To anyone reading this who think that they or others deserve $15/hour (or $10/hour, or frankly even $5 for some people), in the hopes that it will help you live a better life in some small fashion,
When I got my first job mowing grass for $5 an hour (which the keen-eyed Virginian observer will note as $0.15 *less* than minimum wage of the time), it was possibly the second most exciting thing for me in my short ten or eleven years after getting my first pocket knife, the possible exception being my bike (my brother’s adoption notwithstanding).
I was also frequently happy to help out at my father’s construction sites for the same amount (the last time I did, I believe the North Carolina minimum wage was $6.15, $1.15 more than I was making). You’ll note that neither of these jobs involving spinning razor-sharp metal blades with a noticeable lack of OSHA presence provided any kind of health insurance. Unless you count Dad’s pocket knife removing my splinters as “healthcare”. (Frankly, if I’d gotten my way at the time, some of those splinters might still be there.)
When I was sixteen and found out I’d gotten the job at Food Lion for minimum wage, I was so excited I could barely sleep. Somehow the lack of any benefits whatsoever beyond the paycheck itself (that I knew about or used) failed to depress me. Anyway, I was only injured on the job once. That was due to my own stupidity and I never considered asking Food Lion to pay for my trip to urgent care. The one (small) holiday bonus in my two years there was just icing on the cake, not my due.
Despite the free meals, my next job selling fried chicken at Bojangles excited me less. But it did let me move out of my parent’s house. Admittedly, I was making about $0.25 above minimum wage, but that changed when the North Carolina government, in its wisdom, raised it again. (Before moving on, I am legally obligated to say TANSTAAFL or risk the wrath of libertarians of all stripes due to my reference to “free meals” just now.)
Not once during my tenure at any of those jobs was I ever convinced I’d deserved the amount I was paid. Not once. That is not hyperbole. Now, I was entitled to it; the employers and I had agreed that was the amount I was to be paid. And I earned it (except perhaps for the minimum-wage jobs). But I have never been convinced that I deserved it.
Frankly, this trend has continued and I still think I’m making more than I deserve. That doesn’t mean I’m willing to work for less – market forces have virtually guaranteed a person of my particular skillset will have a certain minimum income – but it is true.
And it certainly doesn’t mean I’ve never wanted more or been dissatisfied with my income. Frankly, the fast food income and the circumstances of my father’s job sites are what pushed me towards software development.
Now there are some details I’m glossing over. I was covered under Medicaid and obviously, my parents provided for my needs until I moved out (back to that in a moment). But neither of those things have any bearing on whether or not I deserved that income. You deserve things based on what you do in exchange (that’s called “earning”), not because you have some need (that’s called “whining”, “theft”, or sometimes “taxation”). “Need” and “deserve” are two completely different things, which are frequently not even related. Hence why a mandated “livable wage” confounds so many liberty-minded individuals and economists.
Quick side note regarding parental support: they did stop supporting me financially pretty much as soon as I moved out. Sure, I came home for a few meals. And during my last year at college (not a typo… I’ll never live in an apartment again) I probably washed about a dozen loads of laundry at their house (maybe, what, $40 worth?). And my mother (*without* any request or prompting from me) did buy me a few articles of clothing at times. But the support as a whole stopped. Similarly, my parents probably could’ve afforded to buy me a (albeit very cheap) car when I was sixteen. But they never offered and I never asked. I waited until I had the right ballpark amount and then *borrowed* a few hundred dollars from them – short-term – to buy my own.
This is not meant as a criticism of people who continue receiving support for a few years. I mean, my parents have less money than most to give in the first place and I did receive a few thousand dollars a year in financial aid (above and beyond school costs) through FAFSA and my grandparents. And different people have varying degrees of ability. Nor is it meant as a criticism against those who get free stuff. My own sister inherited “her” car from her namesake and it has never bothered me. (Side note: that’s another pet peeve of mine and one of the few stated opinions of Louis C.K. that I support – how much someone else has should have no bearing on your own contentment or sense of entitlement.)
But the point is that self-sufficiency is a worthy goal that should be sought even before it becomes necessary.
Now I’m not trying to brag or build myself up as something special. I was a whiny kid who shirked his chores and spent hours (and hours and hours and hours) reading sci-fi and playing video games. I screamed bloody murder when I got a staple in my thumb and refused to talk to Dad for hours after he had the audacity to grab my hand and pull it out. I was 13. I was reprimanded multiple times at my jobs for being too casual or not greeting customers with enough forced cheerfulness. I thought rollerblading outside on a hilly sidewalk was a good idea and I’ve got a face to match. (I was 19.) I even thought deleting some Windows system files was a good way to save hard drive space as a teenager. And one time I tried to remove Internet Explorer from Windows, almost bricking my computer in the process.
I even once thought it’d be a good idea to jump off the riding lawn mower and try to race it. An idea that predictably ended with a tree-shattered bumper 20 yards from the driveway I’d been driving down. If you want more of these stories, just ask my sisters. I’d recommend some popcorn and a comfortable chair because they’ll keep you busy for a few hours. Anna’s probably disappointed I didn’t mention my alleged momentary forgetfulness that gravity is a thing.
But the point is that you shouldn’t think of what you – or anyone else – “deserves.” Focus instead on what you can *earn* and *do* and on accepting responsibility for your own self and actions. (That last anecdote cost me four or five hours worth of pay at my lawn-mowing job and a two-hour trip for a replacement part while my sisters got to go swimming. Two hours of car time before I’d ever owned a Game Boy or conceived of smartphones.) Make use of the undeserved free stuff you get (presents, financial aid, etc.), but don’t ever take it as your due.
I’m just sick and tired of hearing about how minimum wage workers “deserve” this or that. No, they don’t. They deserve not to be abused by their employers. And they’re entitled to make their own choices. But they don’t deserve one cent that someone else doesn’t choose to give them, except as reparations for some abuse or infringement.
Quit whining, and get to work. If you support this $15 (or some variation) on others’ behalf, tell them to get to work. If they legitimately can’t, then maybe help them out or help them find someone who can. But, for the love of all that is good in the world, stop whining. You are better off than 90% of the world’s living population and 99.9% of the world’s historical population. They would be amazed at the sort of things we throw away (not even “we” meaning Americans – just “we” meaning young, often “poor” Americans who re-use paper cups or use coats as blankets). And they would be dumbstruck by your complaints, in your circumstances. And the same goes for almost every American, employed or otherwise.
P.S. Please, if you must support Bernie Sanders, find some better reason for it than the free services and goods he’s promising to you or others.
For the Christians among you, here are some relevant Bible verses, from the New International Version:
First, a few select verses:
Proverbs 6:10-11 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
Proverbs 11:7 Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.
Proverbs 16:26 The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on. (The Bible seems to frown upon the idea of a guaranteed minimum lifestyle.)
Proverbs 18:9 One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (No middle ground here.)
Proverbs 22:13 The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the public square!” (“No one’s hiring” “It’s the wrong time of year.” “Employers just don’t want me because I’m young, female, inexperienced, [insert race here], skinny, and/or fat”)
Proverbs 28:19 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
Lamentations 3:27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.
And now, the rest:
Genesis 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.
Exodus 23:2-3 Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.
Deuteronomy 15:12-17 If any of your people-Hebrew men or women-sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today. But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your female servant.
Psalms 143:3-5 Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6:6-8 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
6:30-31 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
10:2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.
10:4 Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.
11:15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.
11:24-26 One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell. (Notice “one who is willing to sell”, not “one who is giving away”)
12:9 Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.
12:11 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.
12:24 Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.
13:11 Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
13:23 All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
15:5 A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
15:8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
15:16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.
17:5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished. (Just to help keep things balanced)
19:15 Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry. (This does not mean all hungry people are lazy, but certainly it implies that many are.)
19:24 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!
20:20 If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness. (“pitch darkness” is not my idea of 20/20 vision ba-dum-tsh)
21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered. (Again, need to stay balanced)
21:17 Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.
22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. (Side note: Keep this in mind when considering student loans – or really any non-collateral loan or loans for depreciating things like cars.)
22:26-27 Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you. (Note the lack of reproach against the one snatching the bed.)
23:1-3 When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.
23:4-5 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
28:8 Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor. (Again, balance. Note that I’m not defending the evil boss/corporation/fat cat/what-have-you. This is about us, not them.)
28:24 Whoever robs their father or mother and says, “It’s not wrong,” is partner to one who destroys.
30:7-9 Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
5:3 A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.
5:12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.
7:10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
10:2 The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. (heh heh)
6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
6:19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
6:24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
6:25-27 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
6:31-34 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
7:15-20 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
12:30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
15:3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”
19:23-24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
13:1-5 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
Ephesians 5:3-4 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
Titus 3:1-2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
As always, I welcome any criticisms or disagreements in the form of comments, messages, emails, or smoke signals. But be advised that (a) I may ignore or remove profanity or ad hominem attacks, and (b) the First Amendment does not in any way prevent me from doing this.
 There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
- 2017-03-03 09:17 EST – Minor grammar corrections.
- 2017-03-03 09:18 EST – Added Engagement section.
- 2017-03-03 09:23 EST – Switched order of Engagement and Footnotes sections