Wednesday, June 24, 2009

David McReynolds, Socialist Party, minimum wage, 2000 election, Bill Maher

How's that for a roll call of descriptive terms? In the run up to the 2000 elections Bill Maher had David McReynolds of the SP on, because McReynolds was running for President and Maher was having all of the candidates for the minor parties on his show. Matt LeBlanc of "Friends" was on there too. McReynolds was talking about how he wanted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and LeBlanc went nuts. He started sputtering about it, about people not working hard enough for $15 an hour, and the crowd started applauding McReynolds. LeBlanc then said "How can you applaud that?", McReynolds then thundered: "Because I'm RIGHT!" I always liked that. He is right, and not just from a socialist perspective, although that would be truly just in and of itself.

The thing is that the federal minimum wage hasn't kept up with inflation, and so despite the little raise that it got fairly recently it's still most likely worth less now than it was almost three decades ago. Before the raise it definitely was, and I don't think that it was enough to pull it out of the hole that it was in. Which is interesting because businesses are always complaining about the minimum wage destroying their profits.

Free market economists like to talk about the market weeding out the businesses that aren't up to snuff and rewarding those that are. Well, in my opinion any business that needs to pay people the minimum wage and keep them on part time work so that they have no benefits in order to survive shouldn't survive. If you can't survive while paying your workers enough for them to actually live on you shouldn't be in business. Yet this is an argument that you never hear from the market fundamentalists.

The same thing could be said about companies overseas using prison labor and labor of the type that goes on in Indonesian sweat shops. If the only way a company can make money is by using people as slaves, it shouldn't be in business, no matter how poor the country actually is. But since the '80s there's been a shift from discussing development models that assume that decent standards of living, recognized as such on an international scale, are just naturally what should be aimed for and towards ones who assume that any sort of hardship is justified as long as it makes people marginally better off than they were before. Sort of a perverse free market Stalinism. Have to break a few eggs to get development on the road.

Anyways, the minimum wage is still below where it should be, McReynolds was right, and had the rare opportunity to demonstrate it on national television, and Matt LeBlanc of "Friends" is still hysterical for ill founded reasons.

*on edit: So it was $12 dollars an hour, the person in question was comedian Joe Rogan (who looks like Matt LeBlanc), and the thing they were clapping about was McReynolds saying "Where is the individual in corporate America?"....still, eh, for it being almost nine years ago that's pretty good. Here''s the YouTube video...which starts out with technical problems but then gets better:

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