Let’s Digress About Living Wage and Responsibilities

I’ve seen this picture from this Akki fellow floating around on the social media lately. It made me think thoughts about some things, so I wrote an open letter to Akki and whoever else shares his sentiments.

Dear Akki,

I saw your tweet earlier today via the many people sharing it and I think I have a multifold answer for you. Your tweet proposed the thought exercise, “Why is it ‘if you can’t pay rent, buy less lattes’ and not ‘if you can’t pay your employees a living wage, buy less yachts?’”

Firstly, the reason it’s “if you can’t pay rent, buy less lattes” is because, well, lattes are expensive. A grande latte at Starbucks is $3.65. If someone buys one per day for a month, it’s about $113 ($3.65×31=$113ish). 

At first, that may not seem like a ton of money, however, most of the people I’ve met who religiously purchase latte-esk beverages every day also spend money on other non-essentials, e.g., impulse Amazon items, splurge buying at Target, or frequently eating at other restaurants.

I can tell you from experience, it’s a lot of money. When my wife and I started to crack down on our spending and got on a written budget, it sucked. It especially sucked to realize that approximately $1200 per month was going to random purchases, restaurants, Amazon, and Starbucks beverages.

So yes, if you can’t pay rent, buy fewer lattes. But really, the first half of this should probably say, “If you can’t pay rent, get on a written budget and quit spending money on things you shouldn’t be buying and don’t actually need to buy in the first place.” 

Secondly, “If you can’t pay your employees a living wage, buy less yachts.” I have a few issues with this: 

1) It’s not my employer’s responsibility to ensure my bills are paid. That’s my responsibility because I’m a healthy, functional adult. (There is a valid discussion to be had for the disabled or less fortunate, but we’re not having that particular discussion right now.)

2) It’s not my employer’s business to know what my bills are, what my personal purchases are, or to know how my personal life is affected by the wage they are paying me. 

3) It isn’t any of my business to know what my employer buys or how they spend the money that they worked for.

4) It is my employer’s responsibility to pay me what I have earned. They are legally responsible to pay me what I am owed based on the amount of money I agreed to work for and the number of hours I worked. 

5) The idea of a “living wage” is awful. There are minimum wage laws, which are one thing, and there are also valid arguments with research that shows minimum wage laws may actually inhibit employees from making more money.

6) If your employer has a yacht, sixteen yachts, or seven islands, that’s great! It means they were successful in their business dealings. Perhaps you should talk to them and take a few pointers instead of being envious of things that don’t belong to you.

If you, me, or anyone else are unhappy about how much income we’re making from a company, then we can and should leave that company and find work elsewhere. There are always other jobs to take. And 99% of the time, when we start working for a business, we’re told up front how much money we’ll make. I’ve had a handful of jobs from different employers in my life, and they all hired me the same way: I applied for the job, interviewed, discussed benefits, discussed job expectations and role responsibilities, and they told me how much money I would be making. 

There are very few situations where one is forced to stay working for a company. And usually in those situations, both parties signed a contract with predetermined rules, expectations, etc. 

So, if people dislike how much money they’re making, they can 1) ask for a raise, 2) pick up another job in addition to the one they dislike, or 3) find a new job altogether.

The United States is beautifully capitalistic with jobs, which means there is always another job out there for everyone. The other option is to sit in your own pile of self-pity and envy while letting your greed and entitlement fester.

Allow me to rewrite your tweet in a more intellectually honest way: 

“If you can’t pay rent, get on a written budget and quit spending money on things you shouldn’t be buying and don’t actually need to buy in the first place. Also, 99% of the time it is your responsibility to provide for yourself and your household. Stop being jealous of the cool toys other people have. Find a way to make more money and then you can get cool toys yourself.” 

Sincerely, 

Adam

P.S. Have you ever heard of Thomas Sowell? He has some amazing books on this sort of stuff. If you would like to read one and lack the funds for it, I would be more than happy to send you a copy.

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