Wages

Well, I’ve been busy. School work on top of midterms.

Anyways, I want to talk about wages since I’ve been thinking about what I want to do after (or before) graduation. Shall I work, or shall I go to graduate school? Shall I do co-op before my time runs out? If I go the graduate school route, I can hold off on thinking about where my money’s coming from some more, because graduate school will most likely be completely covered by the school I’m accepted to. But if I choose work, then wages will come into the picture. How much is enough?

I don’t think I need that much money in comparison to what I think I’ll be making when I get a job. Some would say, “if” I get a job, considering the world’s economy, but I’m not worried. Actually, I’ve been spending my money on electronics and more food than is necessary for myself recently. So, that got me thinking – if I can live just fine with the money I’m getting funded with now (enough to get by with, with the occasional toss in of money from my dad and digging into my savings account), then how much would I need if I weren’t being funded for school, and had finished my education?

This question is something that doesn’t apply to everyone, since most people have to take out student loans. I consider myself fortunate to be given as much as I am. But given similar circumstances, with no debt to speak of, how much money would one need to live a basic life?

My rent is affordable, and my housing (an apartment) is sufficient (nice size, nice location, nothing fancy) at $650 a month. Food and utilities for one person I overestimate to $650 (I order pizza a lot, so if I were to be more economical, I could surely save on this point). I don’t have a car, and currently don’t pay for transit (covered in education), but it would go for around $100 a month (for one zone, I believe). Throw in $100 per month for something special (not including eating out, since I’m pretty much paying for that already), and I’m sitting at $1500 a month. For 12 months, that’s $18000. That’s my overestimate of how a budget for one person could look given optimal circumstances (affordable housing and reasonable cost of utilities and transit). The actual number of work hours for a full time job is 37.5, and the number of weeks worked in a year might be 50. Then the wage required to sustain basic living expenses plus a bit extra is $9.6 per hour. The current minimum wage where I live is $8. Not quite enough, but take into account the extras I gave myself, and you have a decent living wage right there.

The problem then is the circumstances by which one reaches employment. If you had to take out a student loan throughout education, then you have to pay it off. If you didn’t get post-secondary education, having to support a family makes all the difference. The government needs to subsidize education and family expenses in order to make the living wage make sense for those people. Otherwise, to call it a living wage is a slap in the face.

My naive idea is to have the government directly subsidize parents’ wages. The employer will pay from its own pocket exactly what it would for any other employee, but throws in the 50% of that wage they received from the government to give to the parent employed. That is, an employed parent will make 50% more than a non-parental employee in the same job. Why 50%? Because if both parents are working, they’ll be double dipping for the bonus (perfectly acceptable). When one parent is working, it means that he or she is making enough to get by on one salary. Then instead of money, the parents benefit in having one of them always at home to take care of the child. Also, given that the one working parent makes twice as much one of the two working parents, then the bonus amounts to the same value.

The problems with my naive approach are many. What if the working parent is making far more than minimum wage? Then the cost of subsidizing someone who doesn’t even require help monetarily will be very high. The solution is to cap the amount they receive. Why not just give them the difference between their wage and the “minimum parent wage”? We don’t want people to intentionally take easy, low paying jobs which will not benefit their situation in the long run. After all, do they expect the extra wages to last forever? They shouldn’t, as the subsidies should cease when children reach a certain age. That solution of capping however affects the idea that one parent should be able to work and let the other stay at home, receiving the same bonus as both would receive totally for working for half the salary each. Obviously, the logistics of implementing any kind of social system is complex.

The case of the debt-ridden student is similar in a way: if the government can subsidize education through subsidizing universities, then that will help students in the long run (debt can be a chain that holds you down for the rest of your life). But where does the government find such money – taxes? Taxing is ironic, because they’d just be taking money from the people they’re helping in the other situation. On top of that, they’d also be taxing the single, non-parental worker. What I’m saying is that to tax the poorest that we’re trying to help is counter-productive. So then, this implies that taxes should come from those who can afford it.

I know there are rich people out there who think that the government doesn’t deserve to stick their fingers into the pocket of someone who worked hard to make the money the government is about to take away, but come on! I painted a picture before of how much one person really needs to have a living wage. So then, we can ask, why does anyone need the gross amounts of money that some people make? The excuse that they worked hard for it is ridiculous. Even if they worked three times as hard (which is unlikely), are they entitled to ten to thirty times the amount as someone else? To make the claim that they worked hard to learn in school is also pointless; after all, there are others who would have gone to school, but the only thing that prevented them from was the cost of education – such an excuse could not be used given the funding suggested earlier, but only if such funding is comprehensive and sufficient. If a wage is determined by the amount of sweat we produce, then we would surely expect it to be based on a linear scale, not exponential. However, that’s not the way it is. Therefore, to produce a result that is more in line with our expectations, it makes sense to tax more – slightly exponentially – proportional to the amount of money one makes.

When people stop working so hard because all of their money is being taken away from taxing, that’s when we know we’ve reached just beyond the right amount of taxation. Why work so hard if you’re going to make only so much more than the employees working under you? There needs to be a balance; harder work does justify higher wages, just not so disproportionately. If one high tier money-maker decides to drop down a level because the stress of the job isn’t worth it anymore, then let someone else step in. This is the way it should work. By then, perhaps the workload will be more balanced as well. Instead of having one at the very top, have multiple people at the top, for less money (each), less stress, and more thinking power. Sharing responsibilities is the ultimate goal in such a system. Why should one person be responsible for so much? Why does one person need to make so much money? Is it ego, or greed? Neither of those is a laudable attribute for any person. Pride is important and drive is valuable; ego is worthless and greed is too.

Obviously my opinion on these matters is naive and probably unrealistic from many aspects. I’d like to think that theoretically, such a system is possible, but who knows?

So, I started off talking about how much I’d need to live decently (not all that much more compared to the minimum wage right now), but then talked about how there are situations that change the meaning of a living wage. Then I talked about how there are those who are so far beyond “just living” that it makes sense for them to be the benefactors of the worse off of society. Even if they don’t agree, if they continue to work as hard as they do now, then obviously the idea wasn’t such a deterrent to hard work after all. Furthermore, what good is it to have an elite few controlling everything? In my opinion, my humble opinion, though important, is not necessarily useful; however, it is not worthless. Input from more people is a good thing; whether or not their opinions are accepted, they can be appreciated and understood for what they are.

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