Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald

I read Wilson's When Work Disappears and Venkatesh's American Project simultaneously. Wilson's narrative ends around 1980 when the minimum wage still paid $7.75/hr in today's dollars. Venkatesh's book went on into the 80s and 90s when the minimum wage dropped to the 1939 level (.30/hr adjusted).

The projects were a place of hope as Wilson's story started out, before -- reasonably paying -- work disappeared. The projects ended in gang infested hell as the minimum wage virtually disappeared to a pay level that American born workers would show up for.

My contention is that if American labor looked after its interests in the robust way that European labor does -- especially with Americans' greater tendency to be workaholics -- that the jobs left behind would have paid more than enough to keep hell from taking over urban minority life. IOW, the Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald.

One Chicago U. economist found that drug dealing only pays about $10/hr for all but the very top leaders (even the economist's gang leader lived with his mother). Who would choose that over the European minimum wage (also the 1968 American minimum wage) of $9.50/hr -- supplemented in Europe with paid vacations, holidays, maternity leave, etc., etc., plus paid medical -- AND NO JAIL?

Enough money is here somewhere -- just as enough is enough in Europe (where people work one-third less (many fewer hours X many fewer family members working) -- to pay Americans enough to free all from ghetto hell (remember: the schools wont work if the parents wont work; and American born parents wont work if you don't pay them enough).

The US Census family income survey says top-fifth families AVERAGE $176,000 a year. But the survey contains a check box marked "over one million dollars" -- which means the survey "top-codes" all income over a million out of its report. Adjusting for that (by matching family growth with un-coded per-capita income growth) gives me more like $250,000 AVERAGE income for the top-fifth.

I hardly need point out that one out of five families in the US are not earning anywhere near this level (unless they live in lower Manhattan, where wealth is a plateau not a pinnacle).

Much more to the point: $250,000 a year is the average pay of the better paying medical specialties. $150,000 is the average income of today's primary care providers (the latter down 10% from 1995 to 2003 -- while average income in the US grew 12%).

Average income climbs 10-15% every decade (not even counting the free advances of technology) -- while 95-99% of American incomes stand still or go down -- and are going to keep standing still or going down until Americans realize they have to organize labor here the modern every-where-else-in-the-world way: some kind of legally mandated, sector-wide, labor agreements.

The Newt Gingrich, Chicken Littles of the world call every progressive European innovation "socialism". Interestingly, right-wing Europeans have no objections to strong unionization -- but only carp about over-regulation (cannot fire anyone) and over-welfare (automatically on the dole if out of work) as they should.

Just keep saying to yourself, over and over: "The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald", "The Crips and the Bloods could not whip a decent paying Ronald McDonald", and you will know all you need to know about untangling the multi-factor web of deep-seated urban pathologies. :-)

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