Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 17, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

WARNER AND LABOR....Labor blogger Nathan Newman provides an excellent reason for thinking that Mark Warner's YearlyKos bash was a good idea:

I give a thumbs up to the big party bash; no question Warner got his money's worth; and better it went to union hotel workers to deliver chocolate fountains to weary bloggers than to ten or twenty seconds of a random ad buy.

That's about the best argument I've heard yet in either direction, so consider me sold. On Warner himself, though, Nathan is still agnostic:

But let me return to his argument about bringing jobs to rural Virginia. He painted a nice story about education and retraining leading to software jobs springing up in rural towns, especially if supported by strong investments in broadband locally.

All to the good as far as it goes. But the story hides one of the big lies of DLCish economic policy, which is that the key to improving wages is just more education and more training. While that's ONE good thing to do, the hard reality is that a large portion of new job creation in the future will not be high-tech jobs but traditional service jobs. Warner had essentially NOTHING in his speech about how to raise wages for those in traditional service or remaining manufacturing jobs, no mention of the minimum wage or other policies to help the workers who will make up the vast bulk of new jobs.

....For most Americans, it's the wage standards in these basic non-tech jobs that will matter for the future of the middle class, not a few high-profile software jobs recruited to a few towns.

Agreed. Education is important, and centrist wonks are right to emphasize it. At the same time, it's just a plain fact that a huge number of jobs are basically unskilled or semiskilled, and we need to address the question of what happens to the people who fill them. Education really won't help here, and if we leave things entirely up to the market, these jobs will all pay Wal-Mart wages. That's convenient for all us middle class types who want cheap gardeners and retail clerks, but not so good for all the gardeners and retail clerks.

Kevin Drum 12:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (73)

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Kevin Drum: Friend of the Working Man.

Posted by: 50 years on June 17, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

At the same time, it's just a plain fact that a huge number of jobs are basically unskilled or semiskilled, and we need to address the question of what happens to the people who fill them.

I think the best way to fill the jobs is to approve the temporary guest job program proposed by George W Bush. The temporary workers can come from Mexico. These workers will accept lower wages which keeps inflation down and the price of goods low. That way we don't have to raise interest rates to fight inflation which hurts investment. After their one year here, we can send them back to Mexico and get new temporary workers from Mexico again.

Posted by: Al on June 17, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that if you were a politician who wanted to make the blogosphere aware of you, probably positively, you could do a lot worse than throw a lavish party for a collection of some of the most popular bloggers and schmooze with them a bit.

Warner will start out with a somewhat positive reputation just for being at YKos, and the key bloggers will be sufficiently aware of him that when something blogable appears in the news they will be more likely to be aware of it and blog on it.

Seems to me like it was a good idea.

Posted by: Rick B on June 17, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

The selfish reason a society's elite wants to pay a decent wage to middle and working class workers is well paid middle and worker class workers are far less likely to demand a revolution than poorly paid middle and working class workers. Don't believe me ask Mikhail Gorbachev. My ex-wife spent sometime in the old soviet union just before the collapse. She noted that the elites lived in nice gated communities while the average folk lived a much poorer life style. It was the discrepancy between the elite rich and proletarian poor and the lack of opportunities for the poor (who for the most part were well educated) that lead directly to the downfall of the old soviet union. Don't believe Mikail ask Marie Antoinette of France. She lost her head in a revoltution after losing touch with her middle and working classes.

Over and over again through history when an elite loses contact with the middle and working classes the elite is in deep shit. It is that need to maintain opportunity and adequate pay for the working class that modern conservatism ignores, at the peril of all of us.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

if we leave things entirely up to the market, these jobs will all pay Wal-Mart wages.

You tip your hand here: You're admitting that you want the government to force corporations to overpay for one of their commodities, labor. Somebody has to pay for it, which will inevitably be the most productive citizens. Their real wages will decrease, because they'll have to pay for those that are being overcompensated in the form of higher praces and lower profit margins. Why do you want to penalize those who get an education and work hard to subsidize those who don't get an education and aren't as productive?

Posted by: American Hawk on June 17, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK


RON BEYERS: The selfish reason a society's elite wants to pay a decent wage to middle and working class workers is well paid middle and worker class workers are far less likely to demand a revolution than poorly paid middle and working class workers.

Problem with that theory is that demanding a revolution is a crime in this country. In addition, the elite living in their gated communities have quite a lot of security for them...it's called the U.S. Army.


Posted by: jayarbee on June 17, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

AH did you and Marie have a nice breakfast? Are you both excited about racing to the bottom?

This society has had a minimum wage for generations. There is a role for government in insuring libertarian ignoramouses like you don't encourage revolution. A system has to maintain balance to be long lasting. Since the 1930s our system has maintained a sort of balance. Nearly everybody thought they had a chance to move up. Then came the "republican revolution" and folks haven't seen real wage increases in years. Only the rich get richer.

Talk to Marie about an elite's failure to understand that middle class people need to be paid for their work. Things go great for the elite right up to the revolution.

You see AH liberalism has a pretty hard headed core. Conservativism is based on wishful thinking.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Hey moron, demanding a revolution was illegal in France and in the old Soviet Union. Without hope for personal advancment, people pretty much break the law.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Are any candidates seriously courting the SEIU?

It seems that nationally the word "union" has at least the same stigma as "corporate". A candidate would probably have to emphasize the principles without using the words.

Posted by: rewolfrats on June 17, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK


AMERICAN HAWK: Why do you want to penalize those who get an education and work hard to subsidize those who don't get an education and aren't as productive?

No one wants to do that. We just want to penalize your stupidity.


Posted by: jayarbee on June 17, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I would also suggest that neither the French nor Russian armies were able to protect the gated communities in the soviet union or france. In fact gated communities are pretty damn easy to break down if the guards go over to the other side, and why wouldn't they?

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK


RON BEYERS: Hey moron, demanding a revolution was illegal in France and in the old Soviet Union.

Yeah, you'll be out in the streets backing them, I'm sure. I can hear you now yelling, "Go, morons!"


Posted by: jayarbee on June 17, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Aw, come on, Kevin.

Let's say Warner begins a fundraiser on his website tomorrow.

Would you really want to contribute your hard-earned cash knowing how Warner may use it?

Posted by: catherineD on June 17, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I am sorry Jayarbee, obviously you were engaging in satire.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers: The selfish reason a society's elite wants to pay a decent wage to middle and working class workers is well paid middle and worker class workers are far less likely to demand a revolution than poorly paid middle and working class workers.

jayarbee: Problem with that theory is that demanding a revolution is a crime in this country. In addition, the elite living in their gated communities have quite a lot of security for them...it's called the U.S. Army.

The truly poor are more likely to want to mount a revolution, but less likely to pull one off. Best way to prevent a successful revolt is to quash the middle class and convert it to a huge and permanent underclass without the money, education or other resources to demand significant change. Do we know anyone who's working on this in the U.S. right now?

Posted by: shortstop on June 17, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

This society has had a minimum wage for generations. There is a role for government in insuring libertarian ignoramouses like you don't encourage revolution. A system has to maintain balance to be long lasting. Since the 1930s our system has maintained a sort of balance. Nearly everybody thought they had a chance to move up. Then came the "republican revolution" and folks haven't seen real wage increases in years. Only the rich get richer.

Essentially, you're saying, "We should pay low-skilled workers more than they're worth, otherwise they'll be violent". You're essentially advocating buying of people so they don't commit acts of murder and insurrection. That's just like appeasing terrorists. In everything it does, the left advocates weakness.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 17, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Are you calling for the overthrow of our American government?

We all are, Charlie. We're stockpiling weapons and ammo right now, and I'm trying on a cute little Che suit. Better report us to 1-800-GOP-PUSS. Quick!

Posted by: shortstop on June 17, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop ~ Would you be writing about "the dumbing down of America"? The last 25 years of reducing funding for education...only to blame the teachers?

Posted by: jcricket on June 17, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney ~ Got my Urban Cammo right here -- but damn! I look so much better in muted greens than gray.

Posted by: jcricket on June 17, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK


AMERICAN HAWK: You're essentially advocating buying of people so they don't commit acts of murder and insurrection. That's just like appeasing terrorists.

It's more like recognizing our common humanity. If a job is worth doing, it's worth paying someone a living wage to do it. And "living" is about more than some sub-standard shelter and enough food to stay alive. It's about dignity. It's about an equal share in the planet we all share. The acts of murder you're worried about are but a drop of blood compared with the barrels of it spilled by the people you think work so hard to come by their great wealth.


Posted by: jayarbee on June 17, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

jcricket: That and other things.

jayarbee: Naturally, I agree with you 98 percent.

Posted by: shortstop on June 17, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

... It is especially ironic that an immigrant like american hawk makes this argument, since the asses he's so interested in kissing would, if not for existing laws, rather see him working in the basement sweatshop with the other foreigners.

Posted by: Nads on June 17, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK


It's more like recognizing our common humanity. If a job is worth doing, it's worth paying someone a living wage to do it. And "living" is about more than some sub-standard shelter and enough food to stay alive. It's about dignity. It's about an equal share in the planet we all share. The acts of murder you're worried about are but a drop of blood compared with the barrels of it spilled by the people you think work so hard to come by their great wealth.

An equal share in the planet we all share? You want to pay everybody the same? Should a janitor get paid the same as a lawyer?

Anyway, suppose somebody can only provide labor that's worth $5 an hour. The minimum wage is likely to leave them unemployed, because nobody will pay $5.15 for something that's only worth $5. Why is it better for them to earn nothing than to earn something?

Posted by: American Hawk on June 17, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK


CHENEY: The crime of seditious conspiracy is committed when two or more persons in any state or U.S. territory conspire to levy war against the U.S. government.

Okay, okay... We'll call the whole thing off then. Just say you won't hang us, please???


Posted by: jayarbee on June 17, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Nads: ... It is especially ironic that an immigrant like american hawk makes this argument, since the asses he's so interested in kissing would, if not for existing laws, rather see him working in the basement sweatshop with the other foreigners.

You are a liar. Corporate America works as a meritocracy. I get paid what I'm worth. If anybody can do my job for less than me, they can have it. The people I work for feel the exact same way.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 17, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk must be Kevin writing to rile up the troops. No one can be that stupid.

Posted by: nut on June 17, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

The crime of seditious conspiracy is committed when blah blah blah

Article V: Fraud and Theft Crimes

5.02.5 Computer Impersonation

(A) For the purposes of 5.02.5, a person's computer identity shall include but is not limited to:

(1) A person's name, address, social security number, employment, legal and medical history;

(2) A person's financial information including but not limited to: bank account numbers, credit card numbers, credit history, brokerage accounts and salary;

(3) A person's identification numbers including but not limited to: pin numbers, access codes, passwords, e-mail address and any other type of security code.

(B) A person is guilty of the offense of computer impersonation when he/she accesses a computer, computer system or computer network and assumes the computer identity of another person.

..."RBCheney@WhiteHouse.gov" was it?


Posted by: on June 17, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Another problem with education is as follows:

Let us suppose that algebra is important for current jobs - so everybody rushes out and learns algebra. But then new technologies come in for which algebra will be of no use but rather geometry will be required. What then?

Posted by: Thinker on June 17, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk must be Kevin writing to rile up the troops. No one can be that stupid.

GOOD ARGUMENT.

So far, there are two arguments for forcing corporations to overpay for the commodity of labor:

-- Appeasmeent. Without it, people are going to get violent. I happen to think that bribing people not to commit crimes is counterproductive.
-- "Everybody should have an equal share of the planet", which is just daft. A lawyer produces more than a janitor, and it would be insane to pretend otherwise.

Can you do any better, or can you just hurl insults?

Posted by: American Hawk on June 17, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

jayarbee: Okay, okay... We'll call the whole thing off then. Just say you won't hang us, please???

Speak for yourself. I'm looking into martyrdom. I hear they have 60 distinctly non-virginal men waiting in heaven for me.

Posted by: shortstop on June 17, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

that's so cute ... AH thinks it's one of the haves.

Posted by: Nads on June 17, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Nads: that's so cute ... AH thinks it's one of the haves.

It's so adorable that you hink I'm not. I worked damn hard, went to three years of graduate school, and get paid damn well. $$$$$$$$.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 17, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK


AMERICAN HAWK: You are a liar. Corporate America works as a meritocracy. I get paid what I'm worth.

It's all about worth. Kings deserve their palaces, the poor deserve squalor, starving children deserve to die. Why else would God have blessed the rise of Corporate America? 30,000 people dying of starvation every day is just because they are paid nothing... because they are worth nothing. But you're priceless.


Posted by: jayarbee on June 17, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

You tip your hand here: You're admitting that you want the government to force corporations to overpay for one of their commodities, labor.

No. You tip your hand. "Corporations" are nothing more than arbitrary constructs created by government to overpay for one of their commodities, capital. (I am using "commoditiy" in the same, loose rhetorical sense that you are. )

You are not arguing against government interference in the marketplace. You are merely arguing that it should interfere your way and not interfere somebody else's.

Posted by: Thinker on June 17, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK


SHORTSTOP: Speak for yourself. I'm looking into martyrdom. I hear they have 60 distinctly non-virginal men waiting in heaven for me.

Um, the terrorists at least are hoping for something they can't get here--namely, virgins. Your reward, on the other hand, is hardly a rare commodity. No shortage of non-virginal men waiting to show you heaven on earth.


Posted by: jayarbee on June 17, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, you raise an excellent point, mr. jayarbee. Charlie, I've changed my mind. Don't hang me yet. I'll hang on earth a while longer.

Now about that revolution...

Posted by: shortstop on June 17, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Over and over again through history when an elite loses contact with the middle and working classes the elite is in deep shit. It is that need to maintain opportunity and adequate pay for the working class that modern conservatism ignores, at the peril of all of us." Ron Byers

And whom might I ask have been the primary drivers of globalization, the elites or the working class? Globalization is offering a exemption to your premise. The elites and conservatives from my perspective could really give a shit about the working class as long as globalization continues to shift more wealth into their own hands. What is so ironic is that the working man continues to fill the ranks of the military that most benefits the needs of the elites who are masters of patriot creation themes that succeed in uniting the classes against manufactured enemies.

Posted by: lou on June 17, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

AH:"Anyway, suppose somebody can only provide labor that's worth $5 an hour. The minimum wage is likely to leave them unemployed, because nobody will pay $5.15 for something that's only worth $5. Why is it better for them to earn nothing than to earn something?"

That shows a fundimental problem in that you have no idea how the real world works.

While some labor does have an intrinsic value, a maximum per se. And companies do have "maximum" labor costs, an overwhelming majority of employers are nowhere near that number. In fact, they're going further and further away from that number every year.

They're able to, because we game the labor market to force employees to compete for work, and not vice versa. When it's looking like labor might be able to get ahead of the game, we pull out the rug and put a stop to that. (Greenspan raising interest rates in the late-90's)

But what about inflation? If labor costs start to outstrip prices, then you could have a problem. But we're a loooooooong way from there. As it stands, inflation is both a cultural and a political problem, NOT an economic one. It's due to people not being price sensitive with their purchases, and where competition is doing a poor job of holding down prices, not having the political courage to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

In any case, in a service based economy, it relies on people having enough money to partake in services. It's as simple as that. The biggest danger of a reasonable minimum wage hike would actually be decreasing unemployment to such a degree to cause labor shortages. But again, that's something that can be controlled. (I suggest streamlining the LEGAL immigration channels to make it quicker and more accessable)

Posted by: Karmakin on June 17, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Are you calling for the overthrow of our American government? Cheney

Of course not, Cheney. That is what I am trying to avoid.

Unfortunately the unprincipled winner take all mentality of modern conservatism makes it very difficult to avoid AH's race to the bottom. The folks at the bottom, left without hope within the current system, will become more and more disgruntled. Historically in such circumstances revolution is almost a sure thing.

Want to restore balance vote Democratic.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK


LOU: What is so ironic is that the working man continues to fill the ranks of the military that most benefits the needs of the elites who are masters of patriot creation themes that succeed in uniting the classes against manufactured enemies.

Lou's a guy who sees the big picture. Wish it were only ironic, though. Also tragic.


Posted by: jayarbee on June 17, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

The quality of a job often depends on the shortage or surplus of labor in the field. For example, in the fast food business, there are a lot of people capable of doing that. The company pays the workers low wages because they know that if a worker is disatisfied and quits, they can just replace them with another worker. A surplus of workers makes workers more expendable.

On the other hand, if, say, someone works in a high skilled field where there is a shortage of workers capable of completing necessary tasks, the company, knowing the worker is less expendable, will do the best they can to take care of that worker so they do not lose the worker. It's about supply and demand. The larger the amount of capable workers available to an employer in a particular field, the lower the quality of the job will be for workers.

What are the Democrats to do to create a better working condition? There are three different strategies:

1) Use Federal Power to Open New Markets: The development of technology often opens knew markets. The development of the automobile, for example, led to the creation of the auto industry. Government can develop technology through two means: research and development tax credits and in house development. Tax credits would be easier to pass through Congress, but in house development would likely result in greater research sharing among scientists (who won't have to withold research from the "competition") and thus possibly faster development. New markets would require new labor, as well as divert labor from old markets, increasing worker demand in both.

2) Trade Policies: Switching from total free trade to an economically patriotic fair trade policy would likely benefit many American workers. Right now, many former manufacturing workers are seeing their jobs replaced with service jobs that are low paying. If the manufacturing base was brought back to America by abandoning total free trade, then higher paying jobs may return as well. There are worries that this will lead to higher prices, but the real question must be asked: "Have the corporations passed the savings gained on low cost foreign labor to American consumers?" They pay someone in India one tenth of what they'd pay someone in America. Does a high end computer now cost one tenth of what it used to? And, with all the offshore banking, if the money is not reaching the majority of Americans through lower prices, is it reaching them through taxes?

3) Pro Business, Pro People Policies: We must eliminate the myth that government policy is always a decision between economic growth and quality of life. A universal health care system, such as the voucher system mentioned in the Washington Monthly article, would not only improve the quality of life for Americans, but it would benefit the economy, not drain it, as it would be the most efficient system. James Carville once wrote about an auto manufacturer that decided to open shop in Canada, and not the U.S., despite the stronger Unions, higher taxes, and tougher regulations in Canada. The reason they went to Canada? They didn't have to pay for health care. U.S. automakers spend more money on healthcare than steel, and if we improve our own healthcare system, we will create jobs.

Overall, labor will benefit the most in areas of the job market where the demand for workers is high. To put it bluntly, where there are labor shortages. Too much labor shortages could result in a State of Incompetence in which workers, knowing they could get by with anything and keep their job, would slack off. But too much labor surpluses would result in a State of Asshole Employers, who would abuse their workers, pay them low wages, and demand ridiculous performance from them while the employers themselves reap the rewards. Accomplishing a balance would be best for the job market, just as the Fed accomplishing a balance between a tight money and loose money policy is best for the economy. The federal government's role in seeking a balance is by opening new markets, reforming trade policies, and reforming government programs, making them more efficient and thus bringing new employers to the U.S. These new employers would increase the demand for workers in their field. Supply and demand doesn't only determine the cost of goods; it determines the quality of a job.

Posted by: brian on June 17, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney, Conservatives didn't defeat the American Communist Party. Liberals, like FDR, did. His liberal programs during the great depression, fought tooth and nail by foolish Republicans, allowed America to avoid the kind of radicalism that was so successful in the leadup to WWII.

A society where the majority does not have hope for advancement is utterly unstable. Don't you guys read history?

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Our dear little friend, Chuckles, once claimed that he had reported me to the Secret Service for a "threat" I had made against Bush, so it's not exactly a surprise that he would make similar noises about sedition. Alas that he completely fails to understand the law in this case, just as he did in mine, which means that were he to issue another complaint it would be greeted precisely the same way his earlier complaint was -- with derisive laughter. He is amusing, though, so he's good for something.

Posted by: PaulB on June 17, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Essentially, you're saying, "We should pay low-skilled workers more than they're worth, otherwise they'll be violent". You're essentially advocating buying of people so they don't commit acts of murder and insurrection. That's just like appeasing terrorists. In everything it does, the left advocates weakness.

The right falls all over themselves to provide tax breaks to corporations and the rich. In California they brag about how we have to appease the might business lobby with public money (in the form of tax breaks) or we'll be an "anti-business" state. Why does the right appease the business lobby? Why doesn't the right believe in lassez-faire capitalism? Why, that's just like appeasing terrorists?

Posted by: DiscoStu on June 17, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

AH, you want a good argument? Okay.

The marginal utility of money, like that of any other good, declines the more of it you have. All else equal, the community as a whole would be better off if wealth were perfectly equally divided. All else, of course, is not equal, you need to preserve incentives and ways to show preferences and so on. But any measures to get closer to an equal distribution of wealth that don't completely mess up market efficiencies make society as a whole better off.

Or... the less money people have, the higher percentage of their income they spend. Capital being very cheap these days, the supply of goods has less effect on the amount that can be sold than the demand for goods. Any policies that reduce income inequality will increase the demand for most goods, as the people who spend more will have more to spend. Thus increasing the productive capacity of the economy and increasing the quantity of goods consumed, making society as a whole better off.

Two versions of the same argument, really.

And, oh, yeah. The 'preventing violence' argument isn't about appeasement so much as about preventing the rise of a system where a tiny minority feels entitled to whatever they want, even if it requires the oppression of the majority, or at least denies that minority the power to oppress the majority. Which, if that system comes into being, inevitably leads to violence.

Posted by: arcseed on June 17, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Requiring businesses to pay workers wages they aren't worth is not a good way to create jobs or attract businesses. American workers are already overpriced and outpriced.

Posted by: plunge on June 17, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Essentially, you're saying, "We should pay low-skilled workers more than they're worth, otherwise they'll be violent". You're essentially advocating buying of people so they don't commit acts of murder and insurrection. That's just like appeasing terrorists. In everything it does, the left advocates weakness.

I have no idea what anybody is "worth" and neither do you. Since you are impervious to the very real argument that social stability is only possible in a society where average workers have hope of advancment how about a different argument for paying workers well. Henry Ford advocated paying decent wages because he wanted consumers to buy his automobiles. Without consumers there could have been no Ford Motor Company. If a society wants to get ahead it has to make sure it has the largest possible number of consumers have the ability to purchase its goods and services.

What I have been trying to do this morning is disbuse the conservatives who follow this board of the silly notion that "liberalism" is all about being Christian and doing good for goodness sake. A condition thoughtless conservatives deride as being soft.

There are really good hard headed reasons for paying people a living wage. Self preservation and economic advancment are at the top of the list.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

arcseed, wonderful argument, but you used too many big words. AH won't understand.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 17, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

AH, what, exactly, is it that you, a lawyer, "produce" that makes you so extremely valuable? Versus, say, a factory worker? Do you produce the food or clothing or shelter that are necessary for everyday life?

Posted by: EM on June 17, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Its interesting that on some talking head show the other day there was talk of whether illegal immigrants actually do depress wages. I do not believe they do depress wages and apparently there are surveys to back that up. Pat Buchannan was one of he speakers and rolled out the example of IBP (Iowas Beef Packers). His claim was that Iowa beef started hiring aliens and therefore was able to lower there workers wages. The actual fact is that IBP broke the Union as did Hormel foods in Austin Minnesota. They then brought in contracting companies to acquire the low wage workers for the packing jobs that after teh union busting were now paying about half of what the union workers were getting. Needless to say most Union workers did not come back to the companies. Many lost houses etc because of the union busting. This was the time when the Mexican workers started showing up in force. They took the lower paying jobs. I suppose one could argue that if the Mexican workers had not shown up the contractors would eventually have had to pay more or shut down entirely. But it is clear that the Mexicasn did not lower the wages, the lower wages was a result of union busting in search of higher profit margins. Its also useful to note that the wage of the IBP CEO rocketed into the millions of dollars. You may not like paying high wages to what we snobbishly call service workers and unskilled workers but you cannot have both low wages and closed borders. Won't work and the business units know that very well. That also explains why the Bush administration has essentually quit entirely doing green card cheks at businesses, they need the cheap labor, poverty level wgae earners.

Posted by: tb on June 17, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

The traditional professions and high-end tech careers are fine for a relative few. Service-industry jobs can provide good, family-supporting careers for many more.

But let's not kid ourselves, this country needs to design, manufacture, package, market, ship and sell lots and lots of products people here and elsewhere need and want to buy.

Even if assisted-living center attendents were to make $20 an hour and pizza deliverers $18, the preceding would still be true, if our country is to remain prosperous.

Warner's vision echoes Bill Clinton's, and Clinton was not one with particular experience at being a breadwinner in the private sector. If he had been, he might not have been so keen to pass NAFTA and get us into the WTO.

Posted by: S.W. Anderson on June 17, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know. If were really that well educated -- say like a Japan -- and had didn't have enough people for low wage service jobs. And had a sensible immigration policy that was easy for outsiders to understand. And was so damn arbitrary -- wouldn't -- say like in Japan -- technology become the standard replacement for low wage jobs. Granted, I don't think that trade jobs: construction, etc. -- should be considered low skill. In fact in general, I'd like us to put more emphasis on skill and craftsmanship -- and higher wages -- in those areas as well. But is it possible that the growth of the service sector is a result of having people that are not educated enough and so NEED those jobs. If there weren't so many low-educated workers, you'd have a lot more automation. It's expensive to do the R&D and build the systems to have more robots and robotics: but if you have a bunch of people willing to work for $8 an hour -- there isn't much incentive to replace them.

Posted by: DC1974 on June 17, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan has hit on one of the two major reasons I'm not the Mark Warner supporter that so many of my fellow Virginia Democrats are. Mind you, he was for the most part the right governor for the moment we were in (if you squint your eyes just so to avoid looking at his worse-than-crappy environmental record), but he's exactly not what we need in the White House now.

In the winter of 2004-5, Warner told a small gathering of local Dems that most Virginia localities would be thrilled to have our area's low unemployment rate. My colleagues all nodded earnestly. I was impolite enough to mention that jobs by themselves aren't enough -- a third of the county households scrape by on less than $20,000 a year. He looked at me as if I were from Mars.

I got special pleasure, then, when the governor was publicly needled on his failure to comprehend that income and jobs are two different things. Speaking at a Labor Day breakfast, Leslie Byrne, our Lt. Governor candidate, passed on the comments of a woman who'd come up to her after a campaign stop with Warner: "I was interested to hear the Governor talk about all those jobs that have been created. I know it's true, 'cause I've got three of them."

Huge laugh and the most applause of any line of that speech-filled day.

I have some optimism that our next Senator, Jim Webb, sees things Byrne's way; her early endorsement was a big factor in overcoming "but he was a Republican" sentiment among primary voters.

Speaking of wages and income: A vote on Kennedy's minimum wage bill may come up early next week. John Edwards is gathering signatures to support it. The bill is probably doomed, but might be passable in the new Senate we could have next January. Make your Senators take a position!

The minimum wage is a disgrace; currently at its lowest level, in terms of purchasing power, in 35 years.

Posted by: Nell on June 17, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

"Corporate America works as a meritocracy. I get paid what I'm worth."

Then you work in a different corporate America than I do.

And I think you are a persona. You are either a total broken down loser with a computer (probably sucking up SSI benefits) or some kind of trust fund baby. Your comments (never mind the fact you do nothing but troll on this site all day, every day) indicate your experience with the "real world" you are so enthralled with is nil.

I have a close friend who is an attorney with a large corporate firm in Chicago. He doesn't have enough time to keep up on the local sports scene, let alone spin fatastical tales about the wonderful meritocracy that is America and the sublime perfection of the free market.

Posted by: brewmn on June 17, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Well, instead of raising their wages, we can provide them (and us) with universal health care. Monetized, this would be a huge raise.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on June 17, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Rewolfrats wrote: Are any candidates seriously courting the SEIU?


Uh, yes...if every previous presidential election is anything to go by. How can you have even the slightest doubt about this basic fact of democratic party politics?

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 17, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Are Kos and Jerome Armstrong on the payroll to pimp for Mark Warner? It certainly fits a pattern.

Payola at DailyKos

Posted by: politus on June 17, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

politus I couldn't read the article this buy shit from the new rupublic pop up thing chased me all over the screen but thanks for your concern about kos

Posted by: boy george on June 17, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

What did Warner do for small business and farmers in Virginia?

One of the problems with the DLC types is that they seem to believe the American economy consists of a few IT giants and some dying factories. We should lavish tax breaks on the former, and let the latter die a natural death they seem to say.

Businesses with fewer than 500 workers employ 50.1% of the nation's non-farm service workers. Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the American economy, They get along not because of the policies that come out of Washington, and state capitals, but more often despite those policies.

Sometimes I dream of a true Jeffersonian party that heaped disrepect on Washington and big business alike, stood solidly for small enterprise and local governance, wasn't a prisoner to either the corporations or public employee unions.

But alas...

Mrs. Clinton is going to kill Warner in the primaries on social issues. He is on record supporting abortion law more conservative than Democratic primary voters are willing to accept. He also opened an office of faith-based funding in the state of Virginia. I don't have such a problem with it, but you can be sure most of the money to date has gone to fundamentalist churches, and you can be sure Democratic primary voters are going to hear about it from Hillary (even if she expands faith-based funding for social services as president). Warner also signed the most punitive and prohibitive bill on same sex marriage in the country. Clinton's campaign won't touch it, but I'm willing to bet she'll cut a backroom deal with one of the national gay rights groups. They trash Warner in the primaries and she'll push ENDA at some point (as in her second term). Kos will flip out over single issue groups. Then there will be a catfight over Kos's alleged homophobia. Mrs. Clinton will succeed in doing what she intends to do: divide and conquer and the blogosphere.

If the dailykos is going to support a loser, I'd prefer he or she be a genuine progressive like Feingold. But I think they'd prefer to believe that they're supporting someone "electable" like Warner.

Posted by: Linus on June 17, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

I wear my mommies dirty underwear for a hat when noone is looking.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 17, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad there isn't a hell. 'Cuz I'd like to see the hottest spot saved for the "man" that came up with the concept of one hour of anyones life equaling a set dollar amount.
Greed is the problem, the scaffold is the answer.

Posted by: someOtherClown on June 17, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

"At the same time, it's just a plain fact that a huge number of jobs are basically unskilled or semiskilled, and we need to address the question of what happens to the people who fill them. Education really won't help here,"

Supply and demand Kevin, supply and demand. More education means higher supply of highly educated people. There is overwhelming empirical evidence that this leads to a lower wage premium for the highly educated which implies a more equal wage distribution.

In other words, more formal education means a reduction in the number of unskilled workers competing for the jobs which do not require formal education. This has, in the past, caused an increase in their wages.

Now I admit that the past in question was the early 70s when a huge number of people went to college to dodge the draft. The low economic return to their diplomas obviously had something to do with the fact that many majored in occupying the deans office.

Nonetheless when I arrived at college in 1978, an amused graduate student teaching introductory economics explained that it was more profitable to start working and save the tuition money than to go to college. This was really true then. Later we got lower enrollment and a huge increase in wage and salary inequality.

Outside of the USA there are countries with anomolously equal income distributions given their level of development, notably Taiwan under Chiang Kai Sheck and Sout Korea under Park Chung Hee. The did not get equality by banning unions (which they did) but by sending huge numbers of people to college.

They also got extremely rapid economic growth and, making the dictators roll over in their graves, democracy. Believe me, there is very strong evidence that a simple story based on supply of and demand for diplomas explains trends and international differences in inequality.

Supply and demand. Reduce the supply of unskilled workers and employers in services and manufacturing will have to pay them higher wages.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on June 17, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

brian: The quality of a job often depends on the shortage or surplus of labor in the field. For example, in the fast food business, there are a lot of people capable of doing that. The company pays the workers low wages because they know that if a worker is disatisfied and quits, they can just replace them with another worker. A surplus of workers makes workers more expendable.

What are the Democrats to do to create a better working condition? There are three different strategies:

Well, for one thing raising the minimum wage. This does nothing to reduce competition for these jobs (though at a certain point it may work to reduce the number of jobs; care need be taken; OTOH pretty hard to outsource burger flipping to India) but changes the conditions within which companies compete in a way that benefits workers (and no it ain't the whole answer).

Internationally negotiated labor accords also help reduce the capacity of big business to engage us in a race to the bottom.

And government policies that are resolutely pro-small-business.

Posted by: snicker-snack on June 17, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad there isn't a hell. 'Cuz I'd like to see the hottest spot saved for the "man" that came up with the concept of one hour of anyones life equaling a set dollar amount.

Being paid by the hour instead of by piecework was probably one of the labor movement's greatest victories.

Posted by: union on June 17, 2006 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Warner will not win - Diebold will make sure of that.

Posted by: Cheney on June 17, 2006 at 1:01 PM

Jeez, I hadn't heard Diebold had just been hired by Hillary and the Democratic bosses.

Posted by: Vincent on June 17, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

Four things I don't mind spending on, science, defense/offense development, education, civil infastructure.

Posted by: aaron on June 18, 2006 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Rewolfrats wrote: Are any candidates seriously courting the SEIU?

Uh, yes...if every previous presidential election is anything to go by. How can you have even the slightest doubt about this basic fact of democratic party politics?

Yeah, I guess I wasn't clear. Everyone will take their money, and a several candidates might even strongly crusade for their cause in Iowa. The question is whether any candidate capable of winning the nomination will actually openly fight for them in the general election and push their fight against the Walmarts of the world after being elected.

Posted by: rewolfrats on June 18, 2006 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

There's something that really annoys me about the phrase "all us middle class types". Isn't it likely that there is some portion of working-class people or middle-class people who come from working-class backgrounds reading this blog?

Anyway, as for the argument that, essentially, everyone is getting paid what they're worth... does that mean that today's CEOs are ten times better than CEOs in 1980? (Look over here: http://www.faireconomy.org/press/archive/1999/ex_pay_99.html)

At bottom, doesn't this argument lead to the logic that we don't have to pay people with service jobs enough money to feed their children because, after all, it's not like their kids are likely to be smart enough to ever contribute anything positive to society?

Posted by: Patience on June 18, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Rewolfrats: yes, you are right. Your point wasn't clear at all.

That's a rather different question. In fact, that is THE question. And that is what Nathan Newman is getting at. Yet for the most part this thread has ignored that question. Oddly, the most viciferous defenders (rhetorically) of workers' interests have been the anti-immigrant nut jobs. I've heard very little here about what Democratic candidates should do to defend and advance workers' interests and how to hold their feet to the fire to ensure they do it.

The bulk of this thread could easily be reproduced on the Corner - and not because it is so heavily visited by the trolls.


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 18, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney: "Sedition is the crime of revolting or inciting revolt against government"

You mean like when all those GOP folk like Grover Nordquist keep going on publicly about drowning the US Government in a bathtub?

Posted by: chaboard on June 18, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: 343sds on June 19, 2006 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: 343sds on June 19, 2006 at 5:15 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: e on June 20, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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