Specialty Ride Sharing Idea

I’m a little old school when it comes to ride sharing.  I’d rather take public transportation when I can, or walk wherever I am, or take a taxi, or maybe a shuttle service to and from an airport.  I’ve only ever taken Uber (or was it a Lyft?) a few times with others who arranged the ride.  I do have an Uber app, but have never used it, and frankly, embarrassingly, I don’t know how.  I’m sure I could figure it out, but it’s just that the idea is still a little strange to me.  I don’t fully trust these services.  True, they are cheaper, but there have been too many terrifying incidents with rogue drivers.  And for all the honest folks trying to make a living driving their OWN cars, they aren’t compensated very well, which in part accounts for why some drivers went on strike. You might counter with the fact that there are rogue taxi drivers too, but at least, or so it seems anyway, the taxi industry is better regulated and perhaps safer, albeit more expensive than a ride sharing service and less convenient and not as accessible or available. But this post isn’t about ride sharing vs. taxi.  It’s about a novel idea I have, at least I think it is novel, but who knows, maybe someone has already thought of it and put it into practice, however unlikely.  The idea is essentially, this: speciality rides.  Now stay with me.


Let’s say you miss that old 70’s car your parents drove, maybe it was a Chevy Chevette, remember that one? My mom owned a white four speed four door. It had a clutch so tight that I had to stand up and push it down with all my weight to shift.  And let’s say you need a ride, but you want THAT ride, a 70’s Chevette, or, I don’t know, it might be an  AMC Gremlin. There’d be an app for that and it would have car categories and you could order anything, like renting a car, only it’s a ride, but not just any kind of ride. Categories would include 70-80’s Japanese subcompacts – a Datsun B210 or Toyota Tercel.  Or you could pick British roadsters from the 70’s – a Jag, Austin Healy or an MG Midget, the car I learned to drive a stick on.  If you want to ride in style, why not a 70’s Chrysler Imperial, the one that’s as long as a boat or an 80’s Dodge Monaco.  You want a musical car, why not order up a Nissan Note or a Hyundai Sonata? Go ahead, have some fun! And here’s the twist, the driver picks you up, and YOU get to drive! It’s a brilliant idea, don’t you think?


Fast and Loud Review


Likely neither fast nor loud – picture courtesy of Ribbie on assignment in Montevideo

I don’t watch a lot of TV, and when I do, I typically watch something political like the Rachel Maddow Show – she’s good – reruns of M*A*S*H or The Twilight Zone AND car  shows.  Yes, car shows, even the auctions.  I don’t quite know the attraction really.  I like cars, but am not a collector or anything and drive an underpowered, economical Honda Fit, but I once owned a muscle car, or I should say my parents did – a 1976 Camaro that they bought off the showroom floor at the Cliff Peck dealership in Little Rock, Arkansas.  It was their car until it became mine.  It’s life ended tragically in Denton, Texas in the year of 1986 when a pickup rear ended it at a stop sign, reducing the Camaro to an accordion.  Fortunately, neither me, nor my passenger were seriously injured.  The driver of the pickup was unharmed too and in fact, his pickup suffered barely a scratch.  Actually, what I like more than muscle cars are roadsters.  I don’t have one now, nor have I ever owned one, but my dad once had a 1973 MG Midget and it was with this car that I learned to drive a stick, a skill that I fear is as  foreign to most U.S. Millenials as a self-driving car would have been to me in 1976.  What does any of this have to do with the show Fast and Loud?  The MG nothing – but the Camaro, ah, the Camaro – the crew of Fast and Loud operating out of Gas Monkey Garage (GMG) has featured several and “equivalent” Pontiac Firebirds which I think made me long for the days when I myself drove a muscle car.

I started watching Fast and Loud from the beginning, back when the Gas Monkey Garage worked out of a small workshop, as the Brits from Wheeler Dealers would say.  I remember some of the original “monkeys” like Jordan and Tom, both of whom were later fired during the famous Firebird build.  But of course the stars and founders of GMG make the show watchable and popular. Richard Rawlings, the tall and skinny slicked back hair, goatee wearing owner of GMG, a car aficionado, racer, and businessman who built and expanded the GMG brand, snd who finds cars, and flips them. And then there’s Aaron Kaufman, chief Gas Monkey mechanic, nicknamed the bearded wonder, who repairs and tricks the cars out, often with a newer more powerful engine, a lowered stance and a stunning paint job by former paint master Kasey, who sadly also left the show several seasons ago.  Too bad because he was a funny character and perhaps the chief burnout king.  And then there’s Sue, GMG’s go-to upholsterer on their “junk” cars, as she calls them.  She is notoriously cranky and combative with a sharp tongue to put the “ass monkeys” in their places.  They bicker with her and the banter is always entertaining, which comes off as authentic reality show stuff, but may be a little bit scripted, as most reality shows are.  The other two characters of note are Dennis Collins, who owns a Jeep dealership, or something along those lines, and is Richard’s business partner with much deeper pockets.  They are always finding  valuable cars in a someone’s garage or barn and flipping them for big money – cars like rare Mustangs, a ’63 split window Corvette and the first two Firebirds ever produced.  And occasionally, golden opportunities drop into their laps like that wrecked Ferrari that Aaron restored and Dennis bought in the end.

I like the premise of the show which is a formula for success. Find car.  Flip it right away  or fix/modify (with drama during the build between the “monkeys”) to sell or auction off, often at no reserve.  Sometimes GMG makes money, and sometimes they don’t.  You never know.  The show has been successful with the core cast of Richard, Dennis, Sue, Aaron, and office assistant Christie.  The “lesser” monkeys work in the background and are not that interesting as personalities, but obviously do good work on the cars.  Now with Aaron leaving the show, I’m not sure it will ever be as good.  A self-taught mechanic with wild ideas, Aaron comes off as a brilliant wizard.  He and Richard often clash over the builds – for example over a design element or the budget for a project, but in the end, despite Richard’s doubts and anxieties, Aaron always gets the job done. However, it seems that ever since Richard hired a project manager, Jason Acker, for the Firebird build, Aaron may have been feeling less appreciated.  And whether this is true or not, I think Aaron is simply a car guy and not attracted to the marketing side of the business. He has never seemed too enthusiastic about GMG Bar N’ Grill or Gas Monkey Tequila.  He doesn’t even drink.  So the question becomes, will people still watch the show without Aaron?  Will the missing bearded wizard mechanic, the hipster, self-taught professor of mechanical engineering spell the end of the GMG reality show?

As much as I like Aaron, I do think the show will not only survive, but continue to be popular without the bearded wonder.  Here’s the thing, “King” Richard has star quality.  He’s cocky, but personable, a risk-taker, and a saavy businessman who knows the automobile AND entertainment industry.  Of all the car shows on Velocity, he probably has the most star quality, or star presence of any of the other leading personalities on the network, which includes guys like Mike and Edd of Wheeler Dealers, Wayne of  Chasing Classic Cars, Chip Foose of Overhaulin’, David Grainger of Restoration Garage, Joe Martin of Iron Restoration, and Bruno of Garage Squad.  The only other guys who come close would be Jay Leno, but his show, Jay Leno’s Garage, is an Internet show and not part of the Velocity lineup, and Danny of Counting Cars on the History Channel.

I wish Fast and Loud the best of luck in the future. It is a show that I like to watch to just chill out and wind down. It doesn’t require me to think or anything – and I can just put my brain on autopilot and strap in for the fast and loud ride.

Mowing Lawns for a David Lee Roth IRA

One heck of a lawn

One heck of a lawn

When I was a kid, I got my first job as a paperboy.  I must have been 14 or 15.  I started out on a bicycle, pitching the paper with pretty good accuracy.  When I was old enough to drive, I’d fling the paper with mixed results from my dad’s MG midget convertible.  It was an evening paper during the week and morning paper on the weekends.  During the summers, I’d also mow lawns in my neighborhood for like 15 bucks a pop.  I don’t even remember what I did with all the money I made, but I’m certain I didn’t save much.  I had a little savings account and think at one point had about 40 dollars in there which earned a few pennies in interest a year.  I set up a savings account just to get one of those passbooks which I thought was pretty cool.  The thought never occurred to me to set up a retirement account with my lawn mowing money as Cliff Goldstein suggests in the article, Put your teen’s lawn-mowing money into a Roth IRA. And if either of my parents had suggested it, I would have thought they were crazy and made some snide remark about David Lee Roth of Van Halen.

Retirement? Why my life had just begun.  I wasn’t working to set aside money for the day I could no longer work. I worked because I needed spending money, not saving money.  Money for baseball cards, chips, candy bars, sodas, movies, records and of course gas for the mower.  I could sure blow through money, but I always worked hard for it and believed in the spirit of making cold hard cash. I was even a member of the FBLA in high school, although ironically I never became a businessman or a business leader of any kind. I was an English major and later became a teacher and administrator.

As a young teen, I doubt I earned enough to even meet the Roth IRA minimum initial investment requirement, which is  something like $1,000.  I don’t know how much kids can get for a lawn these days, but I suppose if it is the right lawn in the right neighborhood, they could earn a couple hundred a day.  And if they are lucky enough to have parents who would match their contributions, and kick in some bonus spending money, a Roth IRA wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.  And in June of 2015 when the feds raise interest rates, I recommend channeling money into a cheap bond fund.  Always buy low and hope by retirement age share prices will be much higher. This earned income is essentially sheltered so that it cannot be considered as an asset for financial aid when the kid is ready to go to college.  But who knows, your teen may not need college if he/she makes it big in the lawn mowing business.  It could happen you know:  imagine your teen as a contractor with a novel logistics app to help coordinate an army of fellow teens mowing lawns, raking leaves and shoveling snow.  Your kid might be able to contribute to YOUR retirement plan!


Radio Shack Nearly Gone and Forgotten


RadioShack filed for bankruptcy and will shutter more than half of its 4,100 stores, which comes as a surprise, because I thought the Shack had collapsed years ago, which is how long it’s been since I’ve been to one.  With the name Radio, this place really hasn’t been relevant since the mid 70’s, when transistor radios, and tape recorders were still popular.  By the time the 80’s rolled around, and brand name stereo components took off in popularity, people started buying electronics at the big chain stores like Best Buy, Micro Center, Lechmere, Sears, Circuit City, Bradlees, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and smaller stereo shops like Custom Audio and Cambridge SoundWorks. No serious customer with any pride would have purchased a stereo from RadioShack or anything with the name Tandy on it.

It really is shocking to me that Radio Shack has survived for so long.  Even back in the day, I’d go in to buy speaker wire, or a TV antenna and there would be no one but me and the sales clerk in the store.  The place to me was more like a hardware store where I’d go to buy wire, batteries, electrical tape, tiny screwdrivers and needle noise pliers.  Honestly, the last time I went to a RadioShack was about 3 years ago when I bought a $2.00 cable that allowed me to plug my smartphone into the headphone jack on my car stereo to listen to stored music.  The place really was like a shack, housed in the back of a mall next to a Sears loading ramp.  Business looked slow, and I might have been the only customer that day.

Of course they could reinvent themselves and sell say, bait to fishermen – minnows, worms and stuff and call it the BaitShack. Or they could specialize in pork and launch the PigShack selling sausage, pork rinds, bacon scented scratch tickets, piggy banks, chitlins, ham hocks, hams of all kinds, barbeque ribs, barbeque sauce, liquid smoke, jerky, pork chops, Spam, canned pork and beans, and serve a Southern style breakfast of cheese grits, bacon, biscuits  and white gravy with sausage.  But there probably already is such a place somewhere I reckon.

Mattel Not Doing So Well

And you know why, in a word, Barbie, at least that’s what some industry experts argue.  I don’t know if kids still play with dolls, but they apparently don’t play with Barbie and Ken anymore, despite the newest incarnations –  Haunted Beauty Mistress of the Manor and suave Gianfranco Ken.  Unfortunately, Shamrock Celebration Barbie, Barbie of the White Woods and Malibu Barbie didn’t fare so well and the price reduced Chilean Barbie never caught on.

So what is Mattel to do?  Firing the CEO is a start – someone else besides Ken and Barbie should take the fall.  I mean the two have had terrible agents these past few years and sadly, Ken and Barbie are no longer relevant.  And I don’t know if kids still play with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, but they should if they don’t and not the video game version but I’m sure there’s an app for that. Mattel should bring back all the classic cars just as released in 1970 and create a new market for all the aging, nostalgic baby boomers out there like me.

But here’s the thing that could bring prosperity back to the company.  The Creepy Crawlers machine.  Remember that? You poured some flavored goop into a mold, closed up the heated contraption, which was sort of like a waffle iron or a George Foreman Grill, to produce a edible insect.  They tasted pretty awful, about how you would expect an insect to taste, but the concept was far out and just a little bit dangerous which made it all the more desirable.  Mattel should bring back the Creepy Crawlers machine with updated goop flavors to suit the modern palate, say, pomegranate crisp, chipotle infused root beer, rainforest spearmint, mango mist and almond crunch.  I’d buy one and I bet you would too.  You’re welcome Mattel and good luck!

Privatizing Social Security


Now that the Republicans are in charge, I fear that they may try to privatize Social Security.  And there are plenty of folks, not me, who think this is a good idea.  They’ll say it’s the only way to save Social Security, a system that may not be viable by the time our kids retire.  Social Security is one of many safety nets under attack by the move to privatize everything from education to health care.  The theory is that people should just be responsible for their own thing – to save, to educate, to medicate – all that stuff.  Gone is the idea of a social contract where the government serves the duel role to provide and protect as articulated in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Some on the right will argue that Congress should raise the retirement age to 90.  Now it’s true that when Social Security was enacted in 1935, the  average life expectancy of an American was 62 – 59.9 for men, 63.9 for women.  With retirement age set to 65, a typical American would never see a social security check.  And with some many employment category exclusions, – domestic workers, teachers, public employees, non-profit and agricultural workers, many women and non-white Americans were not even covered.  While patently unfair, the system was designed to be solvent.  Over the years, more workers were included.  With people living longer – in 2014, life expectancy for U.S. males is 76; females, 81, there is no question some change need to be made to stabilize Social Security, which could include raising payroll taxes, granting undocumented workers Social Security cards and disqualifying the uber wealthy from receiving benefits they do not need. The retirement age to receive full benefits was already raised to 67, and one can receive partial benefits as early as age 62.  But even so, with all the baby boomers like me set to retire sometime in the next 15 years, and with more people having access to health care and living longer, Social Security is expected to become insolvent by 2037.

Privatizing Social Security means that you, American reader, would be in charge of managing and growing the payroll taxes you pay into the system.  You will no longer have a guaranteed “pension” for life.  If you screw up, or entrust it to a broker who makes off with your money or saddles you with so many fees and loads that your nest egg stagnates or dwindles –  tough luck, there’s no bailout.

Honestly, could you invest in mutual funds, stocks and bonds on your own with confidence that you would have enough to retire on?  Good luck.  Even the experts who manage mutual funds have spotty performance records and very often take enormous risks based on their best guesses of what the market might do.  Any crash or correction, which can happen anytime, could wipe you out. And you end up paying management fees to fund companies for the privilege of watching it all happen.

But don’t be fooled. Under the privatizing scheme, you won’t have complete control of  your money. You won’t get a lump sum to do with what you please.  You can’t go to Vegas with it or to the race tracks.  You won’t be able to sink it all into the next promising startup.  You won’t be able to put it under your mattress either which might be the safest place for it.  Privatize means you hand your nest egg over to corporate America, who, after taking their cut, will strike out for you.

Enjoy cheap gas while it lasts


because it won’t be around for long.  Yes, gasoline prices are nearing historical lows.  Interestingly, going back to 1972, 1998 was the year that gas prices hit rock bottom.  You’d have paid approximately $1.06 for regular unleaded, in today’s dollars, that would be about $1.50 per gallon.  I know you may be thinking of a time in the 70’s when you paid less than a dollar at the pump, but if you adjust for inflation, it’d be more like $2.60 per gallon today.  And I would guess your paycheck wasn’t as much in the 70’s as it is now, unless you’ve retired or live off the grid, or both.

When I got my first job in 1979 (not counting my paper route) I made $3.10 an hour.  I’d have been driving the family Chevrolet Impala then with a 21 gallon fuel tank. Gas at the pump at the local DX in Arkansas where I grew up would have been about .675 a gallon, and have cost me a little over $14.00 to fill up the gas loving Impala. $14.00 was about a half day’s work in 1978.  In 2015, the minimum wage or minimal wage if you like, in Arkansas is $7.50, and $9.00 in Massachusetts where I now live, so it would have taken me less than two hours to earn a tank full today.  Of course as a cash starved teenager, I no doubt skimped on the petrol and probably only put in a quarter of a tank.  Adjusted for inflation, that .675 would have cost about $2.44 at the pump today, quite a bit more than the $2.11 per gallon I paid yesterday to fill up my Honda Fit which has a considerably smaller fuel tank than the Impala, and is considerably more fuel efficient.

According to statistics from the website InflationData.com, historical gas prices adjusted for inflation from 1913-2013, have averaged $2.60/gallon.  They argue that when prices are above $2.60, gas is expensive, when below $2.60, cheap. Gas was cheap back in 1979 and is cheap today (as long as you make substantially more than the minimum wage) after about 6 consecutive years of brutally expensive gasoline prices. Thankfully, the forecast is for continued cheap gasoline through 2015, but beyond, don’t bank on it.  This is good news for airlines, bus companies and consumers and perhaps not so great news for big oil, aircraft manufactures (who have been promoting more expensive fuel efficient aircraft) and companies that have invested in clean energy technologies.

The current cheapness factor notwithstanding, now is not the time to buy a gas guzzling SUV or the largest, longest or most powerful car or pickup on the lot. Remember the cars of the 60’s and 70’s that took up like 2 city blocks to park? The 1967 Chrysler New Yorker got 9 mpg and weighed 4,442 pounds. The 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood, a monster of a car and one of the longest passenger cars ever built was 250 inches long, easily took up 3 regular parking spaces and weighed in excess of 5,000. By contrast, my Honda Fit is 161 inches long, gets 36 mpg and weighs a mere 2,496 pounds.

One way to keep oil prices low is to use less, so that demand remains lower than supply.  If you must drive a car, buy a fuel efficient one. Do you really need a Nissan Armada SUV that gets 12 mpg? The thing really is like an armed ship with wheels. Another way to reduce your dependence on fossil fuels is to build a tiny house in the woods, with a windmill and a still (optional) and get yourself off the grid completely because sooner or later, fuel’ll be expensive again. At least in the woods, you can hunt and gather your own food, raise some chickens, and barter with other people, if you happen to run across any.  Be sure to carry a quart of moonshine, some ginseng and a handful of pecans, useful and valuable alternatives to fuels and cash.


New Musical Car Names

DSC_0154I’ve written about this subject before and come back to it today after being on the road this morning and finding myself bored.  While in heavy traffic, I began processing the names of car models.  I saw a Honda Odyssey, a Honda Fit (more on the Fit in a future post), a Dodge Dart, darting in and out of lanes only to be stopped like the rest of us at a traffic light.  Let’s see, there was a Toyota Venza whose name perplexes me – Venza?  Is this short for Venezuela? Or is the meaning a bit deeper?  In Spanish there is a phrase – sin verguenza which essentially means without shame and indeed the driver seemed to have no remorse for tailing me closely and then sharply passing me on a winding road.  I should add that the Venza was nearly impaled by an oncoming Impala.

One of my favorite car names on the road is the Hyundai Sonata, although I don’t particularly like the car.  I think automakers should turn more to classical music forms to name new models or rename tired and boring old ones.  Here are just a few I would recommend: The Mitsubishi Mazurka, and it’s mid-size companion the Mitsubishi Rhapsody; the venerable Hyundai Scherzo; the Ford Fugue and a hybrid version, the Ford Fantasie; the Chevrolet Concerto, (Chevy should bring back the Caprice Classic); the full-sized Pontiac Polonaise and the sporty Pontiac Poco Adagio (Do they even still make the Pontiac?) Dodge flopped with the Neon so why not repackage it as the Nocturne? I could go on for days with Italian names, but let’s just go with the Fiat Finale and the Fiat Tutti micro car, to replace the monotonous Fiat 500.  I never much liked the Lincoln model names, so let me suggest The Lincoln Largo (to replace the Navigator) and a new compact and fuel efficient Lincoln Lento; I could have fun with the German makes, but let’s keep it simple – the VW Waltz, and the concept car, the VW Variation on a Theme.  BMW just numbers their cars, so they need a refined BMW Bagatelle.  Here’s one make I forgot about and so have most Americans – Buick.  They are definitely on the right track with the Buick Encore, but they steered off course with the Buick Enclave so how about renaming it the Buick Berceuse, which in musical terms means lullaby and would be the perfect auto for a family with a crying baby suffering from colic and insomnia.  And I know the theme here is classical music, but I am going to deviate a bit and rename the Buick LaCrosse the Buick Jai-Alai.  And last on the list, Volvo, the old Swedish make needs a makeover for its infamous station wagon box.  I’d suggest the Volvo Vocalise.

Coda: For good measure, I’d rename the Nissan Leaf, the Nissan Conductor and the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Impromptus.  By the way, cudos to Nissan for the Versa Note, and the Nissan March, but whatever happened to the Stanza? And Honda, what did you do with the Prelude?


Don’t Drive in Rio


Driving in Brazil is ill advised for a number of reasons. First, the streets are a tangle of twists and turns that only local motorists, bikers, taxi and bus drivers can competently navigate. Second, while it might be possible to drive on the long boulevards, tourists, bicyclists and vendors make the proposition tricky. Pedestrians and tourists going to and from the beaches put themselves at risk as they cross the bike paths and the major boulevards particularly Avenue Atlantica from Copacabana, Avenue Vieira Souto from Ipanema or Avenue Delfim Moreira from Leblon. There are speed limits posted but they seem to be rather more like suggestions than law. From what I have seen, buses and taxis will not slow down if you are in their path, even if you are in a walkway, so it’s better to turn back than to try to assert your pedestrian rights. Drivers may view you as more of a nuisance like a pigeon than as a human being with inalienable rights. Third, if you are still not convinced that driving is a bad idea in Rio, consider this: gasoline costs 3.99 a liter. That to American ears may not sound so bad. 3.99 is just a little bit more expensive than in the States, right? Wrong. We are talking 3.99 Brazilian reals a liter, not dollars a gallon. Let’s do a little math here: 1 Brazilian real = .45 U.S. dollars, so that’s $1.80 U.S. a liter. The average size fuel tank for a small car, like the Volkswagen Gol in the picture above (Golf in the U.S.) is about 50 liters so 50 x 1.8 = $90 U.S. to fill up vs. about $50 to fill up in the States. Quite a difference.

Gasolinera RioIf I’ve convinced you not to drive, what are the alternatives? Why not reduce your carbon footprint and walk or ride a bicycle? The amazingly beautiful beach areas including some of the hills and many parks are easily accessible by foot from where you would likely be staying. If you want to venture away from the beaches as we did when we went to Sao Cristovao, try a city bus. But fair warning: the buses are not like they are in the States and in other major Latin American cities I have visited. They look similar. The fares are reasonable – a buck or so a ride. But the ride is another thing. Hold on to something, because the bus drivers don’t mess around. They drive those Mercedes and Marcopolo buses like sport cars, taking turns at top speed and braking for nothing except to stop at the stop light or bus stop. Time is money apparently. The roads in Rio are rough in places and the suspension, at least on the bus we took, was not tuned for a smooth ride. I felt like I was on a roller coaster on a track full of speed bumps or humps as they are also sometimes called. I kept telling myself that the driver was a professional and knew what he was doing, but there were moments when I was not so sure.


GOP Rage Against Minimum Wage


Who favors a federal minimum wage hike to $10.10/hour?  Oh, just 73% of Americans based on a recent Pew Research Center survey.  Who would be against one?  Not hard to guess.  Yes, those pesky Republicans blocked a new minimum wage bill.  A bill needs 60 votes in the Senate to even be discussed, but the minimum wage bill only received 42 affirmative votes, 41 Democrats and 1 Republican, Bob Corker of Tennessee whose state doesn’t even have a minimum wage law on the books.  The brave senators from Mississippi and Arkansas, whose states have a minimum wage below the federal minimum, did not vote at all.  The bill ultimately fell victim to a 53 vote Republican filibuster.  The Grand Old Party of NO said NO again and likely will continue to say NO to a raise for hard working Americans even as Congress, whose members average $174,000 a year, and whose median net worth is over a million dollars, is set to receive a 1.6% increase in 2015.

But why the hostility toward a minimum wage hike? First, Republicans argue that raising the minimum wage would force businesses to lay off workers as they would not be able to absorb the added labor costs.  As a result, they say unemployment would increase, businesses would shutter and the economy would collapse, even though there is no evidence to support such a claim.  Second, they argue the market, not the government, should set wages as a matter of principle.  Some are actually against the very concept of a minimum wage which they see as the big hand of government shouting orders.  Some of the poorest states in the union like Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee, states that have anti-union “right to work” laws in place, have no state minimum wage laws at all.  This simply means that in the absence of a federal minimum, they would leave the rates up to employers.  Georgia, another “right to work” state, has the lowest minimum wage at $5.15.  Companies still have the pay the federal rate of $7.25, unless they have fewer than 6 employees, or the work is seasonal or covers a training period, in which case they can pay the lower rate and very often do.

Interestingly, there is a considerable variance in the minimum wage paid state by state, from no minimum to $9.32 in the state of Washington.  10 states link their minimum wage to the consumer price index which typically produces a yearly increase.  20 states pay the federal minimum, 21 states including D.C. pay more than the federal minimum. 4 states have rates lower than the minimum and 5 southern states mentioned previously have no minimum wage rates whatsoever.  It’s not too surprising that red states resist federal measures because if they had it their way, they would secede from the Union – arguing that states’ rights (to exploit their own citizens) must prevail.

The proposed new federal rate is $10.10, which won’t make workers rich, but it will make it easier for folks to pay bills and support their families and it should inject more money into the economy.  When FDR championed the first minimum wage law during the depression years, it was to lift people out of poverty and to stimulate the economy.  Some 75 years later, the minimum wage has NOT increased enough to continue to meet its purpose.  A considerable number of working poor cannot make ends meet which never bodes well for the economy.  The Republicans argue that tax breaks are what is needed, not wage increases – tax breaks for the rich who don’t need them and to corporations, who are people thanks to Citizen’s United, who need them only to make MORE profit.  It’s time for the working poor to “profit” for a change.