Earlier this month I posted a link on one of my social media sites to an essay I wrote the night before, “Yes, $15 an hour minimum wage, NOW!” Among the people who responded along a spectrum between yes and no were two from my native state of Virginia. Let’s call one of them Brigid, which, of course, is not her real name. Brigid, a progressive liberal more radical than many and as mellow as a Summer pond at twilight, expressed concern about us activists moving too fast to raise the minimum wage. She thought proponents for $15 now would be wise to slow down and take more time. After all, why rush it and mess it up for all of us?
More captivating, however, was a wrenching inquiry from a friend of mine back East. He was a small business owner who ran a small but bustling bakery and café. My friend, let’s call him Isaac, declared raising the minimum wage up to $15 an hour “would put” him “out of business in one month.” Unless, he said, he jacked up his prices. I could hear him as he pounded his fist upon the countertop as he continued. “The socialist-workers rights-stick-it-to-the-man person in me loves it, but I am the man here. This seriously would break me,” he wrote. “Why do this if prices just rise in concert with pay?”
Both people unconsciously expressed fear based thinking. Now consider there are two kinds of fear. Yes, I am speaking broadly. There is true fear, the real deal, one experiences upon realizing a large, out-of-control tractor-trailer is barreling down upon them, or an earthquake is shaking the building one is in, or when in the presence of tigers and rattlesnakes or an idiot brandishing a gun. Fight, flight, or freeze is the healthy, desired array of choices to react from.
Then there is phantom fear, or better yet, false fear. This is fear all made up in our minds, conjured up by our imagination, and based in interpretations of past events. Let’s call this kind of fear F.E.A.R., as in False Evidence Appearing Real. Now, to be sure, this label is inaccurate as fear is an emotion. Emotions are generated in our bodies and having nothing to do with physical evidence. The point is well made, however, by many who demonstrate our minds, arising from body and governed more often than not by ego and id, seize upon whatever “evidence” is to justify a vivid emotional reaction.
We see this, by the way, throughout the backlash of Big Business and their allies among Democrats and Republicans of the Two-Headed Snake. We watch as Big Biz clamors and maneuvers to freak out small business owners. We watch over and over again as Big Biz works hard to scare the shit out of low-wage workers with Corporatist Bankster propaganda of losing their jobs, tips, and other compensations. We watch Big Business intimidate those unemployed to fear even getting work in the first place.
“Be ignorant, afraid, and a slave,” imply the Capitalist robber class. “Get an education!” is blathered across the mainstream newspapers as if those unemployed and underemployed masses with Masters degrees and Doctorates don’t know anything real. Well, if Isaac took the time to do some research beyond the mainstream mass media, which is usually pro-business, pro-order, pro-finance, and anti-labor, he would discover research demonstrating prices would not rise much at all as well as strategies to alleviate any feared fiscal distress during the time of transition to $15 an hour minimum wage.
I restrained myself for a day, but couldn’t keep silent on a matter impacting so many millions of human beings, including at least one hundred thousand people in my city of Seattle. So I responded. I include my response below with minor revisions:
@ Isaac. Hey, I hear you. And … it may help you to understand if you step back to view the Big Picture. You’re still not “The Man.” The überoligarches, those plutocrats of the so-called 1%, actually number about 0.01%. Yet they dominate the global capitalist system we all live in and which ultimately sustains their power at our expense, including yours.
After all, the majority of businesses fail in 3 to 5 years. What’s the common denominator? Our system is geared toward a minority of driven men who exult in their mythic, romantic-fascist Ayn Rand super human game where business is a form of war and espionage. The rest, small business owners and workers and even the unemployed are but cogs in the Capitalist machinery, whether mechanical or digital or musculoskeletal.
People such as you are encouraged to leap into the Capitalist marketplace unprepared. We don’t teach our youth how to manage money but to follow orders. We don’t teach how to cooperate and collaborate, but to compete, destroy, kill. So people by the droves jump into the marketplace. Sink or swim. Follow your bliss. Build it and they will come. Work hard. Work smart. Get an education. Ask and you shall receive. Be all you can be. Be this or that. Be THE linchpin. Make the trains run on time. Get the factories smoking. Churn out the latest upgraded, updated gizbangmo. Y’know. All myths in the elevation of Profit to the altar of Mammon atop the pedestals of death and mayhem no one wants to see. Isaac, we are not each other’s enemy. I’ve been a small biz owner, too. Had my successes. Also had my failures.
Consider Adam Smith’s Capitalist tome, “Wealth of Nations,” was published at the peak of the global African slave trade and slavery. It was also published at the outbreak of the American Revolution. Slavery was part of the Capitalist system. Still is. Consider, too, people grow up in systems and by nature most try to fit themselves into the system. As such people generally do not overtly seek to replace or transform it. Reforms only go so far and are often dead-end routes. Reforms ultimately disappoint people. Reforms lead to an apathetic mass of cynical, resigned voters. Can you imagine the American Reform? The French Reform? The Russian Reform? No, we must replace the system and its reforms with revolution.
Raising the minimum wage with such a jump ahead is a revolutionary step. Even if the annual income of a low-wage worker still remains relatively low, it will generate positive results out of proportion to the numbers. One must consider positive intangibles such as psychospiritual joy and the rise in the so-called gross national happiness index. Watch how cynics and skeptics will attempt to ridicule and crush any such expressions.
Consider, too, human nature wants to see the destruction others have accomplished but not point to one’s own. We glorify our American exceptionalism, for example. True, Americans have made amazing contribution to the world. Yet too many Americans conveniently forget this country was build upon the foundations of class war and imperial conquest and genocide and slavery and racism and wage slavery and perpetual low-level warfare. Property rights, first developed by the aristocracy and later embraced by the bourgeois aristocratic wannabes, are enshrined here and they trump civil liberties, human rights, and social responsibilities. These are the so-called invisibles or deniables or unexamined don’t-wanna-sees. And guess what? We are not leaving for another part of the planet. We’re staying right here, and we intend to change things.
Consider, too, every single attempt to reform Capitalism, including those with truly good intentions, have failed. Failed. Note the one system most blamed for both the Great Depression and the Great Recession has emerged from its uncivil struggle dominant and triumphant: Finance Capitalism. Also known as Predatory, Crony, Disaster, and Corporatist Capitalism. Imagine why?
Have you heard of Inverted Totalitarianism or Creeping Dictatorship? Or Super Fascism? Well, the Fascist banksters and corporacrats figured it out. They learned to conquer nation-state regimes and dominate governments at all levels by infiltrating politics and governments thru the Free Market. They monopolized the marketplace and eventually dominated political campaigns of all major parties and then government itself, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Look it up.
Isaac, you can reframe the conversation by being a leader of small businesses who are progressive. Take the lead in being socially responsible. Consider, too, like it or not and likely hate it, a business owner has no business being in business if he or she is unable to pay their employees living wages. As I wrote in my first article on this issue, raising the minimum wage is not just about the money. It’s about morals. It’s for what is ethical. It’s for social responsibility. It’s for life. Life! Instead of making this about workers losing their jobs or not being hired if the minimum wage is raised, reframe it to consider a business has no business being in business if it cannot pay its people living wages.
@ Brigid, why not “NOW?” There are numerous studies across the political spectrum to demonstrate increasing the minimum wage to levels higher than before does not hurt many small business owners. In fact, studies show the minimum wage ought to be anywhere from $17 to $22 to $33, yes $33 an hour. The capitalist system drives people to aggregate assets for profit at the expense of the environment, of families, of human beings. We are trained from infancy, however, to worship this system without scrutiny and demonize all others. It is a common human tendency that can be retrained by developed greater self-awareness and presence of mind and openness of heart instead of basing things solely upon the pursuit of excellent profit.
It’s time to expand democracy into the market places, into the jobsites and offices and workplaces, onto farms and up in the skyscrapers, in what has not ever been fully attempted yet – a new international system of Democratic Socialism without the dictatorship of bureaucracy. We must establish public control and ownership of the money power similar in concept to civilian control of the military power. This includes nationalizing in a transparent and auditable manner the big Wall Street banks and insurance companies as well as abolishing or nationalizing the Federal Reserve and the Central Banking cartels.
Perhaps it is wise to let small businesses phase in a minimum wage increase. The large corporations can easily afford it, yet they demonize the working class. The rich continue to put more fear into the still-shrinking middle class. Make Big Business pay their employees a minimum of $15 an hour immediately. There are also a number of different ways to support small businesses in their transitions, too.
Keep in mind, too, who owns the mainstream mass media. The corporations and big banks. They want to play upon your fears with article after article rallying desperate people against each other. This is common. Look at how the Western including American banksters played both sides against each other in both World Wars. Take note the labyrinthine political intrigues within the United States back in 1913 leading to the establishment of first the Federal Reserve System and then the Internal Revenue Service is called the Bankers’ Coup.
Bottom line, Isaac, just as the entrepreneurial mantra have a plan or plan to fail goes, well, don’t you think taking on the responsibility of having your own business requires you to generate the capacity to pay your fellow human beings a decent minimum wage? If you really want to raise the bar, research the transition to worker-owned cooperative businesses with stakeholders and their higher quality of almost everything relative to being at the beck and call of bosses and shareholders and banksters.
Brigid, yes, please. Now. Allow for small enterprises and microbusinesses time to phase in $15 an hour, and now for all other companies and nonprofits. We’ve waited decades. Centuries.
A third friend, I’ll call her Canens, piped up as a microbusiness entrepreneur. She declared her business a “startup.”
“I expect to pay $15 an hour as a basic expense from the git go,” Canens said.
Another friend chimed in at the end. She’s struggling Mom with two young daughters here in Seattle. I’ll call her Lorelei. She opined, “It’s a bit selfish to have a business owner say, “Uh oh, it will ruin my business.” How about the people working for you who can barely feed their kids or themselves, slaving away long hours in your business just to receive the are minimum…I need as an example $2,200 per month just to pay the bare essentials for a family of 3 and even with a full-time job I can’t make that each month and have to cut here and there.”
Not to mention another issue smoldering and about to explode is the rent is too damn high. The rent’s too damn high in too many places, too. Corporations rush into town from out of state and even from out of the country, buy up old properties, build new ones, and jack up the rent beyond costs to make enormous profits. Rent control, however, is another issue to be addressed another time. Right now let’s lift the working poor out of poverty. They won’t be rich, and they’ll have a running start no education or skill set will ever match.
William Dudley Bass
16-17 April 2014
Sources & Links:
Enjoy the for-once non-alphabetical, anti-professional, and more relaxed listing here. I listed by what I deemed priorities relevant to the above essay. Thank you.
See, “Yes, $15 an hour minimum wage, NOW!” the article triggering the concerns I responded to above here at: <http://williamdudleybass.com/yes-15-hour-minimum-wage>.
Kshama Sawant, the Socialist Alternative member recently elected to Seattle City Council, makes the working class issues for $15 an hour NOW absolutely clear amid corporatist propaganda and fearmongering in her response to a local and otherwise progressive small business owner: “Council Member Kshama Sawant Replies to Small-Business Owner Mike Klotz: A Debate Over Wages and Rhetoric,” at: <http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/council-member-kshama-sawant-replies-to-small-business-owner-mike-klotz/Content?oid=19287686>.
See Anna Minard’s article, “$15 Minimum Wage Movement Files Its Ballot Measure,” and how 15 Now advocates are “lighting a fire under the ass of slow-moving politicians” by filing a charter amendment in Seattle here at: <http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/04/14/15-minimum-wage-movement-files-its-ballot-measure>.
Please see my earlier article, “Raise the Minimum Wage,” with its extensive list of sources, at: <http://williamdudleybass.com/raise-the-minimum-wage>.
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