If the world is a stage, then America is its Casino Royale.
Now that wit is out of the way, grit may have its day:
A great article by Nicholas Kristof entitled “America’s Stacked Deck” is available on NYTimes.com HERE:
The article discusses the income gap (re: financial chasm) in America, in which the rich get richer, primarily due to the fact that they are, well, rich.
In classic “Katty Rant” style, here is a personal experience that demonstrates this point in (I hope) entertaining clarity. Warning: Political Correctness Within
During my Freshman year of college at Kansas State University, I served on the Residence Hall Governing Board first as Hall Representative to the Governing Board, and then as the Social Coordinator for all Residence Halls.
While serving as Hall Rep, my RH (Residence Hall – do NOT call it a “dorm”!!!!), West Hall, an all-female RH paired with the all-male Haymaker Hall, held an EPIC Casino Night to raise money for…something.
Prizes were donated by local businesses, and officers manned the attractions while hundreds of RH dwellers flocked to the Student Union for $500 in Funny Munny with which to play. At the end of the night, the prizes were auctioned off.
Following family tradition, I dealt Blackjack. Not simple 21-BJ, but full-on, double-down, MFing BLACKJACK. I dealt fast. I dealt for people that knew how to play. KNEW how to play. Talking was not allowed at my table; a tap or a wave, and then we moved on. The minimum bet quickly reached $10,000. Many people approaching my table couldn’t afford it, but the millionaires that had developed there were simply not interested in teaching and waiting on newbs. I may have made the rule, but I had a few dedicated players at my table that I felt responsible to. During the auction at the end of the night players from my table had so much munny that they were able to afford not only the prizes they really wanted, but also just about everything available. This left the crowd at the veritable mercy of my players allowing them to have anything at all.
There’s a flaw in my logic, though. Everyone had received the same $500 at the door, so why did I punish the latecomers that had just as much chance of becoming millionaires as everyone else, simply because it may have affected their ability to make more munny quickly? Refusing them access to my table, which was the Fort Knox of a considerable amount of the munny available, essentially cut them out of the auction entirely. My discriminating discretion was partially to blame for their inability to purchase prizes, which was the point of coming to Casino Night in the first place.
Imagine that instead of neon signs and spa gift baskets, the prizes were commodities like real estate and pork bellies (BACON, essentially, for those of you that need some extra motivation to be angry). This is how the American Stock Market works for those that invested shrewdly long ago. The buy-in is so high at this point for the safe stocks that to play at all is a risk that most Americans just simply cannot afford. Meanwhile, those that got rich during the tech-boom are able to continue doing so, with the wealth at the top growing exponentially while the trickle-UP economy bleeds the lower classes by nickel-and-diming them with minimum wage, and part-time jobs. The wealthy are literally gambling with your grocery money.
Incentives like employee discounts at retail stores bribe the lower classes into implicitly lining the pockets of their Masters by increasing transactions, and sales, leading to greater power in the Stock Market. In other words, Big Box Store employee, every time you take advantage of that 10% discount you lend credit to your employer’s view that they’re justified to only pay you 8 bucks an hour.
Do the math (in what is an oversimplified example): If you work 40 hours per week for $8 an hour ($320 per week), and then spend $100 per week with a 10% discount at your workplace, you “save” $40 per month to earn beneath the poverty line. The company, which is divided into, say, just 100 shares puts your $40 in their (re: stockholders) pocket if the stock price rises just 40 cents that month. You make that happen every time you hand it over by shopping at the store. And that’s just you – divide/compound the stock price increase by the amount of employees. As a matter of fact, the longer you work there, the more likely it is that it will become the only place that you can afford to shop at all.
For the sake of discussion, let’s add that if instead of offering a 10% discount the store paid its employees 10% more, a rate of $8.80 per hour. Those employees would earn an additional $128 per month – a whopping 3+ times more than they saved with the discount. The discount isn’t inherently evil, but being incentivized to invest in your own job security via returning a portion of your measly paycheck to the company you work for feels like the labor equivalent of being stuck in the mud spinning your wheels. It’s a strange matter of perspective (see the above divide/compound statement). To the company, the discount is a perk of the job, but to the savvy employees, the discount is an invisible leash without so much as a foot to hang themselves.
However, if you are able to find work elsewhere that pays $10 per hour, just 25% more, but doesn’t offer a discount to employees, you would be earning an additional $80 per WEEK, an additional $320 per month – it would be as if there were an entire extra week in the month. (Oh my Spaghetti Monster, you’re RICH!!)
That discount doesn’t look so enticing anymore, does it? Instead of scrimping on shrimps, you can afford to buy clams with all YOUR clams!! No more boxed wine for you, my friend!!
In board meetings, at water coolers, and happy hours, they’re laughing at you. Because you’re “stupid” enough to believe them. Don’t buy it.
I’ve lamented several times that I often feel at the mercy of people that are not as capable as myself; indeed, often times don’t seem capable of doing their job, period. As Mr. Kristof cites in his article:
“One glimpse of the structural unfairness in America is this: A dumb rich kid is now more likely to graduate from college than a smart poor kid, according to Robert Putnam of Harvard University.”
This fact is a matter of perception for many in my generation, unfortunately. I feel as though money is not the true barrier to my success at this point, but the inability to blast through the wall of blockheads that have gained control of goods and services that I need via nepotism, real or implied.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC NEPOTISM: the systemic self-fulfilling prophecy in which a person’s poverty is incorrectly perceived to be the result of a personal defect, thus preventing that person from being offered opportunities in which to prove their worth. In other words, the belief that a [financially] poor person makes [socially] poor choices.
Example: A homeless person is never hired due to being perceived as a potential thief, thus leading to their need to receive assistance, which is perceived as laziness, making it even more difficult for him/her to be perceived as employable.
I support a company specific minimum wage determined by the previous year’s (or quarter’s) reported gross profit. More to come in a future post.