Saturday, September 07, 2013

Superior Widgets Posts Record Quarter

Let’s say you’re the CEO of Superior Widgets, Inc. And let’s say you just had an amazing quarter. You manufactured a billion dollars worth of widgets and sold them for $2 billion.

But here’s the thing. You haven’t actually delivered all the widgets. Many of them are still sitting in the warehouse, which is why you’re getting calls from customers like this one:

Customer: Yeah, I ordered some widgets and paid for them, but I haven’t received them yet. Just wanted to see when I could expect those widgets.

You: Well, let me check. That would be never. Never is when you can expect those widgets.

Customer: That seems odd, considering that I thought sure I’d get the widgets I paid for.

You: Well, if you read your contract closely, you’ll note that there are certain conditions under which you will not receive any widgets.

Customer: Yeah, but I really, really need those widgets.

You: That’s one of the conditions. Really, really needing widgets virtually guarantees that you won’t get any.

Customer: That seems odd.

You: Doesn’t it, though? I guess you’re free to take your business to another widget manufacturer if you want.

Customer: OK. Can I get a refund on the widgets I didn’t receive?

You: Well, let me check. The amount of your refund is, uh, none. None refund is what you can expect to receive.

Customer: I don’t like this.

Now, if someone were to tell you this story as if it were true, as if there were a widget manufacturer who does business in this manner, you would not say “Well, that’s the free market at work, I guess.” You’d say “That seems odd” and “I don’t like this.”

And yet this is the system that the “Defund Obamacare” people seem to want to revert back to. (Oh, I might have forgotten to mention that I wasn’t actually talking about widgets.) They’re so intent on wrecking the Affordable Care Act that they haven’t actually come up with a better plan. There are better plans out there. Even the ACA’s most ardent supporters are aware that it stopped far short of the healthcare reform America needed. But the Defunders’ idea of a better plan is, essentially, going back to the old system.

In other words: Insurance companies deny claims and make profits. People go without healthcare. Perfectly good system if you’re the one making the profits and not the one dying.

The Defunders want you to believe this is the free market at work, capitalism at its finest. But capitalism is when companies make a profit on providing goods and services. Making a profit on not providing those goods and services is not capitalism, and not particularly moral.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Arrogance of the Minimum-Wage Opponent

If you want to make the argument that raising the minimum wage leads to an increase in unemployment, please go right ahead. Increased unemployment is a legitimate concern. The nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research has conducted a number of studies that show there’s no connection, but again, if it’s something you feel strongly about in spite of the facts, make your case.

Similarly, if you want to argue that raising the minimum wage leads to inflation, argue away. Inflation is another legitimate concern. Economist and author Jeannette Wicks-Lim can show you the error of your thinking here, among other places. But by all means, if you want to hang your hat on the inflation idea, have at it.


If I see one more argument implying that fast-food workers do not deserve a living wage because, after all, they’re only flipping burgers, I’m going to scream. But first I’m going to write this.

The arrogance and condescension in this argument is appalling. When you hear someone say “Fast-food workers don’t deserve more than $7.25 an hour,” what they’re really saying is this: “I can make a living by working 40 hours a week. Those people should have to spend 60 or 80 or more.”

The end goal is the same: Food. Shelter. Something for a rainy day. Survival. But the person who thinks fast-food workers should be grateful for their low wages either doesn’t know what it’s like to try to survive on them, or doesn’t care. He’s got his, and that’s all that matters to him.

Even McDonalds, in their hilariously ill-fated video purporting to show minimum-wage workers how to budget their income efficiently, acknowledged that survival was impossible without a second job. In the example cited in their Practical Money Skills Journal, McDonalds is assuming that their employees are making $1,100 a month at one job and $950 at another (and paying the utterly fantastic sum of 20 clams a month for health insurance). For a person making minimum wage, these figures represent a 72-hour work week.

This is perfectly acceptable for our minimum-wage opponent, who considers his leisure time more valuable than that of the people he disparages, but it creates a hardship on families. It reinforces the lie that your worth as a human being is tied to the amount of money you make.

I’m not buying the line that some people deserve to have harder lives because they allegedly lack ambition and skills. A job is a job. One job should equal one living. And thus I conclude this essay with this little playlet:

“I sell hamburgers. I need you to flip them. You will not be able, however, to make a living flipping my hamburgers.”

“But you’ll be able to make a living if I flip your hamburgers?”


“Then flip your own goddamn burgers.”

Friday, August 16, 2013

Maybe You Should See A Doctor About That Blind Spot

I’m always amazed at the number of people who believe that the only thing the government can do right is kill people. Here’s a little example:

Anti-Government Self-Proclaimed Patriot Type: The government can’t do anything right. You really want them screwing up your healthcare? You can’t trust ‘em! They’re incompetent and stupid and they’re stealing your tax dollars to spend on their stupid incompetence! Why, I wouldn’t trust our stupid incompetent government as far as I could throw it! (SFX: DOORBELL) Just a second—someone at the door.

The Government: Hi, we’re starting an unwinnable war over in Turdistan. We’d sure like your support, and in fact we’d like to slap a uniform on your son and send him over to fight.

Anti-Government Self-Proclaimed Patriot Type: Well, hell, yes! Boy, get out here and go with this nice fella! Your country needs you!

I’m not sure how the government one rails against in one sentence suddenly becomes infallible when it comes to killing the inhabitants of other countries, but from what I’ve seen there’s not a big overlap between the anti-government and anti-war camps. It’s kind of the same thing with capital punishment: They might be “stupid, incompetent, etc,” but if the government determines that some prisoner deserves to be executed, our self-proclaimed patriots would be more than happy to throw the switch.

So, then, just to make sure I’m clear: The government is always wrong except when it’s killing people who frighten you? Got it.