Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mr. Huntsman, Bless you, sir!

Jon Huntsman is still and will still be one of the most upstanding, righteous, moral politicians of this day and age.  In all my years, I would never have thought that I would hear a Morman Republican Utah Governor come out and openly call Marriage Equality a right for LGBTQ individuals.

Mr. Huntsman, personally, you have touched me deeply sir. Your character speaks greatly in your words and wisdom and heart of service.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your grace and compassion.

By their fruits you shall know them.  Some of the greatest words spoken by Jesus Christ, and those words resonate very loudly in you, sir.  And I pray deeply that your family is blessed beyond measure and that what you touch blossoms into great abundance and providence for everyone around you.

Gabriel Givens

Updated: Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

The Minimum Wage is now an issue this election cycle with more and more low-income workers demanding a larger share of the pie than what low-income employers are provided to cough up.  The tension originally started with walkouts from dozens of Walmart Stores across the country, who protested the company's poor wages and working conditions.  Now, we see fast food workers from companies in New York who have staged a massive walkout from it's stores and are demanding a basic standard of living that provides them the things they need to survive.  Current Federal Minimum wage is $7.25 per hr which was raised by George W. Bush in 2004-2006.  The actions of these workers are significant because the fast food industry has always been consistently union-free and untouched by labor disputes.  The low wage environment made it prime for people to leave and find relative satisfaction elsewhere. But now, with jobs so short and employment lines so long...the workers for these fast-food chains are tired of being paid pittens for the work they do, and are demanding higher wages so they can make even the bare necessities, which is what the minimum wage was designed to do.

Previously, I've stated before, that the value and buying power of the minimum wage was at it's highest in 1969 under Richard Nixon, where it was equivalent to making about $20,280 per year while the current $7.25 per hour affords $15,080 per year.  Most areas of the country, this increased wage would be more sufficient to provide a low-middle class standard for a single person.  A single parent or a parent of two or more would still struggle, but not nearly as bad, and they would likely still qualify for public assistance in most states.  It's important to note, that the justification of higher wages being mandated by government regulation is a powerful and effective way to drop people off public assistance and get them working and self-sufficient.  Most people would concede that it's better that people work for what they need instead of having it given to them, in the long run.  It  builds skills and relationships when a person is able to work where that work is able to meet basic needs.  When basic needs are not being met by the system that a person or people are given, they turn to more nefarious means to obtain those basics.  There is a direct correlation between poverty and crime.  And tackling low wages is a direct way of tackling one of the root causes of crime.

An increase in the minimum wage is showing huge support across the country.  President Obama, in his 2nd Inaugural address called for an increase of the minimum wage to $9.00, plus, indexing it to inflation to ensure it continues to rise as time passes.  It's clear that citizens believe that those at the bottom should be entitled to at least a survivable wage.  According to a Huffington Post YOUGOV Poll, the public overwhelmingly supports increases to the minimum wage, and overwhelmingly supports tying it to inflation. Further, as mentioned above, It will also cause wage growth in other non-minimum wage jobs as their jobs approach the minimum wage floor. It will also cause consistent gains in wages not seen in almost a generation.  Its the way we minimize participation in the social safety net and maximize access to disposable income, while also ensuring people can afford the basics.  Anything we can do to decrease dependency on the social safety net is a step in the right direction.  Ensuring survivable wages for those who work full time is of paramount importance to the millions that live on the slimmest amounts of income.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why is the Minimum Wage Tip Credit Wrong?

The minimum wage tip credit is one of the most archaic and backwards wage laws in the modern day.  It trumps the minimum wage itself as one of the most regressive, immoral, and economically unjust labor laws on the books, nation wide.  Many of you don't know what a minimum wage tip credit is.  So for those who don't, I'll lay it out on the table for you.  The minimum wage tip credit is a benefit for employers of tipped employees.  It enables an employer to basically pay you just enough in cash wages so that your payroll and income tax deductions are paid, and your tips are your sole source of income.

For example, say I work for Applebee's in South Carolina.  In South Carolina, the minimum wage is $7.25/hr.  Per federal rules, as a tipped employee, your employer is obligated to pay you $2.13/hr for the services you offer to the company.  Some servers are generally content with this arrangement as they get an ok to great amount of tips for the work they do.  Some are not so lucky, literally being cheated out of their wages simply because of their "tipped" status.  But, as someone who has worked as a server, I know first hand that what you actually get in tips, and what the company says you do can vary greatly.  Some companies use your sales to determine how much withholding to do on your final paycheck.  Furthermore, the burden of proof to show you made less than minimum wage is on you...meaning you have to prove to the company you didn't make that much.

Washington State is the only state without the minimum wage tip credit on the books.  We require employers to pay full minimum wage for the work a tipped employee performs.  This also means that tipped employees can actually earn a livable wage and live.  Restaurants in this state perform quite well and the prices are still competitive.  Furthermore, employees are more likely to retain their jobs because the pay provides them enough money to meet their needs, plus the cash in pocket every night.  Across the country, though, this is not the case.  There are servers, waiters, bar tenders, and delivery drivers across the country earning a pitiful amount of money because their employers can basically get a wage subsidy.  That wage subsidy pushes the wage obligation onto patrons and guests to pay, leaving the employer to soak up all the profits and unjustly compensate the employees with little to nothing in the form of wages.  And wages generally represent the cut of profits that employees help generate.  There is no rational, fair, and reasonable justification for allowing this archaic practice to continue.  It's important to remember that what "The Right" contends as government interference in the economy is actually correcting a severe injustice which causes severe harm to thousands of servers across the country.  Using Washington as a model, it's important to realize that mandated higher wages do not cause the problems that "The Right" contends it does.  We have a low unemployment rate 7.8%, in step with or below the Federal Rate...and have had so historically, we have a strong standard of living, and prices are competitive compared to other area in the country with similar or lower wage levels.  There is no evidence that the higher minimum wage or that the removal of the tip credit would hurt anyone and only empower so many.  Furthermore, there are economic benefits to removing the tip credit, such as increasing the purchasing power of the low income.  The extra money earned from servers, waiters, and the like earning full minimum wage would be a substantial increase in their available disposable income.  This would result in more spending in areas that traditionally would be unreachable by many in server jobs.  More income for the basics, fewer people on the welfare rolls, and more tax revenue for local governments by way of sales and use taxes, and finally, more income for local businesses because more money is being paid out to employees who then spend it in other areas.  There are no downsides to this.

It's time for the minimum wage tip credit to end.  It's an unjust, unfair, unreasonable wage system for the 21st Century.  Tipped employees deserve to make a living wage, they also deserve their share of the profits derived from the business, and they deserve consistent, regular, reliable paychecks that aren't dependent on the whims of the customer traffic they assist.  If this means prices have to rise, then let them I believe they are artificially being held down by downward pressures on wages, and the export of the manufacturing sector to third-world countries.  In times where employees have no bargaining power to negotiate more fair wages, this is where government can step in and make sure that people don't get screwed over with wages that cannot even sustain a basic living.  Government can ensure people can live without the need for the public leg up and be self-sustaining.  It requires tipped employees to be paid fair and just wages for the work they do, and for everyone to collectively work together to achieve this end.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Worry Not....

Worry not about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of it's own. For if the Lord provides for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field and every thing that crawls upon the Earth, how much more will he provide for you? Paraphrased Matt 6:25-34.

That's right people, He provides. Don't be afraid for your future, because your future is guided by Him. You choose where you go, he provides the means that you can reach that destination.

I once asked the Lord, "What should I do with my life?" And I got the most amazing answer from a Pastor.

You decide where you want to go and the Lord will bless whatever path you choose. There's no rigid and absolute destiny that everyone is required to's not chiseled in stone by the finger of God. Our Holy God has blessed us with free will and self-determination to decide these things for ourselves. If you want to teach...then teach. If you want to be a grease-monkey...then be a grease-monkey. If you want to be a free spirit of nature and frolick in the wilderness...then do so :). God will bless you wherever you decide to go. And God will use your life to touch others just by you living your life.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Intent, Motive, Reason...and Other Concerns

I pose a philosophical puzzle: Killing is not always murder.

Murder, I would define, is the intent to kill with a vicious purpose outside the conventions of war and without just cause to justify your actions. I would further argue that the definition of murder is arbitrary depending on the available evidence, the intent, and the means. Murder is an intent, not an act. The act is to kill, the murder is the mindset in which the action is taken.

An example:

One who kills another for breaking into their home brandishing a weapon and pointing it at someone would not be murder...because the intent was self-preservation which can arguably be reasoned due to the circumstances. And therefore isn't murder. 

But take the above example, but then we learn that the killer was coaxed by way of immoral means with the intent of causing him to break into the man's home out of provocation, with the killer knowing he'd react in a particular way, would turn from self-defense killing to murder.

NOW...I'm going to venture into very muddy water here...and apply this reasoning to another circumstance:

Abortion: It's not murder because it does not fit the above criteria that defines murder:

A woman who ends her pregnancy due to the threat of her life ending has not committed murder because her intent was not to end the developing life within her with malice or hatred or malicious intent. But was out of self preservation. By the standards we have established above...abortion for the purposes of self-preservation is justified.

A woman who ends her pregnancy due to a rape is not committing murder because the act which caused her pregnancy was outside her ability to control. Therefore, to end a pregnancy which was unintentioned, unwanted, and a consequence by which she had no personal responsibility to cause...her intent is not malicious, but is pragmatic and reasonable and is also out of self-preservation. The prospect of being forced to raise a child she did not willingly participate in the conditions which brought it's conception which brought it's growth into being is not murder either.

Now: This third thought...before hand I want to stress I DO NOT ENDORSE elective abortion personally...but, this is my reasoning behind why I don't actively seek legal sanctions to oppose it either:

A woman who has six children and his impregnated again and cannot afford any more children may be ethically justified to end her pregnancy out of pragmatism. The ending of a pregnancy to preserve a healthier standard of living for her other children is not malicious nor's not with the intent of causing harm to the unborn for reasons that are generally associated with murder. It is a combination of self-preservation and protection of her already born children. And therefore is not murder.

I'm not going to diminish how this issue touches so many people.  It's a difficult matter to reason fairly because passions are inflamed so vigorously.  Life is precious in all forms and that's never a bad thing.  It's when you push your view onto another that it becomes harmful.  Whatever the moral/spiritual/physical consequences may be, it's not for us, as human beings to pass that judgment on others.  Our role as responsible people is to support others in their personal decisions, whatever those may be in this matter.  To do anything else is to move away from "Love your neighbor as yourself."