Saturday, June 23, 2012

Yglesias on the Apple Store

I wish that I was able to quote the entire by Matt Yglesias, but this portion makes the most important point of the article:
More precisely, the Times says the average hourly base pay is $11.91 an hour, which if you work 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year comes out to the slightly lower figure of $23,800 per year. That's not very much. But it's a lot more than many people make right now. Currently 15 percent of the population is living below the Federal Poverty Line including a shocking 22 percent of American children. And yet a single mom raising three kids working full time at the Apple Store at an average wage would be above the Federal Poverty Line.
That should tell us something about how dire the conditions facing poor Americans are. But, again, those are the circumstances in which 15 percent of the population and 22 percent of kids find themselves.
And yet at the Apple Store workers get "very good benefits for a retailer, including health care, 401(k) contributions and the chance to buy company stock, as well as Apple products, at a discount." So think about a world in which these kind of jobs were the absolute worst jobs around. You're thinking about a world in which everyone has health insurance, and essentially no full-time workers or children of full-time workers are living in poverty. That would hardly be a world with no problems, but it would be a tremendous achievement. And it seems to me to point to the fact that the really urgent question isn't why aren't Apple Store jobs better, but why are so many jobs worse than this? Why can't we live in that world where people who work hard and play by the rules aren't poor?

One thing that this article really does is answer the question of why do I care so much about inequality.  I write a lot about topics like CEO pay; the truth is that I would stop caring about these issues in a world in which this really was the case.  My issues with wealth redistribution are based on the dire poverty which people find themselves rather than class envy.  If people who worked hard and played by the rules could obtain these types of jobs with ease then I would care a lot less about the wealth of the upper classes.

The other thing that I like about this is that it represents a constructive social vision as to what we could do to actually improve the lives of working class Americans.  It may or may not be the best possible idea, but it at least gives a specific target to aim for.  And that is worth a lot.

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