A Living Wage vs. Higher Education

The purpose of higher education

Prior to examining the effects of higher education on a living wage we turn first to the purpose of higher education. There is today much discussion as to what the purpose of higher education should be but there is little doubt that the purpose of higher education today is limited to preparing the student for the global marketplace.


Traditional notions of the purpose of the university, imbued with ambiguous aims and including knowledge generation and service to society, have been scrutinized and transformed into neoliberal objectives that are more easily articulated for policymakers (Weick, 1976/2000; Pfeffer, 1977/2000; Cohen & March, 1986/2000; Kezar, 2005; Fallis, 2008). (Repoliticizing Higher Education Assessment within Neoliberal Globalization Hursh, David; Wall, Andrew F. – Policy Futures in Education, 2011)

Public education was founded with the intent purpose of preparing a workforce for the 20th century industrial workforce. http://www.mantecabulletin.com/section/1/article/127688/

The burden of higher education

If the purpose of higher education is a de-facto preparation for competition in the global market then the costs for this preparation should be viewed as a development in favor of competition in the global marketplace. When viewed as a development in favor of competition in the global marketplace it begs the question: “Who are the beneficiaries of higher education?” There is little doubt that the student gains knowledge but that seems to be of little consequence except when he applies that knowledge to the workplace.


I suggest that in today’s workaday world the beneficiary of higher education is the capitalist. This is borne out by the all too often publicized unequal distribution of income and the plight of society’s middle-class. It follows that the burden of higher education should be placed squarely on those who profit most but not on the student and potential worker or the struggling families thereof.


President Obama has already proposed that all community colleges be tuition free. At least one 2016 presidential candidate is proposing that all public education be tuition free. The resistance to these proposals comes from those who benefit most from our public education system. It may be, that in the future this resistance will ease when the benefit of an inclusive workforce to business is fully assessed.


For the worker today there is little time to consider the purpose of or who should bear the burden of the cost of education. What the worker must know is that their quest for a living wage is dependent on the preparation required to do the task at hand. Still, they must look to the future when possible and involve themselves in the political process. The worker should consider voting a duty of citizenship and a means to support those issues that are meaningful to their living wage.




A Living Wage Vs. The Global Labor Market

  • At times the light,
  • offers comfort,
  • only in,
  • reflection

Have you ever noticed what the odds are to win a lotto? The odds are already known by the producers of the lotto tickets. They are masters of the ‘numbers’ game. Still, even at a chance for success of 2 million to 1, people continue to buy a lotto ticket. They are driven by advertisements and news stories of the successful winners. There are few posts that tell the story of the worker who spends five and 10% of his weekly income with hopes of success in the lotto market. Money better spent contributing to the health and well-being of their wards.

What are the odds of a worker in the United States to make a living wage in the global labor market? Or put another way, how does a worker in the United States compete with a comparable worker of another country with an average 2015 income of $400 per month? This is the dilemma of the American worker today.

When I read posts of the pros and cons of free trade agreements between America and other countries with lower standards of living it seems that most articles brush over the detrimental effects to the American worker. These trade agreements certainly benefit those of lesser developed countries who are able to produce goods for export at lower prices. Those in the USA that are not affected by the loss of their job look at this as a benefit for they can buy more for less. This is not true of the worker in the USA that either has lost their job or is forced into a lower paying field of work.

If the NAFTA agreement had ensured that those workers in Canada and Mexico would be paid on the same scale as those workers in the USA it may have been a fair agreement. This was not the case, and many factories that were once located in the USA have relocated to Mexico or Canada. The countries of Canada and Mexico readily agreed to NAFTA and saw it as a boom to their countries economy. This may well be the case in the short term. However, neither the worker in Canada nor Mexico is much better off.

The economic gains to these countries was sucked off by the globalized corporations but not passed down to the workers of these companies. For when it became convenient the companies once welcomed with lavish tax incentives move their factories to other countries paying even less compensation to their workers.

And so, in the short term both Canada and Mexico had seen gains. The USA suffered a demise in the industrial workforce and consequent payroll reduction. These schemes are unsustainable in the long term. As the USA worker compensation remains stagnant or is reduced so too is the viability of any free trade agreement. The USA worker affected by this Treaty can only conclude that NAFTA is a dismal failure. The same might be said of any trade agreement that does not consider the USA standard of living as a basis of wages paid in the treaty partner countries.

Today, as the campaign for a new president of the USA is in full swing we have candidates from both parties who view Free Trade Agreements detrimental to creating good paying jobs in the United States. It is doubtful that either Sanders or Trump could agree on many other public policies. They do agree that contributions to our elected officials drives public policy. I would suggest that even honest politicians have failed to take the care necessary to understand all of the facts and underlying detrimental consequences of a free trade policy to the American worker.

Labor in the leading industrial countries of the world are threatened by the globalization of the labor market. Free trade agreements are not the answer to these countries for although they do benefit the developing and underdeveloped countries of the world they do not benefit the workers of those industrialized countries. The problem, then, is how we move forward with the globalization of the world markets without unduly jeopardizing the standard of living in the existing industrial countries. The answer is complicated. However, we cannot assume destroying the standard of living in the most industrialized countries of the world is an acceptable policy. This is a result of uncompensated free trade agreements, such as NAFTA.

Finally, it takes energy to solve problems. What we should demand of our political leaders is that they put aside the contributions that put them in office and look at their job as American-Statesman but not as harlots being bought for the highest price. If your representative does not expend the necessary energy to move this country forward, you have the responsibility to vote them out of office. It’s not enough for them to say, “I’m voting in favor of this corporate policy because it will create more jobs”. If they favor globalization of the labor market, by casting a vote favoring free trade agreements, they are at odds with the American worker, you should not vote for them. What affects your neighbor today, will affect you tomorrow.

The Living Wage on Labor Day

Today is a celebration of Labor. It is meant to honor all those men and women who work hard to make this country great. If you have been or are among that number please hold your head up high and look to your fellow workers to thank them for doing their part.

Necessarily, on a personal level we look at work as a means to support ourselves and our family. But the broader picture reveals that it is the worker that is the engine of our society. We are encourage by children tales of the Little Tug or Locomotive that never quits, moving forward for the greater good.

Although many of our politicians seem to have forgotten this they do so on a wobbly foundation. Those politicians who would deny a worker a living wage are caught up in yesterday’s smoke-filled rooms that now is replaced by the billionaire’s palace. They sell your vote in favor of bucks to feed their campaign for reelection. The billionaires own most media outlets yet through the social revolution, which is the Internet, they are being exposed, finally, brought to the light of day.

And so, I say to all those workers struggling for fair compensation keep moving forward, you are not alone, learn to join in the effort to push this load to the Apex.

Have a good Labor Day stay safe.

A Living Wage –Exploration of Considerations

Most would not have to think very long to know what to do when encountering an alligator. When the alligator takes its prey it might kill by crushing its meal between its powerful jaws or it may take it for a spin underwater. After which, the prey is consumed whole and digested by this reptilian beast.gator Most can, with due consideration, evade its powerful grasp. I will not here develop in detail how to avoid the alligator’s terror. It is sufficient to say, avoid contact. Fortunately, most of us will not be concerned with avoiding the reptilian beast. However, there is a social beast sewn by your life choices. That is the beast of poverty, which affects your nutrition, your health, your shelter, your transportation, your education. It is this beast that this post addresses.

How does one avoid the powerful grasp of living your life in the lower social economic status of our society? To begin you must first earn enough to sustain both you and your wards. As calculated, this amount would be termed your living wage. A subsistence amount that includes enough compensation to provide adequate shelter, food, clothing, healthcare, transportation and education.

Unfortunately, the age that we must make decisions affecting our living wage is one complicated by other interests. That is to say that when we are in high school we should be preparing for our initial rendezvous with the outside world. I daresay, not many folks in high school have gained enough information to make formidable decisions regarding their financial status for the coming years. And thus those closest to them are their guides to the future.

The decision-making process is more complicated when that person is in the lower social economic status of our society. A status that views poverty as a normal paradigm. Which translates to a condition that views economic success most often as beyond reach. Without the help of community to address these concerns those locked in the jaws of poverty are destined not only to remain in this condition but to pass it on to the next generation. The decision-making process, that includes a reward for real life decisions that lead to success, should be a basic part of our primary education.

Considerations for a Living Wage

What are the considerations for a living wage? Many complain that they are not earning a living wage and are overwhelmed by this financial condition. Are you earning enough compensation to support your life choices? Have you considered the possibilities necessary to alleviate a day to day, week to week existence? Maybe not, most of us make assumptions about career choices, family choices, housing choices, education choices, transportation choices etc. without a thorough understanding of the consequences. Most important, when considering these choices is the understanding of the financial costs associated with these life’s choices. To that end, your occupation selection will affect the successful attainment of your goals. Knowledgeable decisions about any future occupation selection is paramount.

Before going through the occupation selection process you would benefit to think long and hard about what it is that you like to do. Have you ever thought that your favorite hobby should be what you are doing for your income? Do you think of going to work as a grind, a chore, which you have to get through? The closer you can get to the type of work that you like to do the more likely it will be that your work will not be such a grind.

For those already employed, start by examining what it is that you like and dislike about your present career choice. When you have completed this self-examination and have computed the amount of compensation necessary to produce what you determine your living wage you should select an occupation that best suits your needs and desires. Below, we have formulated a track that should help you in the process of your occupation selection.

The Keys to Occupation Selection (PLENS)

  1. Physical: Are you physically able to perform the tasks necessary in the occupation under consideration? Employers are required under the ADA to accommodate deficiencies provided that with these accommodations you can perform the task. There are probably many things that a paraplegic can do, chances are being a Fireman is not one of them. It is important not to discount occupations because you have a physical impairment. This is one reason for the importance of examination of the occupation you aspire. Still, impairment is not the only reason to consider the physical requirements of an occupation. Some occupations require a lifting burden, or standing – sitting for long hours, etc. It is for you to decide if the occupation’s physical requirements meet your preferences.

2.) Location: Is the occupation under consideration available in a location that you would like to live and work? Is your preferred location a rural, suburban or urban area? Do you prefer a warm climate or does snow excite your senses? Does the occupation require travel or long periods away from friends and family? Can you perform the work from your home office?

3.) Education: Have you or can you obtain the education necessary to perform the occupation under consideration? Is there an educational requirement for this occupation that you can meet? If not, are you capable of preparing by completing this education requirement? Don’t sell yourself short. If the occupation requires more education than you presently have looked to serve an apprenticeship in the chosen field while at the same time completing the education requirement.

4.) Need: What are the current and future needs of the occupation under consideration? What are the future projections for this occupation? Is this an occupation that is growing or waning? This is something that we can determine based on Department of Labor projections.

5.) Setting: Is the work setting one that suits your interests? Is the occupation selected performed indoors, outdoors or a combination of both? Does the occupation require travel to danger zones? Can you do the work from home?

The questions above and others should be answered on a personal level. This is a personal occupation selection. The happier you are with your work the more likely it will be a success. Your main obligation is to strive to be the best that you can be in whatever field you choose.

Applying Keys to Occupation Selection

To examine the keys above let’s presume that after due consideration regarding occupations you have decided that you would like to pursue a career as a graphic designer. In this regard we will apply the questions who, what, where, when and how in our examination of the graphic designer. That is to say we will apply the questions: Who are graphic designer? What do graphic designers do? Where do graphic designers work? When do graphic designers work? How are graphic designers compensated? United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook has the answer to many of these questions. (DOL Occupational Outlook Handbook Graphic Designers)


A look at the link above indicates that the graphic designer occupation is reviewed as; Summary, What They Do, Work Environment, How to Become One, Pay, Job Outlook, Similar Occupations, More Info. These links answer many of the questions we posed above. (Please Note: Given the rise of the 3-D printer availability in recent years we think the DOL job outlook projections for this occupation may be revised upward in the coming months.)

Moving further, say that for all intents and purposes the graphic designer occupation is one that you would select. However, you do not meet the educational requirements for this occupation. You should not view this as an impossible obstacle to your goal. Rather, should investigate how best to complete the education requirements for this occupation. In this regard, it may be best to seek out a mentor that is working as a graphic designer. That person may well have been in the same position that you are in now. Whether that condition existed for that person they still might be your best bet for help given your common interest in graphic design.




A Living Wage – A Constitutional Right

“When he felt the time was ripe, President Roosevelt asked Secretary of Labor Perkins, ‘What happened to that nice unconstitutional bill you had tucked away?” dol.gov  And so, continued a battle for the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

During a fireside chat the night before signing President Roosevelt warned; “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day …tell you…that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” (Supra)

I will not here review the entire history of the law regarding a minimum wage but would like to point to a few probative issues as discussed from the Bench. http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1936/1936_293.

1: An objection to a minimum wage as in conflict with the liberty to contract was addressed. “Deprivation of liberty to contract is forbidden by the Constitution if without due process of law, but restraint or regulation of this liberty, if reasonable in relation to its subject and if adopted for the protection of the community against evils menacing the health, safety, morals and welfare of the people, is due process. P. 300 U. S. 391.(emphasis added)

2: Although some remarks are directed to the case itself which involved a minimum wage for women they are probative in our discussion; “This exploitation and denial of a living wage is not only detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the women affected, but casts a direct burden for their support upon the community. Pp. 300 U. S. 394, 300 U. S. 398, et seq.”

It is important to note that the above case reviewed a challenge to a Washington state law that required in part, “If after investigation the commission found that in any occupation, trade, or industry the wages paid to women were ‘inadequate to supply them necessary cost of living and to maintain the workers in health,…” (http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/76255/17-01j-spring-006/contents/readings/westcoast.pdf (emphasis added))

This review is important because although the laws challenged and reviewed by the Supreme Court had to do with a minimum wage and whether or not it was permitted under the Constitution, the emphasis was not on the amount of the wage itself but rather if it were reasonable for the State to require a minimum wage to, as determined, avert the “exploitation and denial of the living wage”. As the Court explained: “This exploitation and denial of a living wage is not only detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the … affected, but casts a direct burden for their support upon the community.” The court seem to be echoing the Washington state law itself, ‘inadequate to supply them necessary cost of living and to maintain the workers in health…” All of which undeniably is viewing a minimum wage as a living wage necessary for the cost of living and to maintain a worker in health.

Here’s the Federal minimum wage number:

Jul 24, 2009 $7.25 for all covered, nonexempt workers


A question: Where is it in the United States of America that a worker, being paid a federal minimum wage, earns enough for the necessary cost of living and the maintenance of their health? If the answer to this question is not, everywhere in the United States then the question arises as to whether the Federal minimum wage statute is constitutional.

It is a rather simplistic notion to suggest that all workers in the United States should be paid a minimum of $15, $10 or $7 an hour. The only minimum to consider is a wage that would supply the necessary cost of living, health and well-being of the worker, a living wage. In addition, a major consideration when arriving at a minimum wage should also include whether that wage would alleviate any unnecessary support burden to the community.

Finally, the Constitution pens truths that are self-evident including the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, additionally, formed a union to promote the general welfare. This begs the question: Are these Constitutional clauses satisfied if it is permitted under law that a worker be paid less than a living wage?

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”    President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933


A Living Wage, a Solo Flight a Shared Meaning

Those of us that have taken that first solo flight brag how little stain was left in the seat. It is an experience that causes one to pay attention. For some of us it may be as dramatic as cutting the proverbial umbilical cord. Others take it in stride as one more time they become aware that they are in charge of their circumstance. However they sense the experience, the realization that they are flying is nonetheless awesome.

From that first solo flight many go on to experiences in jet planes, large transports or rockets to outer space. Each step can be viewed as the experience of an explorer. We are all explorers. It seems our destiny from our first effort.

No, I do not remember the first time I saw a face, touched another, heard a voice, felt a caress or tasted my mother’s milk but I do remember clearly the first time I drove a car, my first solo flight, my first solo sail in the ocean, and the first time I realized I was under the water and breathing through a scuba apparatus. I reached out to explore those familiar environments because as a man once said ‘they were there’. But it was more than that on a personal level. For me I was continuing my education, expanding my universe, testing the limit of my resolve.

My motivation to explore is not different than that of the history of our society. History suggests we are explorers it also suggest that we are warriors. Still, there does not appear a natural motivation to war as there is to explore. Wars are fought to limit views of others, exploration expands our view. People war when they are hungry, exploration finds new answers to food production. Humans also fight wars to advance procreation of a race, creed, or limit diversity.

Exploration reveals that the human condition is a rarity in the universe and thereby a condition that needs to be preserved in all its variety but not obliterated. Society must learn that our cultural differences are of minor significance to an expanding universe, differences that must be resolved through negotiation.

Aggressive space exploration will keep in the forefront the challenges that lie ahead for the human race and shift the focus from our cultural differences. The people of Earth were, one, the day man stepped on the moon. Whatever the limit of technology it takes to send a manned probe to Mars and beyond, it demands the attention of our entire society.

Contrary to war, society does need exploration. We must continue to search the universe for answers to questions that have baffled mankind since our first look up and give our brave explorers the tools to reach out to other life forms and permit them to find other ways to sustain the human condition. To compare our experience in space, we have just opened our eyes to see across the room. This is not the time to turn the light off.

Your search for a living wage should be an exploration. What do you like to do, where would you like to live. A living wage should not be thought of as a question of how much money you will make rather how much money it will take to live the lifestyle you choose. A living wage will provide sustenance. Your life’s choices will determine the amount necessary to sustain your requirements.


Pope Francis and the Living Wage

… “We have come to see ourselves as lords and masters entitled to plunder her will.” (Laudato si. 24 May 2015) Pope Francis spoke of the plundering of our environment throughout the world. Continuing in his thoughts about how we were treating Mother Earth he states: “we have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshments from our waters.”

I wonder what the thoughts of Pope Francis would be regarding corporate and political leaders that would begrudge a worker compensation enough for food, shelter, healthcare, transportation and education. I wonder if he would shout from his mountaintop that these leaders have a moral responsibility to compensate their workers, at a minimum, a living wage.

The Pope has already called for equal pay for equal work to eliminate the gender discrimination found in the workplaces of most industrialized nations. Maybe the Pope will issue yet another apology, one that would address the meager compensation paid to the workers doing Church business. Thereby, setting the example necessary for other leaders to follow.

The established minimum wage in the USA is a farce. It is not an amount that would compensate a worker enough for a meager subsistence. I do not here refer to the subsistence for an extended family, rather, the one person, the worker.

In a country whose political leaders expound an idea of a family life it seems incongruous that our laws would require less than a living wage. For if the worker cannot earn the compensation necessary to support their own subsistence how then would it be possible for them to extend the compensation in support of their immediate family.

The attitude of, our political and corporate leaders that see themselves as ‘Lord and Masters’ entitled to continue to ‘plunder’ the worker does not bode well for our future. Clearly, it did not bode well for the 18th century aristocracy of England or France nor the 20th century aristocracy of Russia.

It’s time for the leaders of the 21st century to wake up to some simple facts. They do not stand on terra firma without moral validation. They cannot continue to dash the hopes and dreams of workers and their families without untoward consequences. They cannot continue to hoard billions while their workers queue up the lines for food stamps and soup kitchens and beg landlords to wait, yes, another week, please.

Do not doubt that these workers will survive. Know also, resentment is building. It grows with each succeeding generation. I’m sure there are metrics that estimate exactly how long a line can be stretched before breaking and just as sure that continued stretching will break any line.

If you are a leader in position to make a difference please be sure your constituent workers are compensated, at least, a living wage.

A Living Wage versus a minimum wage

Is the quest for a minimum wage a red herring perpetrated by large corporations and advanced by politicians in favor of their big dollar supporters?

When one realizes that regardless of the minimum wage, if it does not reach that level necessary to support the essentials necessary to sustain a lifestyle consistent with a worker’s environment it does little more that pay lip service to a societal disparity.

We need only review the charts that reveal the upward mobility of the American worker to understand that the Regan Era “Voodoo” economics that has existed through each political Party for the past forty years is the one of the greatest destroyers of the American Dream. This Dream that through the combination of security, health, education and work your children will have a better life than you.

There is little question that it is the American Dream that stoked this Country’s fires of greatness. It is the Dream of every human, a dream, ever threatened by the greed and avarice of a few. Who are these few that would dare to dampen the kindling of the greatest social experiment in the history of civilization?

We need not look far. These few are the major owners and stockholders of the companies that pay a wage to their employees that when projected through a forty hour work week would not add up to an amount necessary for a person to provide sustenance for themselves in the location where they work.

They do this legally. Their method is to “buy” our political leaders. Unfortunately, this does not stop at the highest levels. It is a practice that continues from the highest office to the lowliest municipal politician.

We do not begrudge them their wealth nor the favor it buys but we take exception to their methods. The ancient books of every major philosophy agree of the inherent evil of the owner stealing wages from their slave. In this regard, many workers today are not better off than the exploited slave.

We urge the Department of Labor to set a determinate living wage for each Congressional District.

We urge all employers take on the responsibility of determining a living wage for their employees and to set this as their minimum wage.

America’s Promise

Constitution_Pg1of4_AC_scale125 On September 17, 2013,

we celebrated the 226th anniversary of The Constitution.

The justification for the ideas found in this enduring document were published on July 4th 1776 wherein the thirteen states joined unanimously to declare a separate and equal standing among the nations of the world. In respect to other nations this document explained why the states had decided to voice their Declaration of Independence.

This document further develops why, today, many ask, “What do these words have to do with me? That’s the government, right?” Wrong, these words define your rights and your relationship to every citizen of the United States. Most importantly, the documents explain why we are joined as a nation, a country.

With the emergence of globalism our political and corporate leaders have sometimes lost sight of the fact that this country stands independent of all others. Further, we are joined as a people for the common good of this nation.

We cannot improve on the wording but we can parse it to emphasize the context in what we refer as America’s Promise. Many cite the start of the second paragraph of the Declaration, most have seen it.

· “We hold these truths to be self-evident,

Although these truths were self-evident to the representatives of the thirteen states, the words were carefully selected to get a unanimous vote.

·that all men are created equal,

Indeed, as used in context men should not be assumed to mean men as humankind. The representatives could not agree whether this word should include women, indentured servants, African slaves, or Native Americans.

One truth self-evident today is that all are created equal under the law. We may not share the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, social status or gender persuasion as our fellow citizens, but we have a reasonably high expectancy that we will be treated fairly and equally in our civic associations and relationships.

· that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

· that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Rights of all, which cannot be taken away nor given up. And so, it followed that:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,

· establish Justice,

· insure domestic Tranquility,

· provide for the common defence,

· promote the general Welfare, and

· secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We conclude, that the people of the United States who wrote these words and we the people of these United States that inherit them share the absolute duty to protect and preserve the union of these free people.

First by including all peoples living within our borders as equal under the law and, second, by taking the responsibility from whatever political or social standing to “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”