Your Daily Reminder: Regulations and Job Quality Matter

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174 Responses

  1. morat20 says:

    My son, having recently embarked on the career of a working man, is learning some fun lessons himself. (He’s working minimum wage at a restaurant, a 24-7 one).

    As I told him this morning, after he ended up working a double-shift (someone else didn’t come in) and thus working from 2:00 PM Sunday through 6:00 AM Monday, he cannot do that and go to college at the same time.

    He either needs to stand up for himself or find another job. I get that he wants to be helpful and he could use the money, but he can’t work 16 hours and then go to school all day.

    He doesn’t get that, even a few months in, he’s considered ‘reliable’ (he shows up on time, doesn’t miss without calling in well ahead of time — and misses work very rarely — doesn’t goof off, is popular with customers, and is generally capable of motivating himself AND doing a good job). In fact, by minimum wage waitstaff levels he’s a golden employee. In short, standing up to his manager and saying “I cannot cover his shift, I’m sorry, I have a 9:30 AM class I’m paying plenty of money for” is not going to get him fired or cost him his regular hours.

    But it’s a pretty sad world where his manager has done this more than once, despite knowing he’s asking an 18 year old to go 30 hours without sleep — or skip out on expensive college classes.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to morat20 says:

      Can he not get a work-study job on campus? I find that these are the best for students because campus jobs know that they have to respect a student’s schedule. Though work-study jobs come with lower hours.

      “As I told him this morning, after he ended up working a double-shift (someone else didn’t come in) and thus working from 2:00 PM Sunday through 6:00 AM Monday, he cannot do that and go to college at the same time.”

      I agree with you. I suspect that fights about this are a difference in norms though. A while ago I posted an article from The Atlantic about students who work the graveyard shift at FedEx (or UPS) in Louisville. I agreed with the people who questioned how much a student could really learn while doing this kind of schedule. Others disagreed. There have also been debates on OT about what should be the norm for college. Should we encourage people to graduate in four years or should people take a ten-year plan if it means that they can pay their own way through?

      My view is that it is better for the student and the economy if we create policies where people can get their degrees in four or five years and then enter the economy. This gives people the ability to concentrate on learning and also enter the economy with better skills sooner and improve their actual careers sooner. I suspect that the ten year but pay your way plan appeals more to those who believe in “boot-strapping”. I am not enamoured with boot-strapping as a moral virtue.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        It’s not a bad job, and the money is good. Honestly, if he’d just worked ONE shift (2:00 to midnight, or eleven to 6:00 AM or whatever) he’d have done fine.

        And normally that’s what he does. But he wants to be helpful and it’s hard telling your boss “no” and bosses know that.

        Which is how, more than once, he’s ended up working over twelve hours and trying (often failing) go to class afterwards. They’re good about not scheduling him on top of his classes (that happened exactly once, and he was clear he wasn’t coming to work until his class was over and they didn’t try since), but he’s darn handy when someone doesn’t shop up for a shift.

        I think this fall he’s likely to schedule his classes earlier and move to a restaurant with a bar. better tips if there’s alcohol on the menu.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Can he not get a work-study job on campus?

        Keep in mind these kinds of positions are pretty rare compared to the number of students at a campus needing a job. He may be able to get such a job, if one becomes available.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        “A while ago I posted an article from The Atlantic about students who work the graveyard shift at FedEx (or UPS) in Louisville. I agreed with the people who questioned how much a student could really learn while doing this kind of schedule. Others disagreed.”

        And I replied to that post since… y’know, I actually worked at the exact job you mentioned here in Louisville. You didn’t respond. And maybe that is just because you don’t like to reply to my comment, in which case please feel free to ignore this one as well. The UPS schedule is easy to accommodate if you’re willing to embrace a third shift job. Millions of people do it across the country all the time. Additionally, you never explained what happens when Uncle Sam subsidizes someone’s higher education plans and they flunk out after two years. Or do we create some kind of barrier to entry for those programs?Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to morat20 says:

      I used to work the graveyard shift as a legal proofreader every now and then. I would sometimes get calls from my agency about going in for a morning shift after completing a graveyard shift. I would always say no.

      Then again, I never seemed to have that 18-year old or early 20-something sense of invincibility.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to morat20 says:

      He doesn’t get that, even a few months in, he’s considered ‘reliable’ (he shows up on time, doesn’t miss without calling in well ahead of time — and misses work very rarely — doesn’t goof off, is popular with customers, and is generally capable of motivating himself AND doing a good job).

      I grew up in a world where this was the *REAL* job requirement while the degree was just a box to have checked.

      I don’t know if that has changed that much. I don’t know if ought to hope that it has, given the various likely things it would be changing *TO*.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

        Lots of job advertisements wants self-starters but I also think a lot of people want employees that they can micromanage.

        There is also no real way to check someone has those skills until you hire them.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to morat20 says:


      That’s unfortunate. I used the be the super-reliable guy and had a hard time saying no. It took me a while to learn.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to morat20 says:

      “As I told him this morning, after he ended up working a double-shift (someone else didn’t come in) and thus working from 2:00 PM Sunday through 6:00 AM Monday, he cannot do that and go to college at the same time.”

      Spend enough time on glassdoor and similar places, and you’ll start to think that’s what’s expected of you.Report

  2. Murali says:

    You’re just begging the question here. The mere fact that the New York state government responded in a particular way does not mean job quality and regulations to ensure such are basic human rights. That’s just shitty argumentation. And as you yourself noted, these salons operate at very low margins. As a result of these emergency measures, a lot of immigrants will likely lose their jobs and livelihoods. The objection is not defeated merely because the New York state government ignores it or does not consider it a sufficiently weighty consideration in their policy calculation. This would be like taking the fact that some southern state enacts a ban on gay marriage as proof that gay marriage is an abomination. Its not and all such an enactment shows is that the legislators in that state are dicks.Report

    • Reformed Republican in reply to Murali says:

      I had the same thought. If wages are raised, will it be the immigrants who benefit, or will the increased wage attract others to the position, leaving the immigrants unemployed?Report

    • j r in reply to Murali says:

      Agree with @murali and I will add that I do not know what this sentence means:

      I think the New York Times article is proof that job quality and regulations to ensure job quality are basic human rights.

      What does it mean to say that “job quality” is a basic human right? I think this idea needs further development.Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        Yeah, but not by Saul. By someone who actually can cite some case histories.
        I mean, I’ve listened to interviews from courtesans, mistresses… I’m not certain Saul has.Report

    • zic in reply to Murali says:

      The bigger deal is the safety concerns. Nail salon workers are working with solvents and pigments; there are huge safety concerns here, particularly for fertile woman who have not yet had any children they might dream of having in their new land.

      OSHA standards ought apply to any job where someone works with solvents and glues, however.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to zic says:

        Good question, why wasn’t OSHA poking around? Nobody call them? Don’t they do spot inspections, etc.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


          According to the link from Creon Critic, there are loopholes about chemicals at salons. Untested chemicals are allowed at salons.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Not sure if I should be more concerned that workers are subjected to such chemicals without being able to read & understand an MSDS, or that consumers are paying money to be subjected to such chemicals.

            Which makes me think that loophole is probably intentional.Report

          • zic in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Women’s cosmetics are horrid. You kiss someone’s ruby-red lips and there’s some chance you’re sucking on lead.

            I do not wear makeup because of the horrors. If paint companies, I mean makeup companies, cannot even consider the health and well being of the people they market their products to; let alone the people who work in salons, and work with the stuff for hours at a time, day after day, they don’t deserve my business.

            So I walk around with a nude face and naturally graying hair.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Cuomo is reacting to the article in the expected way.

          He promises that inspectors will not be investigating the immigration status of the workers. There are other reasons to be cynical, but that was the big one that jumped out at me.Report

    • LWA in reply to Murali says:

      Again with the “higher price means less will be sold” argument.

      Which apparently never ever happens with cars, or houses or shirts or anything but labor.

      When was the last time anyone argued that if Toyota raises the price of their cars next year, they will sell fewer of them?

      Why is the prospect that maybe people will pay 11 dollars for a pedicure instead of 10 dollars so incredible?Report

      • Cardiff Kook in reply to LWA says:


        Yeah, supply and demand and price elasticities are a crock of doohickey propagated by people on the other side of the ideological divide.

        We always wanted to raise prices in the products we sold. We also found that higher prices tended to lead to worse competitive position and fewer policies sold, all else equal.

        I’ve never had a manicure, but I know my wife loves cheap ones of good quality. I do buy them for her as gifts once in a while.

        That said, I do expect the government inspectors are doing their job and ensuring that the safety and employment laws we have are observed. If not, shame on them.Report

  3. Kolohe says:

    there’s currently at least one machine that will do an inadequate job of manicuring for US $17.

    Raise the price for an adequate manicure to above 20 bucks, and I’m sure they’ll improve the machine to be a little less inadequate.Report

  4. Chris says:

    The $10.50 is somewhat deceptive, in that it likely doesn’t include a lot of what goes into a manicure, and certainly not the tip. And there definitely aren’t pedicures for that cheap. Plus, they’re constantly trying to upsell you, so whatever it is that $10.50 buys you in Manhattan, it’s meant to get you in the door. That’s the business model.

    Long story short, the prices aren’t the problem. Those stores are often pulling in a great deal of money, but the employees, who often work under awful conditions (I can barely sit in one of those places for more than a few minutes, the fumes can be overwhelming), aren’t seeing much of it.Report

  5. Kim says:

    Pedicures cost substantially more if they’re done by someone qualified to deal with portions of your nail embedded in the side of the toe.
    Or you can get a knife and do it yourself, if you’re willing to take the risk of passing out in the middle of the surgery.Report

  6. Notme says:

    Why not ship the illegals home? They wont be exploited here and it may cause wages to rise for the citizens that wont have to compete with them. Sounds like a win win.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Notme says:

      I suspect that everyone here is going to poo-poo or ignore this comment, which is a shame because I think it’s a damn valid question.

      Moreover, I think that it needs to be addressed by liberals who both oppose this kind of business model and reflexively dismiss complaints against undocumented workers.Report

      • greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        That they are undocumented makes them more vulnerable to exploitation. It would be better if they could be legal immigrants and have protections from being screwed over. They clearly want to work and are willing to put with a lot for a better life. That is the kind of immigrant we should want. Let them be legal, pay taxes, get workman’s comp, etc.Report

        • nevermoor in reply to greginak says:

          This. Immigrants add value to the economy and these are exactly the kind of people fighting for a better life who do the most good. I’m also not aware of any long lines of US citizens fighting to make a living giving $10 manicures (just as there are no such lines for seasonal farm work). Not sure why this story triggered @notme ‘s reaction, except possibly because any story about immigrants would.Report

        • Notme in reply to greginak says:


          Im glad they want to work. Im not sure and no one can seem to explain why the illegals are just as deserving as those that apply for citizenship via the legal process.Report

          • greginak in reply to Notme says:

            @notme The problem is the legal process isn’t working. It is slow, difficult and there are far more people who want to work here than the process allows. I don’t think the illegals just prefer to skip the visa process because they are dastardly. They can’t get in via the legal process. There are far more people who want to work and live here, and people who want to hire them then the process allows.Report

            • Notme in reply to greginak says:


              Ok, so there are more people that want to live here than the current laws allow. There are good reasons for that such as we cant take in everyone that wants to come here and probaly wont ever take them all. I still dont see any substantive reason to give illegals a pass over those who are obeying the law. You seem to be saying that the fact that they came here illegally shows how badly the want to live here and we should reward it.Report

              • greginak in reply to Notme says:

                @notme Illegals aren’t getting some special advantage over people who in the legal immigration system.

                How many people we can have immigrate is a good question and lots of us would say we can take far, far more people legally then we do now. That so many of them can find jobs suggests there is work for them and that they want to work. As long as we have restrictive immigration policies and jobs for immigrants we will have the problem of people trying to sneak in to the US. The people who want to work here would be better off if they could come in legally and work. The US would be better off managing a legal immigration system then trying to fight illegals. Illegal immigration brings lots of trouble ( pimps, coyotes, bosses who will take advantage of illegals,etc.) that legal immigration doesn’t have.

                We have space and work so we would better off having far more legal immigration then we do now.Report

      • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think most will respond that we shouldn’t ship them home against their will. If raising the wages and improving the working conditions of foreign laborers hurts the economy, and larger job market, then perhaps the question isn’t whether we should send them back, but what the hell’s wrong with our economy that we either need to ship in illegal workers and treat them like shit or the system breaks a bit.

        Of course, to the extent that such laws will put dents in salon owners’ profits (I don’t think they’ll put much of a dent in them, but they may put a bit of one), fewer such workers will be brought over.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I will take a stab at it. There are lots of necessary work that undocumented aliens do that most Americans will not do for a variety reasons. Working the necessary but minimal jobs in corporate agriculture is one of them. This is back breaking but necessary work since most people want to eat. Americans won’t do this work because they are often too well educated to put up with it and won’t accept the low pay.

        Americans want a lot of things cheap. This requires cheap labor. Americans would prefer to earn higher wages though. Unless we are really going to readjust our economy than undocumented aliens are here to stay.Report

        • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

          here are lots of necessary work that undocumented aliens do that most Americans will not do for a variety reasons. Working the necessary but minimal jobs in corporate agriculture is one of them. This is back breaking but necessary work since most people want to eat. Americans won’t do this work because they are often too well educated to put up with it and won’t accept the low pay.

          I find that argument very frustrating, not because it’s false….I think there’s a lot of truth to it, but because it seeks to prove too much. Most people who say the “undocumented do the work that most Americans will not do” because the pay is so poor and the jobs treat the workers so horribly are often the first people who believe that the pay should be better and the workers treated less horribly. Nothing wrong with that. But if the pay and treatment are better, then that improvement will defeat the original reason. And the argument itself seems to assume it’s a good thing that the migrant workers aren’t paid minimum wage or offered the other amenities that “Americans” demand, except for when they don’t. (Also, if the undocumented workers weren’t there, farmers would have to raise their wages to attract the “American” workers.)

          There’s also an unspoken assumption about who real “Americans” are. That argument seems to assume native-born Americans. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a solid number of agricultural workers were born in the US. The argument also seems to assume a commonality in education among “Americans.” But there used to be traditions of native-born Americans who did migrant labor, and for all I know, there still might be.

          Now, I’m referring to the “argument” and not to Lee’s intentions behind the argument. I do think he probably would like farm workers to be paid more and treated better, and he doesn’t really believe that only certain native-born Americans as “real” Americans. I’m really just trying to point out some of the logical conclusions I see behind that argument.Report

          • nevermoor in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

            While this may be a difficult theoretical issue, it’s a simple practical one. Improve conditions for workers in the US, and let the future implications take care of themselves (my guess is they would be almost entirely positive, as those employees would have more money to spend, multiplying the purely economic effect of their new benefits; to say nothing of more intangible benefits).

            One way to do that would be to providing as many different paths to citizenship (or at least permanent legal status) as possible so that the workers can be allies in efforts to improve their conditions, and no longer need to fear the government.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

            You are correct. I would like agricultural and slaughterhouse workers to get paid more and work under better conditions.

            Undocumented aliens is one way the Americans deal with all that unpleasant, unskilled buy very necessary labor that needs to be done. Very few Ameticans are uneducated enough or desperate enough to accept such work without good wages.Report

            • nevermoor in reply to LeeEsq says:

              But that work doesn’t need to be what it currently is. It could be better (and pay at least the minimum wages required by law). Farms wouldn’t go fallow if all workers actually received such treatment. I bet food prices wouldn’t even change appreciably. But if they did it would be well worth it.Report

            • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

              I’m not sure I agree with your last sentence. But otherwise, what you say rings true to me.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I answered below. I mainly admit that it was your prompt though because Notme is usually just snide in how he phrases things.

        The issue with many undocumented citizens is that they are refugees fleeing from really dangerous situations and/or the economics of their home countries is so screwed up that being exploited in the United States is better than being free in their native country. This doesn’t mean that they should be exploited though.Report

      • Damon in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        BINGO! And this from one of your resident libertarian leaning posters…

        But it’s not in anyone’s interest (anyone being defined as politicians/business/etc.) because the conservatives want the cheap labor, and the liberals want to help the wretched poor of some other country.

        But this really doesn’t have anything to do with good jobs or bad jobs. It has to deal with exploitation, plain and simple.Report

        • LWA in reply to Damon says:

          I do have to comment on the logic at work here:
          1. “Lets use the power of government to create regulation as to who can work where, then use the coercive power of government to forcibly expel some workers, fill the vacant jobs previously done by Chinese workers with higher priced American workers, which in turn will raise the price of pedicures”.

          2. “But we can’t raise the minimum wage! That would be coercive, force prices higher, and artificially distort the marketplace!”

          Apparently government coercion and regulation and marketplace distortion are just fine for some things, but not for others. Maybe we need a map or diagram.Report

          • Damon in reply to LWA says:


            RE 1 & 2: I was not suggesting that we use ” the power of government to create regulation as to who can work where, then use the coercive power of government to forcibly expel some workers, fill the vacant jobs previously done by Chinese workers with higher priced American workers, which in turn will raise the price of pedicures”.” Generally, as a libertarian-ish guy, you’d assume I’d be in support of immigration, but I generally disagree with that, and I’ve said that before. America should decide who and when we let folks in, especially when we have a welfare system. But I do fall into the rest of the libertarian mold re regulations/markets, etc.

            However, my comment about “exploitation” was this: these workers weren’t even being paid minimum wage, weren’t paid overtime, and the shops were in violation of all kinds of regulations. We can argue all we want about what SHOULD be the regulations and laws, and what we SHOULD change, but these are the ones on the books. It’s one thing to violate laws that don’t harm anyone. It’s entirely another to violate laws that actually inflict harm on someone.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly @notme

        Are we sure that all of the workers are undocumented?

        If we are, I think the better solution is to give them a status that would confer on them identical rights with regards to employment as citizens*. If employers can’t exploit workers because there are legal protections in place, eventually they (or most of them) will stop. If they stop — if jobs are decent enough — there will be greater competition for them among folks, both citizen and otherwise. If there are less positions for non-citizens than they will turn to other industries or, maybe, immigration will decrease. This seems preferable to mass deportation.

        * I’ll dodge the question of whether they should have all the same rights at citizens as that is a different nut to crack.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

          @kazzy “Are we sure that all of the workers are undocumented?”

          I believe that the OP stated that most of them were, not all. (Though I don’t know that this distinction reduces the need for squaring of the circle I referred to.)

          As to your answer, I’m not sure that it will do much good.

          I’ve written about this before, but the biggest problem with undocumented workers (or if you prefer, illegal aliens) rarely gets addressed, because it makes those pushing each of the competing major party talking points on the subject look bad. One side wants UWs to be painted as good hardworking folks looking for liberty and doing the jobs Americans son’t want to do; the other as opportunistic criminals coming to steal Americans’ livelihoods. But the truth is UWs thrive because it allows us to have a workforce of largely disposable humans, that lower all kinds of frictional costs that mean we have to pay less for things.

          The story Saul is writing about in the OP didn’t happen because people was paying attention; it happened because that’s why we have UWs in the workforce to begin with.Report

          • nevermoor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I’m confused by your BSDI narrative.

            I’ll freely grant that this situation developed because a lot of people looked the other way. But then it was exposed. And now the liberal reaction (and not just internet commenters, actual politicians in power!) is to help these people get out of exploitative situations.

            Also, I’m not sure what universe supports your use of the word “thrive” in combination with undocumented immigrants who work that job for $10/day.

            Finally, aren’t these people living EXACTLY the sort of bootstrap-lifting lives conservatives love to pretend they support? Coming from the kind of nothing that no one in this country could imagine with the hope that they have the raw physical endurance to create a better world for themselves (or, more realistically, their kids)?Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


            I’m not quite sure I follow. Is your argument that the biggest problem with addressing the undocumented worker situation is that most Americans — on both sides — aren’t willing to accept the likely outcome of $25 manicures and $8 heads of lettuce (either because we’ve removed the undocumented workers and have to pay Americans real wages or because we’ve given them rights and have to pay them real wages)? That is to say, we depend on the status quo.

            I want to make sure I understand before responding.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

              @kazzy Well, yes and no. I’m going to ask your patience as I think out loud a bit here, rather than give you a definitive answer of What Must Be Done.

              I don’t actually think that most people (or at least those who aren’t in charge of the levers of either the state or business) think that much about where the things they buy come from, or why they can afford so much of them. In fact, I think most people — liberals and conservatives alike — support all kinds of potential changes that would surely increase the cost in the products and services they consume while never considering that the cost of the products and services they consume will increase.

              (Pre-ACA health insurance is a great example of this. For decades, consumers demanded regulations that forced insurers to include all kinds of things that were not previously covered — mental health, diabetes, pregnancy and pre-natal care, end-of-life treatments, etc. After each subsequent victory, there was subsequent outrage and sincere disbelief that successive premiums increased.)

              Over in Will’s post on the UK, @leeesq said that Israel was a great example of how a nation can accept refugees into its fold, because it did a fabulous job of doing just that with Jewish immigrants when it was founded. (Stay with me for a minute — I’m actually going to tie this together eventually.) I noted there that Israel is not a very good model, because in that case you were asking people to accept and financially support people they saw as members of their own tribe — which is a very different thing than asking people to openly accept and financially support new peoples the population tends to view as Other.

              In the United States, we don’t have the same issues of open hostility toward UWs/IAs that other nations do — or at least we do not to anywhere near the same degree. This, I would argue, is because we largely treat ours as something akin to slaves or indentured servants. We accept them being here because they will do jobs that are dangerous, cause long-term chronic issues and illnesses, or that most of us tend to just generally believe are “beneath” us. And a big part of the reason we’re happy to look the other way is that they do it for so very, very little compensation, and so the goods and services they help provide become things we can afford to purchase.

              For example, when I was a kid middle and upper middle class families largely didn’t hire housekeepers, nannies, or gardeners for their homes because the cost was so prohibitive. Employing people to do any of those tasks in one’s home — save, perhaps, paying a neighborhood teenager looking to make some extra money a few bucks — was a pipe dream realized only by the rich. Now it’s not uncommon for even lower-middle class households to hire people to do some of those tasks, at least some of the time. And we collectively do so knowing (or willfully choosing to ignore the fact) that the reason we can afford to do so is that we are hiring people who are are are essentially living off of indentured servant wages, and that because of this they often are forced to live in conditions we would find criminal were they forced upon members of our own tribe. And we justify it by saying, “Well, it’s a lot of money for *them*.” Or, “those people like living 20-people to a one bedroom apartment, because they just don’t know any better.”

              Now that so many UWs are here, however, it puts us between something of a rock and a hard place.

              Were we to follow Mike’s suggestion (and FTR, that is the way I lean), we’re not just talking about the cost of subsidizing a safety net and community college classes. We’re also talking about having a whole class of people we have come to depend on as being close to slave labor for us suddenly needing to be paid real living wages, with actual benefits. This means that many of the awesome things we love to buy and services we are grateful not to have to do for ourselves are things we can no longer afford. Moreover, it means that all of those people are now suddenly competing for jobs that *we* want, and often forcing *us* into those jobs that are dangerous, cause chronic issues, and we feel are “beneath us.”

              On the one hand, that’s all quite wonderful for those of us who are rightly horrified when we look in the mirror and see what we truly are, as opposed to what we think of ourselves as being. ‘Yay progress’ and all that.


              History — and the rest of the modern world — shows us that when we have large numbers of Others disrupting our lives, we human beings aren’t so Kumbaya about it. In fact, we become resentful, vindictive, and even violent — and we usually sanction the State to be these things as well. Hell, it’s been 150 years since we decided to rethink the way we abused another minority Other for our commercial interests, and we’re *still* finding ways to punish them for no longer making things easier, cheaper, and more profitable for us.

              That’s why I’m to so dismissive about notme’s question about sending UWs back home. I don’t know that I agree with it, but considering the likely alternatives I think it needs to be seriously considered. Mike’s idea appeals to me more than any other, but I also recognize that my supporting it largely requires me to have faith that Americans in 2016 and on will be able to buck both history and human nature and embrace these new citizens over time, rather than make them into the more of a Public Enemy than they already are to some.

              I have little faith we will do so.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Crap, that was a long-ass comment. Probably should have just put it up as a separate post.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                If this were the case, then I think that path to citizenship or work permits would be far more unpopular than they are, and would be unpopular with a different set of people. Instead, they’re mostly unpopular with people who want to stop them from coming here in the first place, and most everybody else falls in between “the more the merrier” with support for documentation and others with some rather deeply (and genuinely) conflicted sentiments.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


                I think I’m following and don’t have much to say other than a society build upon an exploited underclass systematically denied rights and access to the rest of society seems inherently immoral.

                Whether that would move the needle of enough people to sacrifice many of the trappings that that society provides remains the question. Like you, I’m not optimistic…Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                Move the needle in what direction?

                It just doesn’t strike me as an accurate depiction of events to suggest that the current state of affairs on immigration was a deliberate set of policy decisions. Rather, it’s the collision between two broad coalition, those who would keep them out and those who want to let them in with all or most of the benefits accorded to Americans. Combine that with a system of government that requires a degree of consensus to act, and conflicting moral instincts on the part of those in neither camp, and we’re left a state of affairs depicted more by inaction (a failure to keep them out, a failure to truly bring them in) than anything else.Report

        • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

          I’m with @kazzy. If you are legitimately worried about people who are undocumented or otherwise existing in the black and gray markets, the least effective thing that you can do is to further crack down on those black and gray markets. The best thing to do is to bring those markets out into the open.

          The other problem with @notme’s comment is that it implies that shipping “the illegals home” is just a matter of political will. That statement means about as much as saying, “why not get rid of the illegal drug trade” or “why not crack down on street crime?”Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

          We could grant them to right to incorporate, which would give them all the right of citizens, plus favorable tax treatment.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Notme says:

      We tried starting a business outsourcing the Mani/Pedi to lower wage 3rd world geographies, but the re-attachment surgery crushed our margins. The actual work though was outstanding. Each toe was like a tiny work of art… which led to other shrinkage problems…and some *very* unhappy customers. Now we’ve built an app that doesn’t actually change the appearance of you toes/fingers, but every selfie you take looks like they’ve been perfectly manicured. We call it the iPed.Report

    • North in reply to Notme says:

      Too expensive. Not even republicans want to pay what it’d cost to ship all illegal immigrants home. That is setting aside every practical question about identification, imprisonment and transportation and of course all the moral questions.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

        ICE frequently mistakes legal aliens or even native born citizens for undocumented aliens. Plus you have to figure out what to do with the citizen children of undocumented aliens.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

        Has there ever been a country that handled a refuge crisis well?Report

          • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Damn it, you just made me spit coke. That’s your darkest joke ever.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

              If you consider the number of Jewish refugees from all over the world it’s absorbed, it’s true.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:


                Everyone thinks Israel is being horrible for their handling of refugees from Africa especially Eritrea. The same people have very little to say about how Europe and Australia handle their own refugee situations poorly. Cause Israel just gotta be criticized.Report

              • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                No one has ever criticized European countries for their handling of African refugees. Ever.Report

              • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Well, then, It’s a good fucking thing I’m not everyone, ain’t it?
                You, Mr. White Knight Liberal, ain’t exactly banned from Australia are you now?

                I’ve spoken out against genocide before, and I’ll speak out about it again.

                If you MUST criticize Israel, criticize them for going after peaceful protestors as traitors.Report

              • Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Dark jokes indeed.
                I think I might write more, but I’m worried you might believe me.
                (Chris thinks I listen to people spinning yarns, and Saul thinks I’m crazy, I’m pretty sure (dammit, I didn’t make up the pot smoking elmo!), but you might actually listen…).Report

              • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Certainly. The way you handle a refugee crisis well is, you give the refugees a world-class military and have them kick the people already living where you’re resettling them out. In other words, you handle a refugee crisis by creating separate refugee crises with millions of refugees in other countries and, ultimately, in your own. What a well-handled refugee crisis looks like.

                But I digress.Report

              • Kim in reply to Chris says:

                A worldclass military?
                Please. Iran could destroy Israel with one hand tied behind its back.
                No need for an invasion even.
                (No, Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons either.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Kim says:

                Iran could destroy Israel with one hand tied behind its back.

                A statement only made by someone who hasn’t the slightest idea what she’s talking about.Report

              • Kim in reply to Chris says:

                Ask yourself this — how large is Israel?
                How many commercial airports?
                How many water supplies?

                Have you got it yet?

                I imagine there would be major consequences for Iran, of course. It’s not called a cost-benefit equation for no reason, you know.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kim says:

                And one of those reasons might be a new Iranian Revolution, mind.
                But Iran’s not destroying Israel because they /can’t/.
                They’re not destroying Israel because it’s a bad policy move.

                We should be more wary of people who are unlikely to think about “bad policy moves” in rational manners.

                But that’s not Iran.

                Give you a fiver if you can tell me which country it is, though… (Country more likely than Iran to fire a Nuclear Weapon at Israel).Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

                Mondoweiss is not exactly a source that is going to convince anyone who believes in the existence of Israel and in Zionism. His clear solution is for Israel to disappear.

                Seriously, the anti-Zionists just don’t have any answer to what the Jews who survived the Holocaust but were still clearly unwelcome in Europe and the rest of the Western world were supposed to do. The anti-Zionists just seem angry that Jews were able to do something about their situation and self-realize a place of their own.

                Do you know how much 19th century writing was dedicated to hating the Jews for not being really French, not being really German, English, American, etc. Do you know how often staelessness was used as a reason to kick Jews down? Do you care or do you just take the Marxist take that anti-Semitism will only end when religion ends and Jews are not really a minority?

                “It seems that all of Jewry, high and low, congregated beneath the udder of this cow. In the disaster that cost so many French their savings and so many good deputies their reputations, one encounters Jews wherever one turns. They were the authors of this foul mess…..

                From The Age of Unreason: France 1914-1940 by Frederic Brown pages 57-58.

                This is only one of many quotes showing how Jews were viewed has the constant ruiners of Europe. Yet none of this ever seems to matter to Mondoweiss or the anti-Zionist crowd. Anti-Semitism is always ignored or explained away. Europe could never get their act together on the Jews and the anti-Zionists take it out on the Jews for dealing with the situation.

                Do you realize that the revionist Zionists organizations formed in 1930s Europe under the same (if not worse) siege circumstances that the Black Panthers felt in the 1960s?Report

              • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                If at some point you decide to address anything I’ve said (instead of going off on your tangent), I’d suggest either emailing me or saving it for a separate thread, as this is more than a bit of a digression, for which I apologize.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                @saul-degraw don’t forget the hundreds of thousands of Jews from MENA and the tens of thousands from Ethiopia and India.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:


                * grant refugees citizenship
                * provide them access to the social safety net
                * provide intensive language instruction for people unfamiliar with the national language
                * provide job training for those without marketable skillsReport

              • LeeEsq in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                @mike-schilling is right. Israel absorbed, housed, and fed 700,000 Jewish refugees in the first four years of its existence. This was right after fighting for its dear life. In the 1990s, Israel absorbed a million immigrants when it was a country of around five million in 1990.Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                To it’s everlasting detriment.
                by the way, do we even care about all the immigrants from America?
                If you’re just citing pure immigration statistics, that’s kinda shitty.
                Also, are we bothering to factor in the emigration statistics from the West Bank? I’m not certain it’s quite kosher to just look at white immigration to South Africa without taking into account black emigration…Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq Mike may indeed be right, but regardless I don’t think Israel should be looked to as an example. The circumstances there were very specific, and it largely worked because so many of the people involved saw themselves as all being part of the same tribe.

                It’s a little trickier to do when the incumbents think of the refugees as being part of an entirely different tribe — and for that matter, when from the the refugees point of view they aren’t there because they chose to be but because they were forced to be.

                In those cases, the incumbents don’t tend to be as happy to pay for safety nets, education, and job training, and the newbies don’t always see it as a privilege to abandon their language and culture in favor of the ones belonging to the land where they were driven against their will.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                You are probably right. Israel is a unique case because it’s purpose is to be a Jewish refugee accepter among other things.Report

              • Notme in reply to LeeEsq says:


                Tell me, did Israel do that on their own or with billions in u.s. aid?Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Notme says:

                Israel did not receive substantial US aid until 1967. Most of it came after the treaty with Egypt. Most refugees were absorbed before hand.Report

              • Notme in reply to LeeEsq says:


                Thats not the time frame your post states. Were you wrong then or now?Report

            • Kim in reply to Chris says:

              Just ask the schvartz!
              (Topical joke is topical).Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Notme says:

      North brings up the strictly utilitarian argument.

      I would also point out that many undocumented citizens are effectively stateless because they come from persecuted minorities and/or countries where rule of law has essentially broken down. We would be putting their lives in extreme danger if they were sent back. Sometimes this happens:

  7. Creon Critic says:

    I want to highlight a point that didn’t come across in the original post, that I’m only aware of because the Times journalist was interviewed on WNYC this morning (not because I’ve closely followed the NYT’s series).

    There’s a whole job quality element that’s rather shocking in the treatment of these workers. I mean, the journalist described a racial hierarchy with pretty, young Korean workers at the top and Hispanic or other races at the bottom – with assignments (and pay) demarcated by race – and further, in some instances the Hispanic workers being essentially prohibited from speaking on the job. Whatever the economics of the circumstances (and I’m pretty much with the original post on being highly suspicious of eroding workers’ rights with the promise of more, low quality jobs), the abuses these workers suffer deserve to be called out. I mean, IIRC, the journalist mentioned working with chemicals and resulting miscarriages and other ill-impacts to health. There is absolutely no reason to celebrate, support, or countenance labor standards that permit those abuses – no one should suffer through that kind of a bad job to get to a good job. And it is an affront to basic human rights that these workers have been treated in this manner.



  8. zic says:


    Do you build models? Paint cars? Seriously, the problem is NOT JUST WAGES.

    It’s safety. Manicurists work with some dangerous stuff that causes cancers, birth defects, and infertility. There are safe-handling rules that apply. It is more expensive to the rest of us if these women have these health issues.

    Three ingredients of particular concern in many nail polishes are toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate, which have been linked to reproductive harm including miscarriages, infertility, and birth defects, as well as cancer. Further, exposure to strong solvents used to remove nail polish can lead to immediate side effects such as nose, throat, lung, skin and eye irritation, as well as headaches, dizziness and confusion.


  9. I still need to think on this OP and read the comments, but in response to this,

    is proof that job quality and regulations to ensure job quality are basic human rights….This is also proof that government is needed to ensure worker safety and decent work-conditions

    I’d like to draw your attention to what I wrote here:

    I’m talking primarily about hours and wages regulations. Safety regulations and regulations against “negative externalities” are a different concern. And while I believe that those regulations’ effect on jobs should be taken into account, I’m much more willing to endorse them even if they cost jobs. Sometimes an hours or wages regulation might have effects on safety or externalities, and if such effects are demonstrable and direct, I’ll see that as an argument in its favor.

    Edited to add:


    Adding a tip jar might give workers some extra money but it doesn’t prevent long hours and bosses getting around minimum wage laws.

    Is one of the reasons I’m skeptical of minimum wage laws. I believe that in the extreme, bosses might try to get around them and we’ll have the two-tiered economy, one “legitimate” and one “off the books.”Report

    • nevermoor in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      And when companies do that to folks with legal remedies, they take those remedies. There is a lot of minimum-wage litigation out there.

      And of, course, the argument that we shouldn’t have laws we agree with because they might not always be followed is pretty week. If your real objection is you don’t like minimum wages for some other reason, let’s talk about that other reason.Report

      • @nevermoor

        You’re right, the fact that such laws will be imperfectly followed is weak sauce for an objection. I am worried that if the minimum is too high, it could lead to two-tiered economy. But I also don’t think any of the minimum wage increases on offer are so high that it would seriously aggravate off the books employment.

        The main reasons for my reservations about raising the minimum wage and other wage/hours regulations are in the blog comment I linked to above. (But note, I don’t have the same reservations about health and safety regulations, contrary to what @saul-degraw erroneously suggests). And I’m not 100% opposed to all minimum wage increases.Report

        • nevermoor in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

          I think the actual amount of a minimum wage needs to vary by geography (with a lowest-common-denominator federal wage). Here in the Bay Area, nation-leading minimum wages mean something entirely different than they would elsewhere, and it isn’t a policy that needs to be uniformly adopted.

          I’m just saying that we shouldn’t avoid whatever the right number is because we worry it would be skirted. Especially something like this were any employer with a policy of skirting is clearly harming his employees and running afoul of a lot of easily-enforced laws. The only way they don’t get caught is if the workers are too scared to complain, and that’s a problem we should be addressing either way.Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to nevermoor says:

            I think the actual amount of a minimum wage needs to vary by geography…

            I was really happy to see that you used “by geography” rather than the much more common “by state”. Even within states, there is often a very large urban/rural divide. $15/hour may be appropriate in San Francisco; it’s almost certainly not in extreme northern California. OTOH, I worry that allowing such differences creates various perverse incentives, such as firms locating just on the other side of the dividing line.Report

            • I think most minimum wage jobs are pretty space-dependent. You might see some alignment for places directly on the county line, but I don’t think anyone is going to move too far.

              Plus, employees will gave access to jobs on both sides of the line, so there may be at least some pressure to close the gap at least some.

              I think both state and counties have a role. And the feds, though a lesser one.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Perhaps this is a case of the data is just not there, but something like this would be a good idea:

              Create a cost of living factor. Choose a baseline location by zip code and using public data, compute a cost of living index that is equal to 1 for that zip code.

              Adjust factors such as Minimum Wage, pension benefits, etc, even standard tax deductions by that factor.

              The use of zip codes should alleviate most of the line hunting, since except in very few cases, the delta between adjacent zip codes should not be much, so the factor in DC might be 3, 2.5 in Gainesville, VA, and close to 1 along the I-81, but the jump from region to region should be in the range of 0.1 to 0.2 in most places.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


      I am going to sign on with @nevermoor in saying that arguments that people won’t follow certain laws and regulations is really weak sauce. Do you propose getting rid of laws against arson because there are always going to be pyromaniacs? Why are laws that are meant to treat the employees and workers always treated as the exception to this truism?

      Nevermoor correctly notes that there is a lot of wage and hour legislation out there. These lawsuits are usually among the easiest out there to prove and follow a very predictable “Does it quack like a duck formula?” The presence of minimum wage laws allows employees to sue for their back wages. These laws keep employers to the line. Same with OSHA and workplace safety laws.Report

      • @saul-degraw

        Actually, I was the one who said they were weak sauce.

        Edited to add: But still, point taken.Report

      • Autolukos in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t find arson laws an illuminating comparison, because at least part of the argument for minimum wage laws is that they promote desirable distributive consequences. These consequences hinge on people actually receiving the wage rather than becoming informal workers. Certainly, the mere existence of evasion is not a reason to oppose all minimum wage laws, but if a higher rate is accompanied by more evasion, there is a real tradeoff to consider.Report

        • morat20 in reply to Autolukos says:

          Depends on enforcement levels and costs associated with that. It might take only a minimal change in enforcement levels — or enforcement levels might already be too low.

          I do agree that there obviously exists laws and regulations (or potential changes to such) such that you can’t (in a cost effective manner) enforcement hard enough because the incentives to cheat are so high.

          But there also exist such places where enforcement levels are simply too low — Texas, for instance, loves the idea of ‘self-enforcement’. Strangely, while cheap random spot audits generate compliance, self-enforcement rarely does.Report

  10. Will H. says:

    I’ve yet to go through the comments myself (though I will when I get home), but here are my initial thoughts:

    I’ve seen both models enacted regionally; low wages-low prices, and high wages-high prices.
    The people in the high wage-high price areas tend to live a lot better, and I can’t think of a single exception.

    One thing I hated about being a trades journeyman was that six 10’s has become the standard work week.

    Talking to some of the old timers, I was told that Saturdays were double-time in the old days. Direct quote here: “Once they made Saturdays time-and-a-half, you couldn’t run away from them.”

    I worked other jobs in my pre-union days where employers got around that sort of thing by contracts and piece work.
    I’m wondering how long it will take to get legislation requiring employers to pay an alternative wage equal to the minimum required by law to employees under contract, those paid by piece, and those receiving a portion of wages in tips.
    I would like to see employers required to declare that information on check stubs as well.Report

    • Cardiff Kook in reply to Will H. says:


      Is your comment that all else equal higher wages is better than lower wages? If so, it is a pointless statement. We would all agree.

      I therefore assume you are stating that government mandated higher wages is better than non mandated wages, or something such. I do not believe this is true. The U.S. has some of the lowest minimum wages and our standards of living are among the best of all countries, and are definitely much higher than large nations with similar population mixes. On a state level, open shop states have higher growth rates and higher cost of living adjusted income levels. I am not sure how minimum wages plays out by state, but I doubt it is clear-cut in favor of your assumptions.

      I suspect you subscribe to some type of wages are set by fiat, or power mindset. Wages are a price. Prices are set based upon supply and demand, and in this case these are things which are affected by productivity and the supply of alternatives (alternative workers here or elsewhere, alt technologies, al business practices, etc).

      The guilds subscribed to this mentality for centuries, demanding higher wages for themselves at the expense of the community at large. Everyone beggared each other and living standards were about a thousand dollars a year for the entire period. Economic prosperity occured when people started to see the foolishness of this zero sum game.

      I find it odd that new versions of this dysfunctional and totally disproven philosophy are re-emerging.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Cardiff Kook says:

        It’s nothing like that at all.
        I say that simply as a matter of having actually resided in fourteen different states (that’s the “journey” part of “journeyman”).
        Some states are high wage and high cost. Those states tend to be much more affluent, and the people live better, than in those states which are low wage and low cost.

        People in New Lenox, Ill. tend to live better than people in Gillespie, Ill., etc. ad infinitum.Report

        • Cardiff Kook in reply to Will H. says:

          I’ve only lived in ten metropolitan areas, so you got me beat.

          Here is the comparison of cost of living adjusted incomes by area.

          And a quote.

          “But wages are just one part of the equation — high prices in those East and West Coast cities mean the fat paychecks aren’t necessarily getting the locals ahead. When cost of living is factored in, most of the places that boast the highest effective pay turn out to be in the less celebrated and less expensive middle part of the country. ”

          One of the places I lived was indeed the number one location on the list…Houston. A dollar goes a lot further there.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Cardiff Kook says:

            Not true.
            The price of milk is pretty much the same from one place to another.
            Same with bread, etc.

            The real difference is in the cost of housing.

            When people make enough money to pay for a 900-sq. ft. apartment at $1200/mo., they’re not likely hurting for milk or bread. In fact, the milk & bread seem comparatively cheaper.

            That’s one reason you see more American retirees in Nicaragua than Nicaraguan retirees in America.

            There’s nothing subjective about it.

            And the cost of transportation can be quite high in places.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Will H. says:

          Depends on how low a wage you’re talking. And, for that matter, how high cost. And how we define live better.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Will Truman says:

            I get what you’re saying here, but there are times when middle-of-the-road doesn’t make for good comparisons.

            I suppose that’s one reason no one ever worries too much about the educational opportunities for that 0.3 child in the average 2.3 children per family.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Will H. says:

              Well, I haven’t lived in as many places as you’ve lived, but there are some low-cost/wage places are genuinely better than high-cost/wage places, and some that are considerably worse. It really is not infrequent for the wage boost to completely and utterly fail to compensate for the increased cost of living. On the other hand, it’s also common for really inexpensive places to have little or nothing in the way of jobs (especially in rural and depressed areas).

              The low-wage/cost scenario in Dallas is different from that in Toledo. The high-wage/cost scenario is different in San Jose than it is in San Francisco.

              A lot of people labor under the impression that it all evens out in the end. Sometimes it does, but it really often doesn’t. It’s not just real estate (Almost everything is more expensive in SF than Dallas), though real estate alone makes a pretty huge difference.Report

              • Road Scholar in reply to Will Truman says:

                Well, I’ve lived in eight different states and, as I’m sure everyone here is aware by now, I tend to get around. Something about my job. @will-h is correct here; the primary driver of COL disparities is housing, i.e., rents. And since businesses also face higher rents in higher COL areas, other prices also tend to be somewhat higher to compensate as @will-truman indicates. But that secondary effect on general prices is much less than the primary disparity in housing prices.

                Part of the reason is that rent is only one of many cost factors a business pays so a doubling of rent does not entail a doubling of total costs. (The same logic applies to wages, BTW.) The second reason is that implicit in the higher rent is a higher volume of business. This makes the business more “efficient” in the sense of spreading the fixed costs over a higher volume of transactions.

                Bottom line is that I don’t notice much of a difference in the price of incidentals from one area of the country to another. Cigarettes are the big exception but that’s about taxes. I also don’t spend much time in the downtown areas where the rents *really* spike. I suppose if I kept careful records, which I don’t have the patience for, I could tease out statistically significant patterns but the fact that I would have to resort to such measures is sorta proof of what I’m saying to begin with.Report

              • Right, most of the higher other prices are (diminished) echoes of real estate. Auto insurance can be (though is not always) an exception, though that varies according to a lot of factors. On the other hand, rural areas, while cheaper in the overall, sometimes have to pay more for groceries (Which I think is what WillH was getting at, though rural/urban matters more than wage/cost.)Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will Truman says:

                I forgot about auto insurance in the tally.
                I was thinking more of the price of gas.
                In some places (looking at you, Terre Haute), gas prices can vary significantly from one part of town to another, so it’s less of an issue.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Road Scholar says:

                What I’m getting at is that things like new cars and big-screen TVs cost about the same all over and thus more common in high wage areas, while variation in actual living expenses (minus housing and transportation) a fairly small.

                Still ticks me off that I can get any size coffee at Luke’s in Indiana for $1, while they want $1.79 in certain places which shall remain unnamed, even with their sh!tty water.

                But, generally. A trend is only a trend, and it is almost as certain there will be outliers.Report

              • Cardiff Kook in reply to Road Scholar says:

                what pert of the study on adjusted standards of living did you disagree with then? Or is it just something you find inconvenient!Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:


                I largely agree with what you wrote here. The big issue with the idea of high cost of living and high wage areas vs. low cost of living and low wage areas is also filled with a lot of subjective factors. Both of us have pretty different wants and desires in our preferred environments.

                What seems to happen is that this becomes a low-grade culture war in which people get probably way too upset at someone not wanting their preferred mode of living.

                A friend of mine is a journalist in the northern NYC suburbs. She writes a lot of lifestyle and culture stories for the area and is willing to use social media for research. Her area has some of the highest local taxes in New York State. She once asked whether the high property taxes were worth it as a cost of living in the area.

                A lot of people said yes. And a lot said no. The people who said no moved to lower-cost cities and towns in areas around the Carolinas and talked about how much space they got and the sizes of their houses.

                This perplexes me. I would like to move into something bigger than my one bedroom apartment (which is substantially sized for a one-bedroom) but I never got the obsession with having houses with huge amounts of square footage for three-five people. 2000-2500 square feet is pretty decent and I would rather have access to award-winning art and performance (like my beloved BAM) over a mega-sized house with 4000 square feet or more.

                Then again we seem to be in an age when people like just staying at home with Netflix and theatre and performance are opportunity costs for most even when single.

                Basically it is different strokes for different folks but both sides seem shocked that they are selling and purchased something that others don’t want.

                I also have my minimum Jewish population requirement which might or might not be reasonable. Depends on who you ask.Report

  11. Going meta for a moment…..

    This OP seems to assume that just because someone opposes minimum wage increases, they not only believe it’s a good thing people earn very little money, but that they therefore oppose all government action whatsoever to help workers. That assumption is extended even to those who don’t necessarily oppose minimum wage increases, but who openly state they have reservations about it but might support increases in some circumstances.

    Going non-meta…..

    We have gone through several discussions about whether more bad jobs is better (morally, ethically, and policy-wise) than fewer good jobs. We have also discussed whether it is better to live in a world with low wages and low prices or high wages and higher prices. I think the New York Times article is proof that job quality and regulations to ensure job quality are basic human rights.”

    The first two sentences are a mis-framing of the debate. And in this case, for once, I have to admit to some blame for the mis-framing because in my original post, to which this OP claims to be a response, I said something that sounds very much like “more bad jobs is better…than fewer good jobs.” (Actually, what I said was, “When it comes to hours and labor regulations, I favor the policy that creates more jobs, but bad ones, over the policy that leads to fewer jobs, but good ones.”) Rest assured, I think it is much, much better if we have more, better jobs altogether. I’m skeptical that certain regulations help us achieve that outcome.

    I’ll point out a few things. First, in my post that so offends the OP, I spend as much time going over the limitations of my jobs first bias as I do about its virtues. It’s almost as if only the first part of that OP was read and the second part unread. If not unread, then unacknowledged. Second, in a later post I outlined a test by which I tried to assess when and how I’d support minimum wage increases. The author of the OP here seems to have read that post because he commented several times in that thread. But he doesn’t here seem to acknowledge that I wrote it and am willing to meet him halfway.

    Another mis-framing, one for which I’m less inclined to take blame, is what I take to be the suggestion that my reluctance to endorse minimum wage increases means I don’t believe “job quality and regulations to ensure job quality” matters. I’m not sure what it means to say they’re “human rights,” and with @murali above, that strikes me as circular reasoning. I stated explicitly in my jobs first post that I’m much more willing to support health and safety regulations.

    It isn’t all about mis-framing, however. The OP’s author asks a question that needs an answer:

    Gabriel Conroy wrote in his post that he hoped bad jobs will lead to good jobs. The question is for whom. Will people in bad jobs gain enough experience to get better jobs down the road? If yes, when? Or will it just create a bunch of management roles that will never go to the workers doing the bad jobs? Why should we view the 100 dollars paid to work as economic opportunity and a sincerely free transaction instead of something that is done under coercion and duress?

    For whom, indeed? I can’t deny completely that some would benefit much, much more than others, and I’m bothered by that prospect. Also, by saying “I hope” instead of “I predict,” I’m signalling that I’m not sure what the outcome is. But still, if there are more jobs, the workers will presumably have more power to quit and change jobs. Again, I hope. I realize quitting isn’t always easy and finding a new job, even at the same skill set, isn’t always easy.

    I’ll underscore another sentence from that part I just block quoted, and here I’m going meta again:

    “Why should we view the 100 dollars paid to work as economic opportunity and a sincerely free transaction instead of something that is done under coercion and duress?”

    This is an example of a “complex question” of the order of “when did you stop beating your wife?” To my knowledge, compulsory pay-to-work schemes haven’t been in discussion in any of the OP’s regarding the minimum wage. In fact, it doesn’t directly concern the issue of minimum wage. It does concern the issue of government regulation, which would be important, if I denied that the government ever could or should regulate.

    Fortunately, I make no such denial. And let me state that forcing people to pay in order to work is bad and should be illegal in most cases. (Maybe lawyers should be required to pay for a law license, and maybe other professions should require licenses, and then the payment doesn’t go to the employer anyway. But in general, I do believe it’s a bad idea to compel people to pay to work, especially if it’s a lesser skilled job for which there’s no rational reason to require something like licensing.)

    I don’t deny there’s a lot of signalling going on in these discussions over and above the merits of a particular policy or set of policies. I can complain about being mischaracterized. But complaining just leads to “hypertension,” as the OP’s author has said elsewhere. So why don’t I point out points of common ground that I share even with the OP’s author:

    1. We both believe that workers deserve to be well treated at their place of employment.
    2. We’re both willing to consider some increase in the minimum wage and other wage and hours regulations.
    3. We both believe in government regulation of the workplace conditions for health and safety.
    4. We both would like there to be more jobs for people.
    5. We both support robust welfare provisions to care for those less fortunate.
    6. We both believe it’s generally wrong to compel people to pay in order to work.
    7. We both are ambivalent, at best, about the prospect of a two-tiered economy where one tier, occupied by the likes of him and myself, enjoys most of the benefits, while another tier, occupied by a more numerous and diverse group of people of whom the manicure workers are a part, occupy the other, less advantaged tier.
    8. We both believe workers should be free to quit their jobs when they wish.
    9. We’re both uneasy about at-will employment.

    I could probably name other points of agreement. Much of what we disagree on is how to address the issues, or when those points conflict, which one(s) should give way to others. Other points of disagreement is how we elaborate on or further define those points. For example, while we would both like there to be more jobs, I suspect the OP’s author probably puts more stringent requirements than I would on what those new jobs will be.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


      Excellent points. I would certainly support certain regulations that addressed the use of substances that were toxic or otherwise caused harm to those exposed to them. This might be in the form of bans, it might be in the forms of mandated safety equipment, it might be in the form of informed consent by the employee. However, I remain undecided on issues related to minimum wages. To look at my standing (or lackthereof) on that latter issue and assume I “oppose all government action whatsoever to help workers” is erroneous.

      For instance, above I advocate for ensuring all workers in this country certain rights, regardless of immigration status. While this is not a magic bullet, I’d say it falls firmly under the umbrella of “government action … to help workers”.

      The idea that wage requirements (which I remain undecided on) or unions (which I generally support as evidenced here:, though some may take issue with whether that really constitutes support but that seems to get us into the perfect being the enemy of the good territory) are the only way to support workers is too narrowly focused and shortsighted.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      The labor theory of value pervades a lot. It’s a theory that is really, *REALLY* easy to assume if you’re not being very careful.

      Indeed, the hardest I ever worked in my life was when I worked at the restaurant.

      The work carrying tubs of plates, wiping down tables, running food, taking orders, all that stuff was *HARD*. The days where I couldn’t so much as stop to pee between 10:30 and 2:00 outnumbered the days I could.

      I made minimum wage.

      “Well, you should have been paid more, then!” is one answer that comes up but… why? It’s not like there was any shortage of commuter college students living at home that needed a minimum wage job. Just because I worked really hard doesn’t necessarily mean I added value above and beyond my work.

      The example that brought it into clarity most recently for me was that it is perfectly possible for someone to work *REALLY* *REALLY* hard *ALL DAY* on a $20,000 car and end up with a $10,000 car. It doesn’t matter how hard the person worked, how much they tried, or how good of a job they felt they did.

      What matters is the value created or added.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Which is why Carly’s still paying off what she owes HP.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          If Carly isn’t the best example of the abject failures of magical capitalist thinking (if not out and out corruption) that we’ve seen in the last 20 years, it’s only because Mark Hurd provides a better one.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          CEOs do seem to be amazingly adept at being paid a lot for the hope of adding value. It helps to just think of CEO compensation as a form of gambling for the Board.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


            I think there are various problems with CEO overpay:

            1. This is where business-school and MBA thought gets treated like economic dogma and you have all realms of people who are willing to make pseudo-economics arguments about how CEOs are the exceptions.*

            2. Boards of Companies all seem to come from a largely small group of like-minded people and are very close knit. Board Members are CEOs or high-ups in other companies and they all seem to have gone to the same business schools together. So they are school and country club friends and it is hard to tell your friend “You are fucking up and you are gone”. Look how hard it was for American Apparel to get rid of their serial sexual harasser of a CEO even though he did things like masturbate in front of a female reporter and would go to stores and fire women he did not think were pretty enough. I think it would be interesting to see a Board of Directors pick complete outsiders for the C-Level but that will not happen. When CEOs get kicked out, they tend to be people like young Steve Jobs and he was able to come roaring back. Dov Charney also seems to be coming back.

            3. The real big culprit is that we seemingly can’t get out of the obsession with short-term quarterly profits with a few exceptions like Amazon. The prevailing thoughts seem to still think that long-term plans for growth and stability are evil.

            *One of the big problems with how various nueroscience terms coming into populace is that everyone can see the cognitive bias and faults in the arguments of their opponents but they can’t see their own cognitive bias and dissonance. So everyone has a little bit of science to use against their ideological opponents but is not strong enough to wonder “Am I being the victim of cognitive bias when thinking X or Y is the solution or correct?”Report

          • Cardiff Kook in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            This focus on CEO salaries is laughable. Why is THIS a concern rather than, say pro sports salaries, entertainer salaries, or Clinton speaking charges? Political signalling comes to mind.

            Every big corporate CEO I know has worked his ( I know no female CEOs) ass off making decisions which make a huge difference in cost and benefit to the corporation and its stakeholders (investors, employees, communities and business partners). All but one were miserable people. I pitied them and couldn’t imagine what drove them to be so lopsided in life balance.

            They are paid millions to make decisions which if even slightly marginally better than the alternatives means hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in effect. I never reported directly to a CEO, I always had at least one person between me and them in the hierarchy (such as the CMO). However, my decisions amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in effect. If I did my job extremely well, I provided value for millions of customers, and provided positive returns for hundreds of thousands of investors and improved job security and incomes for thousands of employees. And the same on the other side if I did poorly.

            In a world where superstars can command huge salaries by delivering huge benefits or, if failing, lead to disastrous losses, paying high CEO salaries is a non issue. It is simply a topic de jeure of people with a fixation on one dimensional versions of equality.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Cardiff Kook says:


              It isn’t the high salary that concerns me, it’s the guarantee of that compensation even if the CEO fails miserably (the responsibility of which belongs to the board, not the CEO – if I could get paid no matter what value I add, I’d do it!).

              It’s also the polite fiction the C-suite tells everyone that it’s all about the market determining CEO compensation values, when it’s pretty clear that CEO hiring & compensation is heavily influenced, probably majorly so, by networking and relationships at that level, relationships that are practically nepotistic. Perhaps necessarily so (only so many people in those circles, etc.), but one should not pretend that the free market is demanding such pay.Report

              • Cardiff Kook in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Funny how you seem to know more about how to spend their money than they do.

                I agree that boards do not do a perfect job of assessing talent and that any organization is subject to agency issues ( disclosure– I have been on the board of directors of two companies but never had any input on CEO hiring). I also would suggest that Hollywood does a less than perfect job of hiring actors, that the music industry does a less than perfect job, that sports owners do a less than perfect job, and that whoever pays Bill Clinton doesn’t do a perfect job either. Note how in many cases they pay well even if Bill’s speach is a bore, if the movie flops and if the record doesn’t sell.

                If your argument is that markets are not perfect. I agree. If your argument is that high CEO Salaries is a bigger issue than baseball salaries or the office supply budget of the average corporation, then I will ask you to explain why. The company I worked for spent a hell of a lot more on stationary and various office supplies than it did on salaries of the CEO. And supposedly the CEO could have a positive influence on the office supply issue. Indeed, they could have effects hundreds of times larger than their salary. That is why they were paid well and is also why their tenure is so brief. Most fail.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Cardiff Kook says:


                Just to be clear, I think entertainers are also often wildly overpaid in relation to the objective value they add, & for similar reasons. I was focused on CEOs because of Mike’s Carly comment.

                With regard to CEOs, it isn’t even the pay or compensation I object to, per se. It’s the failure to tie anything except base salary to performance metrics. Perhaps that has become less of an issue lately as compared to in the past (the late 80’s up through early 00’s?), where it seems every week we’d hear of a CEO walking away from a sinking company with a seemingly large chunk of contractually guaranteed assets.

                Since this was a common occurrence, and perhaps still is (just less publicized), yes, I do question the various boards for how they spend shareholder value (something, as a shareholder, I have a right to do). Same as I often question how governments spend tax money. Because given the small population of people who can claim the title of CEO, and given how many are also on various boards, and how many of them socialize together, one has to wonder if the value being purchased by the board has less to do with the projected performance to be realized, and more to do with projected favors to be owed.Report

            • @cardiff-kook
              It is worth exploring what has changed in the US over time and also what distinguishes CEO pay in the US from their peers in other developed countries – the arguments you make in justification don’t account for these changes. As far as I understand, the US is an outlier in CEO compensation. Are US CEOs really that much more productive, effective, or responsible for their enterprises than their peers in say Germany, France, the UK, and Japan? Because the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay in the US is much more than these other countries, here for instance: “The pay gap between CEOs and workers is much worse than you realize” WaPo

              And looking at the figures from 1965 to 2013 within the US, the 1,279% change in CEO pay from 1978-2000 deserves attention. I really wish we could paste charts/tables, but a Google image search of “CEO-to-worker compensation ratio, 1965–2013”, shows the dramatic change over time I’m referring to. I think it is worthwhile to ask if that change is justified, and also what that change means for our the society.Report

              • Cardiff Kook in reply to Creon Critic says:

                What about the football player to hot dog salesman ratio? What about the ratio of top actors vs key grips? Top performers to lounge singers ratio?

                This is a left wing signalling issue to stir up people who are fixated on one dimensional equality. Ten thousand comments on CEO’s for every one on basketball players. Just admit it.

                And by the way, what is the ratio of Major League baseball players to CEO’s? Has it been going up or down?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


        My only objection — and really more question than objection — is how do we go about determining value? We don’t seem particularly good at that. One issue with the minimum wage is that by putting a number out there, it plays into the phenomenon known as the anchoring effect. If minimum wage is set to $8.50/hour, that is going to necessarily impact how me and others value my work… and perhaps sway it away from the actual value (in either direction) of that work. I won’t pretend to have a solution to this.

        Let me also put on my amateur non-economist hat for a moment.

        Suppose you work for WidgetCo. They make, of all things, Widgets. The Widgets typically sell for $X. But your work is so exquisite that Widgets you make sell for $X+Y. And that Y is solely attributable to you. Does that mean your salary should be $Y higher as a result? Maybe. But it won’t be. Because WidgetCo is going to want to recoup some of that. If they make the same profit on your Widget as Joe’s Widget because you are paid the full value added by your work, you are no different to them than Joe. Because they are still only seeing $Z profit. So how do we square that circle? Or what am I missing from that analysis?Report

        • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

          My only objection — and really more question than objection — is how do we go about determining value?

          For me, the answer is that we don’t; at least not at any sort of macro level. Value is dependent on context.

          From a political perspective, we can choose to assign value to human life, regardless of whether and what sort of economic activity that person performs and I think that is the right thing to do. Trying to enforce moral and political value by placing price floors and ceilings is a Rube Goldberg type endeavor. Better to simply let markets find their own clearing prices and plus people up with transfers after the fact.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

          Well, ideally, if it only costs $X to make a widget then another company might say “We could get away with making widgets for only $X plus $Z (where Z is smaller than Y)” and compete with WidgetCo.

          The best example I have of this is Weed here in Colorado Springs. The prices of marijuana have plummeted in the last few years. The growth and falling away of stores has also been interesting to watch.

          On a small business level, this is working out the way it should. It’s once you get to huge multi-global mega-corporations that everything gets distorted. They become governments unto themselves at that point.Report

        • Cardiff Kook in reply to Kazzy says:


          The value you add to the equation is what an employer knowing this would be willing to pay you to work for them rather than WidgetCo.

          If I can create one hundred million in value in my job, vs alternative employees, then I can effectively bid this skill to competing employers. If the risk adjusted rate of return required to attract and hold capital is ten percent, and it was 100% clear and apparent that I was one hundred million dollars better than anyone else on earth (a huge if) then I could demand a salary of one hundred minus the ten percent and any other expenses. This is part of the reason why superstars such as athletes, CEOs, and entertainers are demanding and getting huge salaries. They are capturing their benefits to productivity across increasingly large markets.

          By the way, I could also choose to raise capital and start a business which allows me to capture the benefits of my services myself.

          Please do note that the phrase better than anyone else on earth is doing a lot of work in this scenario. As is the transparency of this as an empirical fact as opposed to a hopeful wish or biased opinion. In reality, all this is uncertain, and companies bid on this in a complex world where employees resent each other and have conflicting views of self worth to the operation. Markets are effectively a complex process of experimentation, trial and error. Nobody knows how much value each of us will actually add, none of us knows which career choice is best, nobody knows what consumers will value and nobody knows what competitors will do in response.

          But we make educated guesses. Those guessing well produce lots of value for less cost and thrive. Those guessing poorly lose out.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Cardiff Kook says:

            Thanks, @cardiff-kook . I don’t know if this means I need to wear my amateur non-economist hat more or less often, but I definitely learned something here!Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Cardiff Kook says:

            Please do note that the phrase better than anyone else on earth is doing a lot of work in this scenario.

            If you’re the best basketball player on earth, you can make a lot of money. Hell, if you’re one of the best 10, you can. If you’re the 1,000th best? I imagine that obsessive college basketball buffs might have heard (or, more likely, read your name).

            Basketball has stats, though.

            I have no idea if the analogy holds for CEOs. The Industry Week’s 1000 has the 1000 biggest companies in the world.

            990 is an American company. Southwestern Energy Co. Steven L. Mueller is the CEO.

            His five year compensation is, according to Forbes, $3.655 million over five years.

            The 990th largest company on the planet has a CEO who makes six figures.

            I have no idea what this demonstrates.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Jaybird says:


        You start with:

        The labor theory of value pervades a lot. It’s a theory that is really, *REALLY* easy to assume if you’re not being very careful.

        Which would seem to imply that of course the LToV is wrong and only the economically illiterate would engage that argument. But then you end with:

        What matters is the value created or added.


        Look. Either wages are a function of value added, “marginal product” in micro-econ speak or alternatively, “productivity” in macro-econ lingo, in which case LTOV has at least technical, if not moral, relevance, or wages are simply a price determined by supply and demand (with the marginal product acting as an upper bound the same way product cost acts as a lower bound on price). Pick one and we can move forward with the discussion.

        What I have little patience for anymore is the notion that since the supply of low-skilled labor has been vastly increased by globalization (at the behest and largely on the terms of first-world Capital interests) therefore the local low-skilled workers are inherently worth less, that they are somehow inferior to their foreign counterparts by dint of being unwilling, and indeed unable, due to COL disparities, to do the same work for the minuscule wages paid overseas.

        You can’t solve a problem until you understand and are willing to acknowledge the cause.Report