I’m actually not going where you might think based on this post’s title. I’ve been there often enough. Instead:

In response to my post of this on Facebook, a friend of mine (yes, a real-world friend) writes:

I am one of those people who has been severely affected by the job crisis. I am educated and skilled and have worked since I was 10 years old picking berries for school clothes money. For the very first time in my life after having been laid off at the age of 49… I can’t get a job. I am working for myself… making very little “hit and miss” money. I am living at friends’ houses/ I have not had health insurance for the past 2.5 years. It makes my blood boil when the super wealthy call themselves “Job Creators” … I have ONE question for those people. WHERE THE FUCK ARE ALL THE JOBS YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE CREATING??

(She’s also quite a bit smarter than the average bear, by the way.) She told me a while back about one job she interviewed for, as a property manager for apartment buildings. (She’s done this for multiple buildings over the years.) They wanted her to be on call pretty much 24/7, and to work pretty much all the time on all weekends. She provides the vehicle, no mileage compensation. Plus some other onerous requirements. No benefits. And they wanted to pay her $12.50 an hour.

Her response — which makes all the sense in the world to me, and I think will make a lot of sense to my gentle readers who are capable of imaging themselves in her situation (there but for the grace of god…): FUCK THAT.

She can have a better life just getting by this way and that.

Which brought me to thinking about the right-wing economic mantra that you hear so often:

If we had lower wages/compensation, more people would be working!

Theory: Employers would be willing to hire more labor if it was less expensive. (This assumes, of course, that they need more labor to meet current demand. Questionable.)

But doesn’t “textbook economic theory” and simple sense tell us that if you offer less for something, you won’t be able to buy as much of it? Sellers won’t sell. In the case of labor sellers (income “buyers”), they’ll find substitutes for that money, find other ways to get by — paring expenses to the bone, working hit and miss in the informal economy, living with (and spending more time with) friends and family, enjoying inexpensive or free leisure pursuits. (Is this how you build a thriving economy?)

We have rock-solid explanations for the human FUCK THAT response — courtesy of experiments in The Dictator game.

There’s $100. Two people. John says, “I’ll give you $X.” Jane can say Yes, or No. If she says No, she gets nothing, he keeps it all.

In the Ultimatum game variation, if she says No, neither person gets anything.

It’s a one-time game.

If Jane is one of those mythical “rational optimizers” that (right wing) economists love to talk about, she’ll say Yes to any offer. Some money is better than none, right?

But humans don’t do that. If the offer’s too low, they say FUCK THAT. They forego free money to enforce their sense of fairness.

My friend was not being offered free money — not even close — so her response is even more understandable. It’s both rational, and eminently understandable as an innately human response. (She wasn’t actually offered the job, BTW. She never even went that far.)

There’s a huge body of research and knowledge related to this human sense of fairness, and how humans enforce it, which I find fascinating but won’t go into here. Just to say that it is a fundamental, hard-coded aspect of human nature. We all feel it, and we all act on it — enforce it — in various ways.

Economists ignore it at our peril.








  1. WiseFather Avatar

    If you’re going to call yourselves “job creators” doesn’t that mean you have to take responsibility for the lack of jobs? I recently published a blog post about how I think we can motivate these “job creators” to do their duty. In a nutshell, it involves tying a new top marginal tax rate to the unemployment rate (and has a carrot and a stick). http://www.ragingwisdom.com/?p=185JobCreators

  2. Bkmacd Avatar

    Subtitled: in which our hero takes one thousand words to explain sticky wages

  3. Dave Raithel Avatar

    Words will not convey the empathy I have for your friend. Documenting my own experiences might appear, however, a plea for pity, and I am more about getting angry enough to hurt some people than I am about pity. So let me observe a more general condition of our time – that your friend is offered a job that putting her on call 24/7…

    Since I spend a lot of time looking at want-ads and Craigslist and etc., I see more and more such kinds of offerings – even part-time, on-call-as needed (e.g., in landscaping) “jobs”. What these all come to is “just in time” inventory maintenance, from Toyota to Wal-Mart, where the commodity, labor, is the thing on the shelf. It’s no longer enough for a business to contract with temp agencies, or outsource functions, or turn employees into “consultants.” Rather, all of American labor should be like day-workers lining up outside the local construction supply company, hoping to be picked for the “privilege” to make a living…

  4. Ted K Avatar
    Ted K

    WOW…… You dropped the F-bomb. Have you been reading my blathering posts on BaselineScenario??? My degeneracy is rubbing off on you.

    All jokes aside, there are times when vulgarity is called for. Certainly with TBTF, CDS, CDO, Banker bonuses and the rest….. here, the vulgarity is appropriate

  5. Ted K Avatar

    I might also add, this is why UNIONS were created, and why UNIONS still exist on life support.

    You know what I say??? I’ll take a Hoffa over a Blankfein any day of the week. And if that means glad-handing a few dirty Italian types to defend worker rights….. so be it. Is that any worse than JPMorgan bribing NYC cops to beat the shit out of nonviolent demonstrators (away from NYC cops usual OT job of bonus pay at strip clubs and drug raves for bouncing)??? Not in my book.

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