Random unrelated thoughts


Kelly wrote a brief blog post titled Random unrelated thoughts that are actually quite related.

I had been musing on the same theme.  Specifically, his second point: “Americans are very, very, very bad at seeing how societal problems tie into one another.”

ITEM: Per this 2021 article:  “The gas tax has not been raised in 28 years, and America’s infrastructure network is suffering the consequences. The tax was last raised in 1993 from 14.1 cents to 18.4 cents per gallon, where it remains today.

“Because the gas tax is not pegged to inflation, its purchasing power has eroded significantly over the past 28 years, and the tax is now ‘worth’ 45 percent less than in 1993; if the tax had been indexed for inflation each year since 1993, it would be approximately 15 cents higher in 2021.”

This is why the vast infrastructure bill became necessary. And of course, certain people – OK, Republicans – are taking credit for a bill they voted against. But there would have been no need for the massive legislation if the gas tax had been raised periodically. 

Living wage

ITEM: The federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees has been $7.25 per hour since 2009. That is insane. Several states have a higher threshold.

When market pressure to raise wages occurred, the general argument was why that kid working at Mickey D’s should make $15/hour. It became a shock to the system for many employers. 

However, employers would have more easily absorbed the increase if the rate had increased incrementally.

A related topic: the ideal CEO-to-Employee Pay Ratio. This article notes that “The phenomenon of firms with overpaid CEOs and underpaid employees is not new. In 1977, the late Peter F. Drucker, arguably the most famous management thinker, suggested the pay ratio between CEOs and employees be a maximum of 25-to-1.

“However, in 2011, he scaled it slightly back to a ratio of 20-to-1. Drucker said at the time: ‘I have often advised managers that a 20-to-1 salary ratio is a limit beyond which they cannot go if they don’t want resentment and falling morale to hit their companies.'” Yet the ratio is ten times that.  Hospital executives are overcompensated, while nurses are underpaid, for example.

From THR. “A-list actors are known to pull in larger paydays, but SAG-AFTRA advocates for all of its 160,000 members, including background actors, singers, dancers, and stunt performers. Only 12.7 percent of SAG members make the annual $26,470 needed to qualify for union health insurance, according to some guild members. Actors made a median salary of $46,960 in 2021.”

Meanwhile, “when he re-upped at Disney as CEO, [Robert] Iger’s 2023 pay package was valued at $27 million. [Warner Brothers’ David] Zaslav’s 2022 compensation package hit $39.3 million.” So Iger is making over 500 times the median SAG salary, yet calls the unions’ demands “just not realistic.”


ITEM: With more indictments of djt come more defenses by the usual suspects. The former prez speaks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, “who leads the House GOP’s messaging efforts,” and their responses parrot their handler. The term “unpresidented” – I mean unprecedented  – is thrown around a lot. No president has been charged so often.  

But this article from Foreign Policy was helpful. “Trump is just one of 78 political leaders in democratic nations who have faced criminal charges since the year 2000.”

“In the past five years alone, South Korea has convicted two of its former presidents on corruption charges… Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of bribery in 2021…  Just last year, former President of Bolivia Jeanine Añez—who stepped forward as a proposed interim president in 2019 following the resignation of her predecessor, Evo Morales—was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was accused of illegally taking over the presidency.


Possibly most instructive: “Prosecuting a former leader can also ignite political tensions and destabilize domestic politics. One of the most contemporary examples is Israel, where the charges of corruption against Benjamin Netanyahu sparked a political crisis in 2019 that continues to run its course. It resulted in a tumultuous power swing that saw five elections in four years with Netanyahu returning as prime minister in December 2022 despite his legal troubles. It’s unclear whether he’ll be found guilty, or whether the courts could enforce a guilty verdict.

“Now back in power, Netanyahu has proposed a sweeping judicial overhaul that would give him final say over judge appointments and his government the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions. The proposal led to mass protests this year, and opponents call it a conflict of interest as Netanyahu remains a criminal defendant.”

When leaders aren’t held to account, bad things can happen to democracy.

Joe Biden’s Prez, hasn’t fixed everything yet!

$7.25? Really?

joebidenI suppose I should be really upset. Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. has been President of the United States for a whole month. And 46 hasn’t fixed everything yet! What is WRONG with him?

He’s only overturned SOME of 45’s awful positions. For instance, he reversed a Pentagon policy that largely barred transgender people from serving in the military. He has reinstated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, “the Obama-era program that has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation since it was created in 2012 through an Obama directive. The previous guy issued his own executive order to undo DACA in 2017.

“Other orders targeting foundational policies of the last administration include a Biden directive to reverse Trump’s ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, executive action to rejoin the Paris climate accord, and a proclamation stopping construction of his predecessor’s border wall.” But there are a whole bunch of others that need to be obliterated.

Oh, yeah, he’s helped to ramp up production of the COVID vaccines. But I don’t have MINE yet! It’s not scheduled until March 31! Yeah, he did that mask mandate on federal property, increasing food aid, and protecting those on unemployment because of the virus. But we want more, MORE!

Is this Cabinet process slow, or what?

Joe Biden has picked a diverse group to be in his Cabinet, but a bunch of them haven’t been confirmed yet. What gives? C’mon, Joe, whip those Senators into shape!

I’m particularly waiting for North Carolina regulator Michael S. Regan, his nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, his pick for interior secretary. Haaland would be the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, the “powerful federal agency that has wielded influence over the nation’s tribes for generations.”

Maybe they can address the environmental racism that Full Frontal with Samantha Bee highlighted recently.

Seriously, though

I find myself, on a daily basis, less stressed. Former governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) probably is too. He said that he spent the last four years having to explain every comment, every tweet 45 issued, and now he doesn’t. I suspect that those Republicans who complained about Twitter’s “overreach” in banning 45 are not-so-secretly relieved.

Will the COVID relief package pass with bipartisan support, or with just the Democrats? I suspect that the bill could pass with some modification, but now I’m just spitballing.

Here’s an observation that some of my more liberal friends will hate. The $15/hour wage is not going to make it, even though it has been pushed for so long, it probably should be $22/hour by now. The conservative senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) offered a raise of the federal minimum wage from $7.25, which is still the law in about 20 states, to $11/hour. If he’s really for that, maybe DE Joe should suggest WV Joe that he actually  propose it, or maybe $13.

Yes, I know it’s grossly inadequate. But the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in a dozen years. That doesn’t mean that the half loaf is the end goal, only a starting point. As Otto von Bismarck said, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.”

On raising the minimum wage

If other people are getting less screwed over than they had been, it should be a cause for celebration, not disdain.

minimum_wage_1018The junior senator from my state of New York, Kirsten Gillibrand (D) noted that she will co-sponsor a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That’s something I support, for a lot of reasons; Robert Reich delineates some of them.

More better, as they say, is Jaquandor’s Keeping Ahead of the Smiths: Random Thoughts on the Minimum Wage from late July 2015, which he describes as a “collection of thoughts.”

It’s Labor Day weekend, so I feel no need to work too hard on this post. Yet there are a few points in Jaquandor’s piece I want to emphasize:

“Gee, I’ve never made fifteen bucks an hour.” The latter is often coupled with a description of the jobs one has done, obviously intended to make clear that my work should pay more than theirs. And these sentiments aren’t brand new, either, born of shock that burgerflippers (said with appropriate voice filled with disdain) are going to make that kind of money…

So why, then, so much resentment toward a group of workers who banded together and through various means of legal redress seem to have won a kind of victory for themselves? Why are so many people so eager to see in this another screwing of themselves by the system, instead of an example of what might be done elsewhere? If you’re so convinced that your line of work is deserving of better pay, than why not band together and do your own self-advocation?

In other words, if other people are getting less screwed over than they had been, it should be a cause for celebration, not disdain.

But THIS is the heart of the argument, for me:

After nearly forty years of unending tax-cutting and deregulating… all we have to show for it is wages that are stuck in neutral and money flowing ever, ever, ever upward in a pattern that can only be described as redistributive (albeit in the exact opposite way that that term is usually deployed by libertarian-types). The biggest problem most Americans face, economically, is not what the government is taking out of our paychecks. It is what our employers are not putting into them in the first place.

The recovery after the Great Recession has been tepid, NOT because employers are paying too much, but because they are paying too little. The minimum wage, if tied to inflation, should be over $20 an hour. Instead, US workers’ pay plummeted 4% over the past 5 years.

$15/hour is NOT too much.
A History of Labor Day.

Labor Day: raise the federal minimum wage in the USA

“The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society.”

Since it’s Labor Day, I shan’t work too hard. I want to recommend that you read:

A Livable Minimum Wage Could Decrease Unemployment by Decreasing Demand for Second Jobs:

Higher wages would more equitably distribute the jobs that are already available…. Forty hours a week (if you can get it) simply isn’t enough to pay the bills

Raising the Minimum Wage Can Reduce Unemployment

Lower-income and middle-class Americans have seen their income and wealth decrease over the last decade. So as you might imagine, many are pinching their pennies and spending less on goods and services. The end result is that businesses don’t have enough money or confidence to hire more workers.

The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income, from the CBO

[While] some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated…As a group, the workers whose income rose because of a minimum-wage increase would consequently pay more in taxes and receive less in benefits.

But if you look at none of these, I urge you to read The Pitchforks Are Coming…For Us Plutocrats by NICK HANAUER. It’s because it’s one thing for the 99% to complain about the inequity that exists, that despite a declining unemployment rate, consumer purchasing power is stagnant. It’s something else to read the views of a guy who made a ton of money through Amazon and other businesses:

Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?
I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument… And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world.

He touts Henry Ford, and Washington state’s higher minimum wage while noting the disaster of excessive CEO compensation and “trickle-down” economics.
One could also tax the rich, but that may be more difficult politically. It’s not class warfare when one side owns most of the ammo.

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