By Myron Robert Pauli
So I see that Portland OR has raised the minimum wage to $15/hour and the rest of the state may soon follow.
Years back, I did some minimum wage work at a chemical-spectroscopy lab in New York – not particularly lucrative or enjoyable but it paid money. The company mostly hired college graduates from the Philippines (probably with some H-1 visa) because they were cheap. Not surprisingly, companies pay workers at little as they can get away with. Workers, in turn, are right to grumble and are free to seek out higher paying work (or at least better conditions – that lab was rather unsafe). Most people do not work for some great satisfaction – most jobs range from somewhat stinky to complete stinky. Who the hell wants to pick crops in the hot summer or climb up cleaning gutters in winter? Workers primarily work for one primary motivation – money.
The $15 minimum wage will be a boon to developers of automated burger-flippers. Not only do they not get the $15, the robots don’t need Social Security, W-2 forms, OSHA inspectors, Obomney-Rombama care, paid vacations, sick leave, and those other things that raise “overheads.”
Anyone who has studied the history of labor in the 19th or 20th Century should be aware of the Luddites who went around smashing machinery. I would not be surprised if some restaurants not only take reservations online but orders as well – press the steak icon and it will ask rare through well-done. This should not be too hard to code and people can pick up their orders cafeteria style. Or a robot can probably deliver the gourmet food to the table. The chef can be well paid, but who goes to the restaurant for the waitresses (excepting, perhaps, Hooters)? Four star pre-ordered robot delivered gourmet meals with profits shared between consumer and restauranteur.
However, let me put on my Samuel Gompers hat when it comes to the anti-worker rant of Jennifer Harris. First of all, workers have every right to be greedy and should be free to strike (but not destroy property or resort to violence) – with the flip side that the employer can find replacements. If I choose to “refuse” to be locker-room attendant for the Russian Women’s Volleyball Team for less than $1500 an hour, perhaps the team owner can find someone who will work for less pay!
The second point of Harris’ rant is how the troops are “getting shot at, deploying for months in hostile environments, and putting their collective asses on the line every day protecting your unskilled butt?” The first part about being shot in hostile environments is perfectly true. As to the second part: How are these “troops” protecting the butt of anyone, skilled or unskilled, other than the military brass and politicians who sent them in to be 21st Century IED-fodder? I know what benefits I get from the grocery clerk and the restaurant waiter and the guy who cleans my gutters. (Or from Edward Snowden.) Does the average American get protected when some troops “engage” Sunnis who are shooting at Shiites or Shiites who are shooting at Sunnis? Harris makes fun of “Sally McBurgerflipper” and “Johnny Fry-Boy,” but they enable Mom to save a day of cooking and let the brats play at the McSlides. What great “service” did anyone get out of Petraeus and that neo-con phony “surge,” other than some titillation concerning lover Paula Broadwell? Yet, “conservatives” deify Petraeus and sneer at the gardener.
In that sense, I can neither endorse the leftist desire to ignore the realities of labor markets, nor these rightists who extol senseless, pointless, endless killing over honest backbreaking work. Maybe the poor schlub mowing your lawn will motivate his kids to get a real education (not modern “liberal arts”), and that kid might invent a new “smart lawnmower.” Anyway, the poor shlub is doing honest work.
Blessed are the Burgerflippers – may they profit both themselves, their employers, and their customers for they are the Children of Peace.
Barely a Blog (BAB) contributor Myron Pauli grew up in Sunnyside Queens, went off to college in Cleveland and then spent time in a mental institution in Cambridge MA (MIT) with Benjamin Netanyahu (did not know him), and others until he was released with the “hostages” and Jimmy Carter on January 20, 1981, having defended his dissertation in nuclear physics. Most of the time since, he has worked on infrared sensors, mainly at Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. He was NOT named after Ron Paul but is distantly related to physicist Wolftgang Pauli; unfortunately, only the “good looks” were handed down and not the brains. He writes assorted song lyrics and essays reflecting his cynicism and classical liberalism. Click on the “BAB’s A List” category to access the Pauli archive.