MONDAY, April 11, 2016

Maximum Wage

How much is too much?


If $15/hour is enough, then enough is enough 


TUCSON (A-P) — Bernie Sanders, former American presidential candidate, favors a minimum wage of $15/hour, or assuming a 2,000 hour work year, $30,000 income per working adult per year. If $15 is minimal, making just $30K should involve no income tax. Making more than $30K/year could allow income to be taxed and the notion that the greater the income the higher the tax rate is a thinkable idea. An 80% tax bracket, contrary to American mass media, is thinkable and in parts of Europe, actually enacted.

A 100% tax bracket is thinkable. This thought is equivalent to the idea of a maximum wage. If a minimum wage is thinkable, how about a maximum wage? If a human needs $15/hour to live like an American (95% of African HOUSEHOLDS live on less than $10/day), then what would be a reasonable maximum wage? Ten times more? A hundred times more? A thousand times more?

Let's start by thinking maybe a human could get by making only a thousand times more than is considered minimal for an American to live on, or 10,000 times more than an African. What if we legislated a maximum wage of $15,000/hour? Would life as we know it, as no doubt the talking heads on Fox News would hysterically claim, come to an end? The average millionaire makes about $125/hour, assuming a 40 hour week with two weeks off a year. If the average billionaire only makes $12,500/hour, then a $15,000/hour maximum wage would affect only above average billionaires who may be forced to apply for public assistance.

If those making more than $30 million a year pay a 100% tax on income over $30 million, perhaps those making only $20 million/year could reasonably pay an 80% tax on excess, likely unearned, income. Perhaps unearned income, in any amount, should be taxed at an 80% to 100% tax rate. Those making a mere $30K to $50K might pay a 5% tax rate. Since corporations are people and all worth mentioning make more than $30 million/year, all would help pay for the environmental and social restoration needed to create a tolerable planet to live on. This is how Sanders' modest proposals could easily be paid for.

Once a $15,000/hour maximum wage is enacted, and the benefits noted, some people will be able to think that maybe a $1,500/hour maximum wage ($3 million/year) would not be the end of the universe for 99.99% of humans and could even benefit the planet all live on. A $150/hour maximum wage ($300,000/year) might even be thinkable. How many billionaires would be forced to commit suicide? Let's vote on it and see.

If a maximum wage of 10 times the minimum was enacted, the elites would be clamoring and working tirelessly to increase the minimum wage to $150/hour, but they would still only be able to consume just ten times more than "poor" Americans (the hyper-wealthy by African/Asian standards).

Planetary wages need to be adjusted so aggregate consumption remains within the limits of planetary carrying capacity, and a ten fold inequality may avoid revolt of commoners and beheading of elites. If the media was not owned by elites and commoners had the time and education to think about it, a 1,000 fold inequality might be questioned and heads might roll or votes cast and actually counted. A 100 fold disparity might be questioned. A 10 fold disparity might be tolerated, maybe. A two fold disparity is maybe excessive, and unquestionably is by traditional Hopi or Kogi standards and other First Peoples, i.e. all human pre-empire building ancestors.


Europeans are rich.
Americans, having less than half the population of Europe, are more rich.Rich vs Poor population


In the USA, the only Sustainers to survive into the 21st century are traditional Hopi Puebloans who still speak Hopi and don't watch TV or have a cell phone or motor vehicle. They have resisted acculturation, first by the Spanish then Anglos, for 475 years. There are 12 villages on the Hopi Reservation and in some, traditionalists live self-sufficient lives that depend on sun, soil, seeds, rain, and having a digging stick and robe. They have been farming on their mesa since about 700 CE. When the transition comes they will notice that few tourists come anymore; that the alcohol/drug and other problems among non-traditional Hopi have diminished, and that their grandchildren are eager to learn. You can't join the Hopi tribe, but you can be Hopi, you can be a Sustainer which could involve having a low-power vehicle (e.g. bicycle) and some electricity.

In South America, the Kogi, our Elder Brothers, have lived at the Heart of the World since about 900 CE and have survived, culture intact, into the 21st century. In 1990 they gave Younger Brother a warning. Younger Brother failed to listen. In 2012 they reinvited the original BBC director back to give us a final warning: Aluna. Another way to state their message: of the three pillars of education (literacy, numeracy, and ecolacy), ecolacy alone is essential, of which Younger Brother knows next to nothing.

At risk of mentioning the unthinkable, humans may need to transition to a tolerable world to live on where $15/hour is the maximum wage and a ten fold level of inequality is maximum, meaning $1.50/hour would be the minimum wage. This would not mean all humans would have an income of $3,000/year up to $30,000/year to spend on consumer items as the level of consuption, of 7.4 billion humans heading for 12 billion, that that implies may well not be sustainable. The option of living outside the money/industrial economy must not only be allowed but celebrated because that is what is needed to live within the sustainable carrying capacity of Earth.

A sustainable vision would be of a world where humans can work occasionally within the global money economy and buy some lunxuary items (e.g. a Kogi buys a metal cooking pot), but few would work fulltime as wage slaves, so most would "work" 0 to 1,000 hours a year "for money." The average human living sustainably might have a $500/year income. They would grow food, make needed things, fix broken things, and live as part of their environment, loving it and the things of it, for which they would not be paid in money. Whose who worked only for money would come to seem quaint at best, if not aberrant.


The Limits of Inequality

Start with a typical Paleolithic band of sisters or tribe/extended family of 25 to 50 humans, pre-agrarians, such as our ancestors knew and considered natural and normal because it was. Your tribe is a roving band of hunter-gatherers that may well have no privileged chief. Those with special ability, of either gender, step forward to direct a group task as needed then fade back into the pervasive social/sexual egalitarianism that characterized hominid life for two million years (with atavistic exceptions).

Females appreciated the meat the men sometimes brought back, but de facto matriarchy was the pervasive norm as child rearing was shared and young mothers benefited most by staying with their mothers whose grandmothering was especially important. Some men and women were of higher status based on ability, know-how, and insight acquired with age, which leads to some inequality. A privileged person may get to sleep a bit closer to the fire on a cold night, or if they are known to like liver, may get a slightly larger portion. In a perfect egalitarian society all would get a 1.0 to 1 share of the natural wealth provided daily by the environment. In practice, some individuals may have lead privileged lives measured at 1.1 to 1, 1.2 to 1 or maybe even 1.25 times more wealth (real) than average.

If there is a chief or shaman and the hunters came back with only a squirrel, and the elitist chief said, "I'll take that" and gave it to one of his wives to prepare for him, such extreme elitism would be impossible to tolerate. When he of the full belly went to sleep, one of the hunters would stick a spear through him and pin him to the ground until he stopped writhing. No one would wonder why and approval would likely be near universal. For one person to claim twice their fair share would be aberrant and likely inconceivable to our more egalitarian ancestors. Male dominance and patriarchy existed among hunter-gatherers, but only as an anthropological atavism (wow, I recall "anthropological atavism" from a Mad Magazine I read when I was maybe 12, never thought I'd have occasion to use it) likely characteristic of the common ancestor we share with the common chimp, but from which humans have evolved away from at least until recent times (last 12,000 years).

Near some resources, such as an abundance of fish that could be dried in mass quantities and stored, permanent settlements developed supporting populations in the hundreds. Elites could emerge and did to live separate lives in larger dwellings needed to hide their privileged lives from commoner eyes. Warriors, supported by the local source of stored wealth, expanded the chieftainship allowing for distant elite control and resource extraction. The warriors lived near the chief's compound as did the priestly intelligentsia whose job was to justify the absolute need to tolerate, depend on, indeed celebrate the elites favored by even greater unseen elites (or one almighty elite).

Settled hunter-gatherer patriarchal chiefdoms with warrior minions and mind manipulating priests were exceptions, rarities until the agricultural revolution allowed for settled elites to prosper and commit empire on a grand scale. In the past 12,000 years agriculture has spread globally, but no choice is implied. If the agricultural life of toil (for the commoners) comes to one valley, the population supported can and therefore does increase ten-fold. If those in a neighboring valley chose to hunt and gather the wealth about them to share in a gifting economy in the ancestral way, to chant and dance, to celebrate their comparatively egalitarian life together—they are easily made to go away or die as the Glorious Empire next valley over, blessed by the gods themselves, expands to write regional history telling about the backward savages that used to live in their valley.

From the point of view of our ancestors, the emergence of settled elite empire building has been a mixed blessing or unmitigated disaster. Until about 300 years ago empire building was fueled only by agricultural surplus. No global empire had emerged. With the tapping of a vast planetary vat of fossil fuel energy, industrial empire has grown exponentially to subsume the planet. Nation-state based power lead to global wars in the twentieth century, bad for business, but they too were subsumed by the real power behind the economic growth. Economists are needed to explain to the commoners why elite inequalities on the order of 10,000:1 (i.e. the "billionaire class") are absolutely needed and to be tolerated (or celebrated) so that some of the planetary resources being unsustainably extracted can trickle down to them. As long as "some" wealth does, so long as Wal-Mart is open 24/7, the growther system can continue to make the rich richer while placating commoners.

When the trickle becomes a drip, business-as-usual will become chaotic descent as usual. The only novelty this time is that there is only one resource extraction-based empire, the Euro-Sino Empire, that cannot be conquered by another developing resource-based growth empire from this planet as there are none other. This leaves the possibility that the fossil-fueled global empire could be replaced by an ideological empire. Maybe the Scientologists will come up with a new marketing angle and spread. Perhaps they, however, will be subsumed by the faster spreading Global Caliphate. Could happen because it has happened before.

A Federation of Watersheds, whose Fed mámas had learned from the Kogi mámas, would be alternative.


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