Monday, July 29, 2013

The Minimum Wage Budget

You may have already read about how McDonalds has put together a proposed budget for their underpaid employees.  You can read about it here.  It's kind of a lesson in how out of touch the rich can be.  They propose things like "Get a second job".  They put $0 in for food, $0 in for heating, $20 for health care.  There's been plenty of ridicule of it, and I think that's appropriate, but I won't repeat that here.

What I want to talk about is something that people on the left I think should talk about more, and that is this.  It is possible to get by on a lot less.  It is possible to get by on minimum wage.  And in fact there's a lot of good that would result if we strove to do that.

Now, to be clear, I think minimum wage is WAY too low and should be increased radically.  The reason profits at Wal-Mart and McDonald's are so high is simply because the money created goes to the non working owners and not the hard working employees.  Employees should get much more.  Yeah, the capitalist in a sense just steals the productive contribution of workers.  They are parasites.

But people in the US struggle financially not just because they make too little.  They do in fact spend too much.  This is not an accident.  Pointing at them and telling them they have only themselves to blame is simplistic and wrong.  But I believe it is true that if you do successfully resist conditioning that leads you to spend more than you should you can get by on very little in this country.

Resisting the conditioning means thinking ahead even when you are young and vulnerable.  Is that realistic?  I'm not sure.  I have a friend that went to a private school where tuition is $35K/yr and I expressed my surprise.  How do you even do that?  The answer is loans.  But don't loans crush you?  Oh yeah, he said.  But he said he was 18 and had no clue.  Someone convinced him to go and he did it.  Walk out of school with $100K in debt that is not dischargeable and yeah, you're going to sink if you work at McDonald's.

Another thing that can kill you is this myth that everyone has to have a car.  When I graduated from college I took my job offer letter and went to the Ford dealership to get my car, which in my mind was the reward for all my work in college.  It was dumb.  I actually had a beater that would have worked for me.  But somehow I had it in my head that this wasn't good enough.  It was.  It was a mistake.

Young people easily get sucked into the debt trap, and in that world the McDonald's budget is absurd.  But on the left we need to not only complain about how the capitalist parasites are taking our productive contribution, but also that we need to help people avoid the initial debt and a life of consumption.  Without the desperation that these create workers get more emboldened to command a fairer piece of the revenue pie.

So let's suppose you're starting from scratch.  You have nothing, and also no debt.  You're faced with living on a McDonald's budget.  The first thing I'd try to think about is where I would live.  Maybe the $600 in the budget is reasonable for a very simple rental.  I would do whatever I could to make sure my residence was within walking distance of work, the grocery store, and the library.  Because of course I'm not going to own a car.  That can save you the car payment and insurance, which is $250.

That sounds pretty tough to a lot of people, but I guess lately I've been thinking like I would almost prefer it to the way I live now, constantly driving everywhere.  Obviously much better for the environment.  Personally I'm a bit locked right now because I have a mortgage, and my location is not right.  But if I could do it over I would consider the location factor more.

The McDonalds budget has $100 for cable.  I wouldn't have cable.  TV is a waste of time, and if I work at McDonalds I get free internet there.  My family can go to the library.  Yeah, it's limiting, but a part of me says if I had a bit less access to the internet I'd be better off.

Thanks to Obama Care and also Medicaid health insurance can be managed.  I'd try to make sure my rental allowed me to have a garden to help with the food budget.  Obviously vacations would be modest.  Maybe hop on the bike with some camping gear and go to a local park.

This may seem strange, but a part of me thinks this is a better way to live.  I read of people that make large incomes but live like this anyway.  For them it's not long before the savings they've created is enough to live off of.  I suppose you could say they become capitalist parasites.  The work of others is funneled into their pockets and they live perpetually without working.  For the McDonald's worker it's not quite so good.  But by avoiding debt and consumption it can still be a pretty good life.  It's good advice for the poor and the rich.


Jonathan said...

The interplay between mindset/choices/environment is an interesting one. Put 100 people in the same situation you described with the same options, opportunities, and talents, and you will get wildly different results.

On the latest This American Life episode, a young inmate and a corrections officer at the same jail sat down and were talking about choices. The inmate said no one would hire a convict, so he couldn't get a job, and this helped lead to him reoffending and landing back in jail. The officer said he grew up poor, and if it was him, he'd go get a lawnmower and start mowing lawns to make money if he got out. The inmate asked "where would I get a lawnmower".

I think the truth must lie in the middle somewhere. When the left discusses how the government must help the poor, the right says this causes a sense of dependency, but then where does the conversation go? Dan Miller just had an interesting podcast about helping 3rd world countries, and talked about when NGOs roll into town offering free clothes to the poor, this instills a sense of dependence, crushes the local entrepreneurs trying to sell clothes, and castrates people's drive to make something out of themselves.

But I think you are right - a lot of it has to do with changing our mindset. It's not easy, and yes - there are mitigating factors, and maybe even forces at play which are trying to actively work against you, but the solution cannot come entirely externally, from aid, legislation, greater equity etc. Each person has far more power to change their situation by changing their actions and mindset than they realize. We can argue about just how much power this is in difference circumstances, but to minimize its impact I feel, minimizes the very core of what it means to be a human.

Jon said...

Yeah, the point you make regarding Dan Miller is another reason why the Guaranteed Minimum Income is such a tremendous idea. Our method of giving out shirts or giving food stamps is an effort to limit the poor's ability to make a bad choice, as if they'd by alcohol and drugs only. I think it's a myth perpetuated by the right a bit. Reagan was big on that, talking about the black welfare queens driving Cadillac's and having as many babies as possible. It's a caricature that plays into the right wing desire to slash the social safety net. But the evidence shows that if you just give people cash they generally make reasonable decisions. Without decimating local business, right?

One of the things that prompted this post here is we have some Chinese engineers visiting us here, and talking with them I learn of the stress they deal with. Making less than half of us for doing the same work they deal with a cost of living situation that is much worse than ours. Also longer working hours. Also horrendous commutes. One of the engineers said to me that he'd be so happy to just empty the trash over here. Scrub our floors and make janitorial money. This guy is extremely smart and hard working as an engineer, but he'd rather earn minimum wage in the US. I think what we have here is not right or fair. The capitalists taking the money and leaving a small portion for the workers. Despite that, it's better here than many other places.

The other thing the GMI showed is that when workers know they aren't going to starve they are willing to command greater salaries. It doesn't prevent them from working. It prevents them from working for nothing. They say no, pay something decent before I'll come in. The right wing story is that business and unemployment collapse, but the reality is the employers just pay more. This then leads to more spending by the poor, more consumption, increased demand, and consequently an even better business environment. Cutting our debt and consumption really could produce the same effect, because we're not desperate any more, so we can just say that we're not going to work unless the compensation is quite good.

Paul said...

Hey Jon -

I'll somewhat play devil's advocate - in part for the sake of discussion and in part because of differing perspective. I wrote this quickly so perhaps some of my comments are not fully flushed or thought out.

It is possible to get by on a lot less. It is possible to get by on minimum wage. And in fact there's a lot of good that would result if we strove to do that.

There is also a lot of bad if in aggregated average everyone earned minimum wage (even if min wage was much higher).

But I believe it is true that if you do successfully resist conditioning that leads you to spend more than you should you can get by on very little in this country.

If one wants to live a, subjectively speaking, very boring and mundane life, that person probably could live off very little.

They do in fact spend too much. This is not an accident. Pointing at them and telling them they have only themselves to blame is simplistic and wrong.

We are in agreement that people ought not to live beyond their means. I do not think that people bear 100% of the responsibility for living beyond their means but they do share in that responsibility. I am, generally, speaking here to non-essential goods or expenditures of excesses.

I have a friend that went to a private school where tuition is $35K/yr and I expressed my surprise. How do you even do that? The answer is loans. But don't loans crush you? Oh yeah, he said. But he said he was 18 and had no clue. Someone convinced him to go and he did it. Walk out of school with $100K in debt that is not dischargeable and yeah, you're going to sink if you work at McDonald's.

There may be some people who went to private school (I am assuming you mean universtity here) and work at as a low level McDonalds clerk (or a like job). But w/o having looked at any statistics I'd bet that number of those who went to private shool AND work a a McDonald's like job is a very small (count in one hand the %). So the comparison doesn't seem like a fair one.

we need to help people avoid the initial debt and a life of consumption. Without the desperation that these create workers get more emboldened to command a fairer piece of the revenue pie.

I would like to see workers get more emboldened to command a fairer piece of the pie.

So let's suppose you're starting from scratch. You have nothing, and also no debt. You're faced with living on a McDonald's budget.

I hope that living on a McDonald's buget is a initial boundary condition. That the person would at least have ambition beyond that. That the person may fail to fulfill their ambitions due to extenuating circumstances is something that I think is real.

Thanks to Obama Care and also Medicaid health insurance can be managed. I'd try to make sure my rental allowed me to have a garden to help with the food budget. Obviously vacations would be modest. Maybe hop on the bike with some camping gear and go to a local park.

I am skipping some details but my question is - if everyone followed your leadership into a more simplified lifestyle where would the funds to pay for programs like Obamacare, Medicaid, etc come from? I support these programs the same as presumably you do but I think economic activity (consumption) is what allows these programs to exist at all.

Jon said...

Hey Paul,

You may be right that the simplified life is too boring. I suspect it is not, but I'm not sure because I'm not living it. I'm living a fairly typical middle class life. Vacations, lots of driving, eating out. I suspect though that the adage is true. The best things in life are free. So for instance in my case the things I do that I enjoy most are free. I'm trying to learn a foreign language, sometimes play guitar, do some blogging. These are all nearly free. I like spending time with family and friends. I'd rather sit around a camp fire with people I like than go to the bar, or even go out to eat.

Regarding private schools, yeah, most that went don't work at McDonalds. My point is merely that if you have a lot of debt, whether student loan or otherwise, a minimum wage budget is tough. Also I want to make the point that it's not hard to accumulate big debt. A lot of people do have a lot of student loan debt and minimal income.

It's true that if everyone lived a simplified life where they didn't need much income things would fall apart. That is, our whole capitalist empire would flounder, and with it Obama Care might go. That's a difficult thing. My thinking is like this. This whole economic system requires ever expanding consumption. Otherwise it falls apart (and health care like this goes away). But limitless consumption is impossible. So the system will collapse. It would be better if it collapsed sooner, because the longer we wait the more additional problems we will have, particularly environmental problems.

Apparently Ghandi heavily emphasized sustainability. You see pictures of him and he's always running a spinning wheel, making fabric. Following my recommendations people would help each other, grow gardens, raise chickens, share tools and entertainment centers. Now the whole consumption economy is falling apart, and with it social services. But also war. It's tough to decide to take that road because it's going to cause pain, but pain is coming no matter what we do. Less pain now or more pain later?

But in any case there's no reason to think so many people will do it that our economy will struggle. If you do it and others don't you'll at least enjoy the benefits. So you can say you don't want everyone to do it, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

Examinator said...

Sadly your assumptions about only a minimal number ( handful %) of people with a good education are either under employed or in low income jobs is a deliberate right wing fantasy.

There are many reasons why this is so for example consider how many programmers, IT hopefuls can't get reasonable jobs. *One* University in India turns out 15000 per year.
This is why most big companies off shore their Help desks, programming in fact their DP processing.
Attorneys driving Cabs, Science majors cleaning floors its all too common.
Capitalism is a blind mistress she doesn't care for effort. You get a degree in law from other than an Ivy Uni and good luck.
Universities are capitalist organisations their job is to show a profit not guarantee a job let alone a career.
You need to come to grips with the way things are.

Paul said...

Ex -

To correct the record

Sadly your assumptions about only a minimal number ( handful %) of people with a good education are either under employed or in low income jobs is a deliberate right wing fantasy.

I said that I believe that the percentage of people with a private university education who also worked at McD (or similar job) is very low. Though I did not specify, as I think it was implicit within the context, I am talking within the USA.

As to this -

Attorneys driving Cabs, Science majors cleaning floors its all too common

This doesn't negate what I said. My statment and your statement can both be true. There are roughly about 1.5 million lawyers in the US. How many of those are unemployed, or underemployed? Say that number is 1% - that would be about 15,000 lawyers. You and I may consider 15,000 to be a high number - but as a percentage it is low.

You need to come to grips with the way things are.

so weird - your mischaracterization and bad assumptions about me not withstanding - there are many things that I not knowledgeable about; but I do not try to pretend that things are not as they actually are. Not intentionally anyway.

Jonathan said...

Speaking of lawyers, let's do some math. 27% of recent graduates were underemployed or unemployed. The median starting salary is $60,000 (the mean salary was $78,000 so there are folks out there who are starting in the 90k to 100k range, but then there are lots who are lower). The average school debt is $100k. At the low 3.8% government subsidized interest rate, that's $1000/month for 10 years. Your monthly take home pay is around $3,336, which means a full third of your check goes to pay off your debt.

The point here is not to feel sorry for all the poor lawyers out there, many do quite well obviously, but when you look at your life/career through the lens of how much free time and stress you have for a given career choice, clearly some poor grad who's working 80 hours a week with crushing debt living in a 1 bed apartment but is a "lawyer" probably has a markedly lower quality life of say someone making $30k a year, only working 40 hours a week, drives a 15 year old paid off car, and has zero debt.

Examinator said...

My most profound apologies.
I made no assumptions about you personally much less a put down.
I did make the link any degree that is paid for i.e. not subsidised as in from a publicly funded institution. I extended it to include those too

Lawyers etc. were examples I know of. Two years ago (just before Christmas), a large Law firm retrenched 100 'associates' in 3 cities to maintain the partners profit.
I've seen the same take place in Medical corporations/ large practices. And the IT industry.
I've seen 'partners' use non partners to build up business then dump them many times. See ownership ALL client lists and exclusion clauses in associate's contracts.

The meta point I was making (albeit poorly) was that Working/ study(a degree) hard does NOT guarantee of a job/career. Capitalism does not = a meritocracy. THAT IS A RIGHT WING FANTASY. Designed spin to give the average people hope.

This point the average right winger doesn't recognise but the powers that be do.
There is a fair amount of research data that shows that disharmony in a society increases with the perceived power/wealth difference between those at the bottom and those at the top.
Communism, Socialism, Democracy are systems to address that by increasing equity (as opposed to equality) for all people.
History is full of examples when the gap becomes too large there is a popular revolution.
See the fall of Roman kings, Emperors, Mayan culture, English born to rule kings, French revolution even US revolution ad nauseum.

This point was also the bargaining 'stick' in the 'New deal', German and Japan's reconstruction. Leave them in poverty and you have a risk they'll become a risk latter (best seen in the nationalistic consequences to the 1919 treaty of Versailles) . Much of the US' north/south conflict is because of this perceived disparity, likewise the Black/white, male/conflict of today.
Consider for a moment when was the average white right wingers perceived halcyon days for the US, Australia...(American dream) etc. Answer... the 1950's. When the average difference in wages between top management and the 'guy on the line' was about 40 to 1 (comparative lifestyle achievable).... today its over 1000's to one.
Paul, again My intention is to give a larger field of thought... not to be a smart ass...if I was I'd have the answers....I don't I'm struggling with posing the correct questions.

I've tried to offer short responses but they are taken the wrong way (bummer!).

Jonathan said...


It sounds like we both agree that hard work does not in fact guarantee success, but I wonder if you happen to think this means this indicates an intrinsically unjust system.

I use the example of lawyers to drive home a couple of points. The first is that in order to be successful, you must be adaptable. You are going to fail in life, but that's not the end of the story. You must fail, and fail often, and fail faster. You must evolve in your thinking.

And yes, evolution would be an apt parallel to how nature itself does not reward hard work. If you do not change to your environment, you will not succeed.

If you look at the link regarding lawyers, you will see an interesting distribution. There's a bunch of people who make a lot of money starting off as lawyers, and a bunch who make very little.

I think the different between my mindset and others here when they see that graph is that they see it as proof of injustice - you must have to join a firm and be in the good old boys club to make money as a lawyer starting off.

I see it as proof that there is money to be made as a lawyer starting off, but if your intent is being a lawyer, and being successful starting off, then you must both work hard, and react to your environment in order to succeed.

Yes, there are always going to be disadvantages placed upon you, and forces actively working against you. We can talk about how wrong and unfair it is, and how it's just the rich trying to bring the common man down - but what advice are we going to give an aspiring lawyer? This is what I would tell them -work your butt off in school to minimize your debt, and when you get out, continue to work hard, but do so in a smart way so that you stand out. What would you tell them?

Chad said...

This is mind blowing. How hard someone works - by itself - makes up only a portion of how much success someone may have.

At 5'10" tall I was never - no matter how hard I worked - going to play in the NBA. I was All State in hoops because of how hard I worked, but there were always going to be limits to my success. Just because Tom Jones decides that he wants to be a lawyer - decides to go to Harvard - works harder than most yet finishes in the bottom of his class - his screwed. He picked the wrong major/career path - if he owes $150k at the end of his college career then is only able to make $70k based on his talents - shame on him, only him and him. Setting aside Personal Responsibility yet again - the guidance counselors who well know that Tom will not amount to a pimple in the legal world should be held somewhat responsible for allowing him to compile $150k in debt with absolutely no talent.

I choose not to finish college - felt my calling was in sales or a sales related field and so I collected $10k in loans for 2 years of school. Obviously the right choice three ways from Sunday. My wife however - was pushed to go all the way - Masters degree in fact - collected $60k in debt. For her - in order to make what she makes she needs those accolades - its money well invested.

Speaking of investments - Paul is very right - if you don't have a silver spoon and you go to a private school - the percentage of those folks under employed is tiny. For all those wonderful Liberals getting Masters degrees in Women's Studies of the 1500's or some other Liberal Art degree that has no opportunity to pay off - I don't pity those idiots at all. They end up flipping burgers with $100k in debt and they wonder why? Or the guy that goes 8 years and barely graduates in an already diluted field of study - your going to struggle.

Examinator said...

Yup, we do agree that the system is intrinsically unjust and manipulated to advantage a few (usually "unworthy" i.e. having money is not synonymous with competence or any of the *human* 'virtues' of this society). lord Acton's dictum of power also applies to wealth and or "success")
But sadly that's where our agreement ends.

Using evolution is the, the context is a gross distortion of the concept at best.
Evolution firstly takes centuries of GRADUAL non predetermined changes in the ORGANISM due to gradual changes in the environment. In simple terms that would mean fundamental organic (genetic) changes to humans (nature?).
As “Enfants Terrible” by Jeans Cocteau and William Golding's “Lord of the Flies” clearly illustrate “Civilisation” is at best one generation deep.

In context the much heralded halcyon 50's-early 60's it was common that an average employee could expect to start work at say 15 and stay in the company until retirement. If one had higher education one was employment bullet proof. When I started work 40-50yrs with the one employer was common, by the time I finished being an employee I was the second longest serving member of staff at 6.5 years.

It should be noted that most people simply aren't emotionally or intellectually able to cope with rapid changes. Hence many resort to belief structures and rigid (out moded) thought processes. Keep in mind it took over 10 yeas for Tectonic plates to be accepted and it dates to the 1960's. Corporate Computers were Room sized and rare until the 1970's . My children were the first in the street to have access to a Kid's computer. and their homework was forbidden on printout (9pin dot matrix) because it disadvantaged others (?) early 80's.

Moore's Law has sped up change to the point ordinary people are finding it harder to adapt. In context my eldest born 83 got a degree in computing and on my insistence also got qualifications in Microelectronic Engineering (a field/ specialization that didn't exist when he was in Elementary school.) any way That took 6 years he started with the biggest company in Australia in the avionics calibrations. Who had the Aust exclusive licence in Aus for a giant “H”. Two years in it sold out to a big company for synergy. He worked hard studied other topics (added two more groups of letters after his name. We used to call his business card an eye chart) after 5 years 'H' had swallowed a competitor and it's MD became a director of “H” and introduced his brother in law as a US only dealer.

Examinator said...

Part 2
2year down the track he introduced a version of “just in time” inventory holding. i.e. forcing dealers to hold enormous levels of stock regardless of their selling them to be transferred to other dealers if they needed extra). This reduced “H” inventory stocks and allowed greater lead times and manufacturing cycles. Great for H not so for Aust dealer forced to hold unsaleable stock. Stock that was not profitable to bring back for other US dealers. To make it palatable for US dealers they eliminated exclusive international regional dealerships but barred International dealers dealing in the US. My son and 87 other staff were retrenched just before Christmas. They decided to go back to a lower skill market dumping the avionics.
Because of his employment contract he couldn't go to work for other Avionics calibrations labs nor could he go to other general calibration labs because he knew too much about his previous employer.
7 months unemployed he now runs a workshop repairing vacuum cleaners at just over half his previous wage. Now $48k. I won't go into details like his apartment mortgage, car and upcoming wedding/ honey moon. A 10 days cruise around NZ. (NB if it were a 1st prize, 2nd prize would be 3 weeks. Hardly a big deal) in short 14 years for nought.
Note the 'brother in law' up until that time he was always over due with his payments to 'H' suddenly he was able to buy and pay for more stock than any one else. He's picking off the other smaller US dealers... my guess this is a strategy cheaper by 'H' to take over retail (vertical marketing). All legal but it eliminates smaller players. Chad in fact all wage earners have the same vulnerability.

A similar thing happened to me but because my skills were more eclectic and NOT SPECIALISED I could move into consultancy. However note industry is specialising see the bit about my son's IT degree and the Indian University.

Jonathan, when Capitalists say more flexible they mean cheaper and disposable. See the casualization of labor. Australian mines are trying to import Cheaper Indian engineers and mine workers from Indonesia.
NB safety etc is lower in those countries.

My point is that $ (Capitalism/ consumerism) alone is a disaterous basis for a society. Capitalism is not only destroying the world environment by speeding profligate consumption but it is also too fast for animals/ plants and people/society to adapt.

Jon said...

Chad, I'm not in total disagreement with you. The whole post here is about how it is possible to make it in the US on meager wages. There is a personal responsibility element that I accept.

But switching gears a bit to talk about whether you should blame people or feel sorry for them, I say there's an element of truth to what you say.

But only an element, because there's another element that you're a bit indifferent to. OK, a kid goes and gets a liberal arts degree, #100K in student loan debt, and flipping burgers. It's misery. Yeah, he should have thought ahead.

But here's something you should think about. People that made similarly bad decisions 30 years ago didn't suffer in this way. Some didn't get a degree at all. Those that did maybe wasted 4 years, but they didn't finish with a mountain of debt. They could go get a factory job and have a good life. OK, they are four years behind where they would have been, but maybe that's the price they pay.

So it used to be that a bad decision like this hurt a bit, but not that much. Now a bad decision like that is crushing. People are going to make bad decisions. I think we should strive to create a system where they aren't set back 20 years for a bad decision like this, but preferably a lesser amount, like 4. Why not? We could do it.

One major difference is back then taxes on the rich were higher and schools received more public subsidy. Another thing was that deregulated finance didn't exist, so the outsourcing wasn't happening the way it is today, which is producing enormous gains for a tiny wealthy elite but hardship for the rest.

As I say, it's a separate topic, and I'm with you to some degree on personal responsibility, but we have young impressionable kids making poor decisions that are really seeing their lives wrecked. It's like jaywalking leading to a 10 year prison sentence. Yeah, it's his fault for jaywalking, but the punishment is needlessly excessive.

Jon said...

Not that I disagree with your point, Ex, that a lot of times financial hits are the result of factors beyond your control, like your son.

Examinator said...

My son was an example of what is happening in business (under Consumerist Capitalism) not intended as the topic per se.
To flesh my point out a bit further as it's an important one if the West is to survive as a Democraticesque political structure.
Frankly I wonder what parallel world Chad thinks he's in. One that the choices are so clear cut i.e. either a Jock or um sales (?). The inconsistencies in his history aside I can't see him in medical, aeronautical or high end engineering sales and a multiplicity of real technical sales. They all require Degrees.
AS I said not everyone Knows, can know where they *might * be best. And best is a relative term not every one can become a top Attorney. Likewise one can be at the top of his class and still not get a top job.
The often case is the university has a perceived ranking that can influence employment. Then there's the who you know, the old school tie etc.
Most children have no idea where they want to go and when the choice is not clear it is ridiculous to blame a course advisor for not making a clear advice to the student. The student makes the choice the advisor advises how to achieve it!
Apart from which … the best are the best BECAUSE THEY ARE A MINORITY. Is Chad suggesting that people shouldn't try?
If Chad actually read some of the information I offered he'd know that the decision part of the brain frontal cortex isn't on average mature until 24+, which is way after the child has made a choice (good or bad).
High school results aren't clear indicators of competence or ability except in the extreme cases.
Number one son excelled at Chemistry and physics but was average on all else. He was 3rd in his year on Microelectronics and 2nd in IT. Last night he told us his current boss has promoted him and increased his pay substantially. He is now in a key member of their R&D advising on technical product design improvements. Not bad for 3 months in the job.
Number 2 son had issues and was barely graduated High school but became a great Structural drafts person but had to quite because of repetitive strain injury and medical advice.... he is now halfway through an Environmental Engineering degree where he is in top end of the year. (PS he was chased for College Baseball as a pitcher but wasn't interested)
Daughter number 2 barely graduated High school but when on to do a diploma in Park ranger then to uni and now has a double degree in Environmental management and Science. Her starting package is to be seen to be believed. She married a veteran of Afghanistan and a jock. He seems to have the same mistaken issues as Chad, he is bothered that his wife is better educated than him.

Given the rapid change in technology it is impossible to know in advance what career will be the best. As I said neither the industry much less the specialization and degree existed when either I or my son were in high school so How can a Course advisor advise definitively? Perhaps there's a business opportunity for Chad, hiring out his Infallible Crystal ball! Does it know which degree is going to guarantee a mammoth wage and satisfaction as a person like his wife?
Frankly conversations of blame or pity in this context are invariably self justification and pointless.

Jonathan said...


I think we're talking about two sides of the same coin here. On the macro level, you can argue that the deck is stacked against the common man, and point out how capitalism is to blame.

You can assert malintent, and how big corporation is trying to extract all they can.

I'm not arguing that the system is great or perfect, nor am I even trying to argue that on the whole the cons outweigh the pros (that can be a different discussion).

What I am arguing however, is that even in the current environment, and especially in countries such as the US, Australia, etc, there is still ample room to find one's way, and that people tend to greatly underestimate their ability to cope or even thrive.

Why don't we look at this from a different angle to prevent getting stuck in the age old (capitalism sucks, capitalism is great) argument.

I understand your children are feeling the brunt of a situation that is no fault of their own on the job market. So what advice do you give them? Do you tell them things are just hopeless because of the injustices of capitalism, or do you tell them something else?

Me, my kids are still really young, 3 months, 2 years, and 3 years, so obviously I've got some time before they start thinking about their future, and I'm sure I've got lots to learn about their personalities, interests, etc. etc.

That being said, I try and instill in them the ability to find opportunities where they can. We just got a new dining room table (hand me down) and are getting rid of the old one. They want money to get some toys they see at the local goodwill. I'm having them clean it up and we'll take pictures and post it on craigslist. They'll get some of the proceeds from the sale.

I want my kids to think in terms of what opportunities there are before them, not in terms of getting paid because they happen to have a specific skill which used to make money. I'm not trying to imply anything about your fam. You are right, there's no way you can predict what skill are going to be useful after college, although obviously some choices are obviously better than others.

For me though, it's not even about which skills are the most marketable - it's about what are you good at and what are you passionate about, and how can you make money at this. My hope is, if my kids can identify what they love to do, and have the skills to find a way to make money at it, the environment they are working under doesn't really matter.

Examinator said...

As usual a thoughtful response.
I don't mean to say Capitalism is evil bad et al. In my opinion It's not... But what I object to is EXTREMES in ANY direction.
The point of the family tale was to illustrate to Chad that things are NEVER Binary or so simplistic that absolutes can be *sensibly* argued.

I guess the key point is we live in a society and the purpose of every society is the well being of the most of its members. Any policy that is based on 'market differentiation', 'brand' or the manufactured personality of its leader is invariably not in the interest of the majority. As such they lack legitimacy of purpose and should be rejected. In other word I reject polarised governments and special interest dominance over it.

The problem in the west is that most voters are wilfully ignorant and substitute prejudice and blind emotional self interest for reason at the cost of the society as a whole. A clear example of this is the resistance to universal health care.
What is not understood is that there are significant benefits to every member of the society in such services.
Consider this The US has the highest percentage of Drug resistant diseases viruses in the western world.... why? The breeding ground is the poverty. Most opponents to this has never seriously factored in the possible impact to Them and theirs from something as simple as a passing contact in the street or an unfortunate trip to hospital.
Again the breeding grounds are the poor who can't afford to complete antibiotics, too late diagnosed et al. Antibiotics fed to farm animals to increase weight(profit) and so on are another source.
One might even look at loss of productive labor due to sickness as in absenteeism, or sub standard performance because of inflection.

The businesses don't want to think about the flow on.....But Governments are there to consider it and come up with legislative service solutions. Businesses are only interested in short term Profit not the well being of the society.

Don't get me wrong I'm not down on businesses quite the contrary. I simply hold that as far as governments are concerned their focus should be on the PEOPLE not their tools and toys. And yes some predatory business practices need eliminating.
The right always argues from the extreme with terms like 'slippery slide' 'socialism', 'big brother' and 'stifling jobs' and a myriad of evocative, misleading but ultimately meaningless terms.

What did I tell our children? We simply raised them with as many mental agility, emotional confidence, analytic tools as we could. Now we help where we can but not necessarily financial way but as a sounding board and help to figure out solutions.
The rest is up to them. We didn't raise our children to follow our beliefs attitudes but rather to choose their own. This is obvious today in the wide range of interests/ passions they have. Parents are human and as such the notion that they are so omnipotent to equipped to dictate their children's futures is both egotistical as it is self delusional and ultimately a recipe for disaster.

Jonathan said...


All right - here's a point where we have a major difference, maybe we can take a closer look. The existence of a brand. I think you are probably thinking of it in terms of a large corporation, but I think of it in terms of an individual selling a small biz "brand". I'll hit that on another message. I wanted to address the child raising thing first as you brought up some interesting points.

As far as raising children for their beliefs, I would submit to you as a philosophical and logical point that in fact, you did raise them to embrace your values, just as everyone does. Namely, you put free thinking as a premium (as do I), and so you weighed in on this point with your kids. You didn't teach them "you should think for yourself and decide for yourself your own path, unless of course you feel that thinking for yourself is not important, in which case it's just fine that you not think for yourself but let someone think for you." In a very real sense, we all have a core of non-negotiable truths, and we impart these values to our kids to the best of our abilities. Free thinking, do unto others, don't disrepect mom, work hard, don't give up, be financially responsible, etc. etc.

Of course, the way in which one teaches and raise their children is *not* by sitting down and talking with them, but in fact they are mainly influenced by our actions. I might tell my kids they should read the bible every day, but if they never see me do it, what I'm really teaching them is "reading the bible is not important". You might feel that I should in fact not teach my kids to read their bible, that this is brainwashing, narrow minded, etc. But let me ask you this - how would I go about teaching my kids not to adopt my view even if I wanted?

If I tell my kids they can believe anything they want as long as they think for themselves, and then they see me reading my bible every morning, I am really teaching them that reading the bible is an important part of their day. Even if I were to tell them "the bible is just a myth, and daddy just reads it as a crutch based on his conservative upbringing" seeing my actions day in and day out is going to have a major impact on them, for good or bad.

So in short, when we think we are just setting our kids off on their own path to figure out the world for themselves, we simply cannot escape for good or for bad the major example we set for them by our views and actions.

Given this, suppose you do happen to adhere to an exclusivistic worldview such as myself, and you wish to impart these specific truth claims and beliefs about reality to your kids. You would not need to, as I believe you imply, "dictate" as some taskmaster your set of views, but instead by living out your beliefs by how you treat them, your wife, your neighbors, and community.

If I wish to teach my children that Christ's teachings are the way to truth and peace, trying to emulate His actions would be the best way to influence my children. You might disagree with my end goal, but I imagine we would probably both be in agreement on the method of teaching by example.

Examinator said...

As a matter of fact each of My children had bibles of their own. One even chose a graphic novel style bible.
At about 5 for the youngest 8 the eldest took them to church (meeting house ...Quakers) every Sunday until they said they didn't decided not to go any more.... I went on my own for a further month to see what they would do.
They have been to a synagogue, had milk and cookies with the rabbi's family afterwards. They've been to a mosque and had Baklava, halva with the imam and his family. They've been to Buddhist meetings and even to a Sihk wedding and a traditional Chinese one.
My daughter even went to Windsong
(a charismatic) church until they tried to pressure her to join. She's been to a trad Fijian wedding.
In short my friend if I have raised them with any set ideas they are no practical absolutes less THEY (choose to)think so.
Apart from a off beat sense of humor there is very little else that is shared by ALL of us. Each one has various traits that can be related back to each of the parents but again no ONE belief or attitude.
Well they are all a little left of centre.
Remember I don't support fossil fuel ... yet my daughter works for a coal mine. Number one son is into firearms I'm implacably anti them.
Number two son Likes Japanese culture and anime ... me I see the culture in a different context and view anime as fantasy or sanitised porn. Not a fan.
From your response you still see things in absolutes..not negotiable I don't. Yet again CONTEXT IS KEY.