The point of my OP was actually that I am sick of reading letters in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian that demonise the US. These letters typically use a line similar to ‘we musn’t go down the US path’, as if everything were truly terrible in the US compared to Australia. (Its not).
Then to read someone actually say that conditions in the US are as bad as the third world is just too much. It is not only an insult to the US but it be-littles those people in third world countries who really are suffering beyond our imaginings.
For your second point, I agree for the most part. Poor people in the US still have basic access to stuff like food and housing and healthcare that those in LDC’s don’t.
However, I still maintain that the Aus govt is heading down the footpath that the US paved out…that of instituting a less-than-sustainable wage for workers and reduced benefits that in essence make us no better off than than 3rd World workers…those whose income cannot match the cost of living in the society in which they actually live.
Look people, any fool can go right down to a half-a-dozen places within ten miles of my house and get jobs in the 8+ dollar per hour range. That’s not great wealthy, but for work requiring no previous skills it’s darn good. That’s unskilled work. It’s easy to get and can easily lead to better things.
Sure, one job doesn’t suffice to pay for an entire family most days. That’s the price of admitting millions of women (amongst many other changes) into the workforce did. And people are now consuming a lot more of their wealth. recreational spending has skyrocketed, and easily matches the average healthcare burden.
Fact is, people are pretty well off today if you go out and learn the right skills. And that was always true. It’s jsut that it used to be that there was a huge demand for simple, unskilled work. There’s no so much today. We don’t need ditchdiggers (and even if we do, they’re skilled drivers trained in operating heavy equipment), and the ditchdiggers have twice as much competition. Yeah, life is tough if your job is scrubbing floors. But when was that ever not true?
I don’t know who’s going to argue with this, but there are trends, and they do have impacts on people (such as Johnny LA).
From today’s Midlands Business Journal: A new survey shows that between 2001 and 2004 median income fell 8% for householders under age 35 and 9% for those 35 to 44. The numbers add new weight to longstanding concerns about whether younger generations of Americans will achieve livings standards equal or better than those of their parents. The median income for men under 44 was significantly lower in 1997 than in 1970 (after adjusting for inflation). Even when men and women are included together, younger workers 25-34 are earning well below what they did in 1970.
To me, it only makes sense that what is happening is that as the economy grows over time and profits are gained, a mind-boggling proportion of those gains are being gobbled up by a low percentage of the population (the elite/rich/whatever).
The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? I don’t know, exactly, but what I’m more concerned with is the rich getting fewer and the poor getting larger, as a %. Sure there are more millionairres today than ever before. But there are also 300,000,000 Americans, and a million doesn’t buy today what it did in 1970.
And let’s not forget currency conversion: The Australian minimum wage is paid in Australian dollars, which covert at about 1.36 Australian Dollars for every 1 American dollar, meaning that Australia’s $12.75 minimum wage converts to $9.37 US. As a teenager, you get even more shafted - a $5.10 minimum wage goes to $3.75 in Australia.
So we have 16% of Australia making only $9.37/hour US or lower, many of those earning less than the US minimum wage.
Let’s see… $8 per hour, working a 50 hour week, let’s assume 4 weeks per month (200 hours) = $1600 per month, with no taxes taken out. That won’t pay for a 2 bedroom apartment in plenty of SoCal cities, plus you have taxes, food, utilities, clothing, transportation, etc.
I agree, but I also think it’s possible to speak out about not wanting to adopt a US model without demonising the US. We are not the US, and what works there might not work here, or even if it does, might not be accepted by Australians.
Both countries are first world industrialised nations where nobody is actually going to starve. Things might get tough, but in the end you’ll survive. But the methods by which welfare is distributed can be markedly different. For example, Americans will happily tip a service or hospitality worker, because it’s generally accepted that the tip makes up a basic component of that person’s living wage, the basic wage being so low. Australians, on the other hand, have a very ambivalent attitude towards the culture of tipping, and will sit down at a restaurant with the assumption that the owners are paying the waiter enough that he can put food in his kids’ bellies, and will only tip if they want to do so for great service, not out of social obligation. The restaurant prices probably reflect this, and no doubt it all works out to be roughly the same in the end, but there are cultural differences at play here. Yes, there are working poor right here in Sydney, but I don’t think the concept of a full time employee having to accept charity simply to survive would be accepted so easily here (and yes, surely it happens). This last comment especially is not meant to imply Americans are heartless. Not by a long shot, but the welfare models are so very different, and and American approach here would be a square peg in a round hole, IMHO.
I made myself unclear: my point wasn’t that the US min. wage shouldn’t be raised (I think it should, and quite generously too - $8.00 would be my floor) but that Australia’s supposed advantage in this regard is anything but because of conversion rates.
Add the fact that everybody in Australia is undergoing the same environmental pressure you put yourselves under in SoCal (not enough arable land) but don’t have a means of escaping the high prices while remaining in the same country, and the advantage quickly disappears: 20% of US land (1.7 mil sq km) is arable as compared to 6.5% of Australia (498,000 sq km). Australia’s remoteness from the US-Europe-South America shipping lanes also increases the price of imported food, but their lack of arable land makes it difficult for them to make up the difference.
So, anyway, yes, raise the US min. wage but don’t move to (or want to be like) Australia.
If you look at US poverty statistics, one of the “poorest” of occupations is waiting tables - they barely make above the minimum wage, with one large category making beneath it.
However, having worked as a waiter for quite a while in my youth, I have always worked in a restaurant where the other employees “clued” me in to the advantages of only declaring enough to make the minimum wage. I.e., if you made $100 in tips and needed to declare just $15 to “make” the minimum wage (essentially, you needed to declare $3.00/hour for every hour you worked), that’s what you declared. The other $85 went up in smoke and out of the measure of the BLS. Or the IRS, which was the point.
If I ever worked at a restaurant where they made me cash out in front of the manager for taxes, I’d laugh at them and quit. I’d do what they asked - no need to have them or the IRS hounding me - but I wouldn’t go back to work.