Let’s All Work for a Living

13 Sep

Let’s All Work for a Living


A Parable…Or just another reason why math is sad

            Two men work for the same company. One earns $10,000 a year at an entry level position while the other earns $100,000 a year in a management position. After one year they both receive a $1,000 raise for their hard work.

            A socialist comes along and says, “Well that’s fair. They each received $1,000 for being good workers. $1,000 = $1,000. What could be more equal than that? Now one makes $11,000 and the other makes $101,000 and there is still a $90,000 difference between their two salaries just as before.”

            A capitalist comes along hears this and says, “What? That’s not fair at all.   $1,000 = $1,000?! Nonsense! The man earning $10,000 a year received 10 times more money than his manager. I quit!”


All Students know that when they leave school they are going to have to get a job. Childhood will be officially over and adulthood along with working will be just beginning. Many public school students however, have jobs while they are still in high school so they have an idea of what is in store for them in their future after graduation…or do they? For most students who work, the money they earn is money in their pockets. They can use it for fun and entertainment or to buy clothes and other items that they want or need. They can buy a car and become more independent and as a result they begin to see work as much more rewarding than school. Work earns them money while school seems like time wasted.

 I’ve had many students over the years who would put in 8 hour days after school, working until midnight or later, virtually working full time jobs. Of course their school work suffered or was non existent. They missed school because they slept late or they would skip school to pick up extra hours not to mention skipping homework assignments, but it all seemed worthwhile to them because they were making money. And they couldn’t wait to finally graduate high school so they could have more time for working and making money and more time for relaxing and spending their money when they weren’t working. But unfortunately kids often forget one very important thing. When they are in school they in most cases have parents or a parent or guardian at home, where they live, who is paying the bills that they don’t have to pay, like rent, gas, food, repairs, taxes. What happens when all of that becomes their responsibility is something that they seldom realize or think about. Working when the fruit of your labor puts money in your pockets for your own enjoyment is great, but when you have to work for “the man” and the fruits of your labor put money in other people’s pockets first, that fruit isn’t quite as juicy and delicious as it used to be.

12 years in school seems like a lifetime to the 18 year old because it is!… but they will spend 50 more years or 4 X school, in the working world! Lots of students also never think about that. And they also often aren’t aware of how high those bills and non-entertaining expenses are going to be in their adult life and that the jobs that they had as students are not going to earn them nearly enough to pay for all of that when they are on their own. Sadly, without an education and the chance to move on to another educational opportunity like college, they will never be able to qualify for a job where they can earn enough money to finance that American dream that they’ve all been told about and seen in movies and on television.

Even more sadly they might someday look back at their time in high school, although they won’t want to and might never admit it, as the pinnacle of their success, the best time of their lives, a time when they had real money in their pockets.

This is becoming a real problem for today’s student. Without an education and by that I mean, without an advanced education beyond high school where one learns 21st century skills in technology and other in demand vocations and careers, a young adult just won’t be able to establish the earning power needed to qualify for the middle class, let alone become wealthy or rich. Where once there were manufacturing and service jobs, supported by union wages and corporate giants waiting for the high school graduate who had had enough of schooling for one lifetime, there are now only minimum wage jobs or minimal wage jobs that will barely elevate their status into the likes of the working poor.

Why is this? Why don’t we pay people to work anymore? Have the corporations and large major companies gone poor? Not everyone can go on to college and not everyone is interested in obtaining higher level skills. Everyone never did, so why can’t the minimum wage be raised so that American high school graduates can still go on to work hard and get ahead?

In 1776 when we declared our nation’s independence and announced to the world that all men were created equal slavery was still an option for America’s employers but in 1865 or four score and nine years later we put an end to that and began paying all workers for their labor. And today, still another seven score and 6 years later workers can happily expect a minimum of $7.65 per hour for their labor. Not bad huh? From nothing to $7.65 in 146 years; that’s a raise from nothing, of 5 cents per hour per year! No wonder McDonald’s and Wal-Mart are going broke! Workers have gone from making a guaranteed nothing per year in 1865 to a guaranteed $15,000 per year in 2011. That’s outrageous isn’t it? How can employers afford such an increase?! However, don’t forget that today’s employers no longer have to provide room and board for their employees like they did in the good old days of slavery. (not in favor of slavery, just making a point) That’s a savings for employers right? So slavery equaled no pay plus room and board (albeit, crappy room and board) while today’s’ workers enjoy a federal minimum pay of around $15,000 minus room and board. So how much of an advantage is that for today’s workers and high school graduates? Hmmm…let’s see if we can figure that out…

We’ll put you in one of the cheapest areas to live in the U.S: Fargo, North Dakota (oh boy!) where your minimum wage is a whopping $7.25/hr. That’s $15,080 dollars a year but of course you’ll have to pay taxes first before you get to bring that money home. You can expect to pay about $1,470 for FICA and SECA taxes and the North Dakota state tax. That will leave you with $13,609. The average rent in Fargo for a nice little 1 bedroom apartment will cost you about $650/month or $7,800 plus those pesky utilities like heat, water, and electricity so we’ll tack on another $2,700. Now you have $3,109 left for fun and entertainment… or do you? I bet you’re probably going to want to watch television and use a cell phone and drive a car. Ever since television went digital because the airwaves have been taken over by cell phone frequencies you can’t watch it unless you pay for it and even the most basic of cable packages is going to cost you money. You can bundle it now with your phone and your internet. You do want the internet don’t you?! Let’s be conservative and say that all costs you $75 a month. That’s $900 for the year so now you’re down to $2,209 left but you are planning to eat aren’t you? You’ll need groceries and other supplies for your apartment like toilet paper and laundry detergent etc. but if we just concentrate on food the USDA recommends $175-$200/month for food and groceries. That would cost a total of $2100 to $2400 for food and anyway you calculate it you are now officially broke and in debt and you haven’t even gotten around to transportation and figured in the cost of owning a car and paying for gas and repairs and we haven’t even mentioned entertainment yet. You’re going to need another job even though you are already working full time! Or you’re going to have to live with someone who has a better paying job than you and who doesn’t need as much as you do. Or you are going to have to do without something. Of course there is always debt too but when you consider interest even debt is something that you have to buy.

So all in all, 7 score and 6 years after the end of slavery, our country will guarantee its citizens a wage for free workers that will place you above the national poverty line but unfortunately will not cover the price of living. Today’s high school students need to know this. They need to be taught and they need to understand and they need to learn this sad fact more than they need to pass a basic skills exam. (Although they of course need those skills too) Without a high school education, at the very least, there is really no freedom in a free market capitalist society, (or anywhere else) except perhaps the freedom to: live in poverty or on welfare or in jail. And of course if you do that it will be your fault, not societies, make no mistake about that. Our society has given you the right to pursue your happiness. However, you have to provide the vehicle. Nothing comes easy and there are no guarantees.That is the price of student failure and all other lessons are for naught if this lesson is not acknowledged, fully understood and well learned!

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