.

    The ramifications you cite are hardly as clear as you insist. The estimates have to weigh concern for lost employment with the potential for increased demand. People will have more money to spend when you raise the minimum wage. They’ll spend money on necessary goods and services and demand will rise. This increases demand for employment, offsetting lost employment. Higher wages also improve employee retention, further offsetting labor costs. The clearest consequence is that millions of people escape poverty. You’re failing to see that, and you’re not weighing it with the others.

    Then there’s also the problem of taking the word of an industry with a vested interest in keeping labor costs as low as possible. Individual franchisees know less about this than corporate management. The latter keeps the former pretty much in the dark. This isn’t about what’s good for restaurateurs anyway. It’s about what’s good for everybody.

    Walmart recently told stockholders that they’re exploring whether or not raising the minimum wage would be a good thing for the company. What they’re finding is that the people they serve are having difficulty affording what they’re selling. And that’s the crux of it all. That tells me more about what employers really should be thinking about all this. We can talk about how quickly the wage should be allowed to rise and how to give business a chance to adjust, but neither is there any evidence in support of leaving it where it is, nor is there evidence supporting a small increase. More evidence suggests that it’s been too low for too long and that a smallish increase would be just a band-aid. And flipping burgers is a hell of a lot harder than you think it is.

    And I know that you want to say that it’s an admirable goal but you’ve still expressed opposition to it. You can’t have it both ways. You want to be seen as one of the good guys but you’re not going to get that accolade by debating in bad faith.

  • Carol Anne Peschke

    You said it, Phil. Drives me nuts when people say “Freedom isn’t free.” If it’s not free, it’s not freedom, people. To think otherwise is to think like a slave.

  • P Cullen

    Because they’ve been scared! If you can frighten people into believing what you want them to, then you can control them! Look at the fear that’s taken over this country since Obama has been president. I read in the Right Wing sites, daily that he’s trying to destroy America, put Muslims in power, and send us all to Fema camps. WHERE do you suppose they got those ideas? It’s the money that’s controlling this country, and they don’t want to let go until everything is aligned for their benefit, so they’ve bought their politicians, sent out “news” programs to lie, on their behalf and bought enough judges so they can have laws in place that benefit their needs. We need to vote with our dollars and start standing up to them!

  • Anonymous

    Oh dear. The Capitalist with a Marketing degree has spoken: ROE and earnings per share are relevant to McDonalds’ survival, but “profits in absolute terms is not…” Oh dear, oh dear. “Cost of labor” to one such as this is merely a line item representing a percentage of gross revenues. Nothing else is relevant.

    Dude, you may claim the strength of a Marketing degree (isn’t marketing really just about advertising and corporate branding these days?), but your analysis lacks the big picture you think you command.

    First off, the moment anyone ignores the importance of labor in the bottom line is the moment they’re thinking has gone off the rails. This is the underlying failure of modern business. It makes decisions based on a spreadsheet comparison of numbers in columns as if every column can be as important as every other. The fact about most real business is that it’s about providing goods and/or services that somebody else is willing to pay for. The equal fact is that this is also what each and every employee of a business does. An employer hires an employee because the employer needs help doing the above. That employee could be someone who does his/her work on the employer’s premises or who does it at their own. Why do we make such a false distinction between people who are employed in-house, and those we pay money to who work independently?

    Second, the moment someone thinks that shareholder equity returns should dictate the value a commercial enterprise brings to its community is the moment that line of thinking leaves the rails, and is another indicator of business failure. Value to the community comes in the form of stable work opportunities as well as quality products and services. Doing things locally in terms of in-sourcing and out-sourcing is an attitude that has escaped businesses in recent years, and is another contributor to failure in our nation.

    The oligarchical way of thinking of the British monarchy was what led us to the Declaration of Independence. The Boston Tea Party was a moment in our history about drawing attention to the importance of “the rest of us” and awakening the fear of the masses held hidden and ignored behind the pampered and blinkered eyes of those oligarchs.

    Compound that with your view that SCOTUS ruled regarding Citizens United in a way that was “consistent with the Constitution and existing law” – even though the majority’s view – yes, a one-vote majority IS a “slim majority” – ran counter to a century of opinions handed down by that same body on the subject of corporate person-hood and how corporations can affect political campaigns with their money, and one has to ask: “Weren’t those views upheld for a century also somehow consistent with the Constitution and existing law then?” Your view of consistency here is conveniently narrow.

    If you are indeed business aware, then you know about cycles of businesses, particularly those contending with disruptive technologies. (cf. Clay Christensen) You also know that once-prevailing Chicago School of Economics theories are being broadly abandoned because they’re simply wrong. People are not completely motivated by self interest in the real world, and the bottom line and ROE is not the primary focus of the most successful companies in the world. Your views are behind the times, and the world is passing you by.

    Please remember, the one thing that made this country special was that we did NOT want to be ruled by an elite class. We wrote up a Constitution once upon a time that started out with three words that summed it all up in very large printing: We, the People. You may be one of those who feels that we can no longer govern ourselves, who insists that government cannot do anything right or as well as private enterprise can, and who is certain that the best people in the world to do everything we need as a society are business people – but in every case, you’d be wildly outside reality.

    The best answers come from the aggregated understanding of the most people, not the fewest. The best products come from the combined input of many minds. The greatest learning comes from the greatest failures, or at least from the willingness to fail and then figure out how to make it better. Managers think they can and must come up with the answers and ensure that everything works the way they say it must or how it’s always worked, but labor and entrepreneurs know first hand what works and also what to do next when it doesn’t. That’s why the best managers are the best listeners.

    The reason this country has gone crazy is that too many people who should know better are jumping up and down with their eyes closed so they don’t have to see anybody; screaming at the top of their lungs with their fingers jammed firmly in their ears so they don’t have to listen to anybody else.

  • Dude

    Ed good points many of which I am aware of already and that have merit. I have been waiting for someone to come back with a reasoned response. I will revert later on my way to work. As I stated previously, it’s a very complex issue. It’s shades of gray.

  • Anonymous

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    with a laptop. visit their website F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­