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August 28, 2007

How To Race To The bottom

In California, part-time foodworkers are seeking the same health benefits their full-time counterparts receive. L.J WIlliamson responds in classic fashion, saying "If health benefits were extended to these part-time workers, the CFPA estimates it would mean that the per-plate meal budget would be reduced from 85 cents to 49 cents. Making healthy food available for that amount would take a miracle of biblical proportions. So we'd be improving the healthcare of nearly 2,000 part-time workers at the expense of the 500,000 children who eat in public school cafeterias every day."

Kevin Drum responds correctly: "I would happily pay for universal healthcare just so I never had to read an op-ed like this again. It's not that Williamson doesn't have a point, it's just that this beggar-thy-neighbor attitude is enough to make me retch, and I see it all the time. I don't get dental coverage, so why should grocery workers? My copay went up last year, so why shouldn't everyone else's? I don't pay for healthcare for my housecleaners, so why should I pay it for school cafeteria workers? Our wretched private healthcare system has turned us into a nation of spiteful and small-minded misanthropes."

Notice how the incentives -- or in this case, the grievances -- of the individual are set in opposition to the needs of the collective. Since we don't have universal health care, every single time a group of individuals seeks health coverage, they're forced into direct warfare with their immediate colleagues, place of employment, etc. So in this case, cafeteria workers who need coverage are set in opposition to children who need food. It's a very, very effective method for slowing the expansion of benefits. Every lost battle makes it harder for the next group to win their fight, because it creates yet another set of cafeteria workers or Wal-Mart employees who aren't getting healthcare, and who are thus competing without those labor costs.

August 28, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Yeah, and the 13th Amendment was a bitch with respect to the price of cotton.

The nerve of these cafeteria workers, thinking they deserve health benefits. What is wrong with them?

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Aug 28, 2007 12:27:35 PM

A Race to the Bottom With Context:

First cut taxes below the levels needed to provide wanted services. Then expanded military and defense expenditures to be larger than the rest of the world combined. Then give extra tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and most profitable corporations, like those in the energy and financial services sectors. Starve that baby, and prepare for the drowning.

Next, beggar thy neighbor on any proposal to fund critical or morally required services such that all sectors of society are pitted against each other in competition of the remaining, but insufficient, tax dollars.

Then claim you are 'uniters rather than dividers'. Repeat the cycle above. (or claim you are a libertarian and can take care of yourself, and others should too - McArdle style).

Dog eat dog. Root, hog, or die. Life is nasty, brutish and short. Make sure everyone experiences the glory of free market anarchy.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 28, 2007 12:59:28 PM

Hmmm...doesn't seem like collective bargaining works anymore...

...Of course the bargaining position of the workers would be stronger if there was a real shortage of labor, however, since we can always import more low cost workers...labor's position is pretty weak, heck, there's almost an infinite supply of low cost workers worldwide.

But economist keep telling us that an oversupply of people, doesn't reduce the price folks are willing to pay for that overabundant resource. With labor apparently, supply and demand have nothing to do with price.

Yep, economists agree, massive immigration is good for the bottom half of society.

Posted by: S Brennan | Aug 28, 2007 1:21:30 PM

Hmmm...doesn't seem like collective bargaining works anymore...

...Of course the bargaining position of the workers would be stronger if there was a real shortage of labor, however, since we can always import more low cost workers...labor's position is pretty weak, heck, there's almost an infinite supply of low cost workers worldwide.

But economist keep telling us that an oversupply of people, doesn't reduce the price folks are willing to pay for that overabundant resource. With labor apparently, supply and demand have nothing to do with price.

Yep, economists agree, massive immigration is good for the bottom half of society.

Posted by: S Brennan | Aug 28, 2007 1:23:03 PM

"a nation of spiteful and small-minded misanthropes."

Now there is the best description of the legacy of the last seven years I have seen a long time.

Posted by: justawriter | Aug 28, 2007 1:29:52 PM

"Our wretched private healthcare system has turned us into a nation of spiteful and small-minded misanthropes."

A wonderful, quotable sentence, but I don't think it's just our healthcare system that has created this result.

Posted by: latts | Aug 28, 2007 1:34:36 PM

I think John Holbo's brilliant review of David Frum's Dead Right is apropo here:

Let’s call this position (what would be an evocative name?) ‘dark satanic millian liberalism’: the ethico-political theory that says laissez faire capitalism is good if and only if under capitalism the masses are forced to work in environments that break their will to want to ‘jump across the big top’, i.e. behave in a self-assertive, celebratorily individualist manner. Ergo, a dark satanic millian liberal will tend to oppose capitalism to the degree that, say, Virginia Postrel turns out to be right about capitalism ushering in a bright new age of individual liberty, in which people try new things for the sheer joy of realizing themselves, etc., etc.

Posted by: DivGuy | Aug 28, 2007 1:53:58 PM

DivGuy,

That gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "next year in Jerusalem."

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Aug 28, 2007 2:20:20 PM

I think John Holbo's brilliant review of David Frum's Dead Right

The fact that this blog post's explanatory power keeps us returning to it time and time again despite its having been written almost 4 years ago, makes me think that it is one of the best political blog posts ever. How many other times do we refer to posts written 4 years ago, even by some of the highest profile bloggers?

Posted by: Tyro | Aug 28, 2007 2:29:11 PM

I would think this could be quickly counter-argued by 'do you want sick cafeteria workers sneezing on your kids and their food', but apparently that's too logical for the 'no benefits for YOU' crowd.

Posted by: Persia | Aug 28, 2007 2:46:08 PM

How many other times do we refer to posts written 4 years ago, even by some of the highest profile bloggers?

I think that deserves a post of its own. The late Jim Capozzola's Alpha Girls; Daniel Davies' hit and run against Friedman is over four years old; Belle Waring's pony! is nearly four, and equally scathing of glibertarianism as her husband's.

Anyway, Ezra's wider point is crucial: once you have UHC, so many divide-and-conquer tactics go out of the window. An end to workplace blackmail, where you grimly keep doing your shitty job with shitty pay and shitty prospects because at least it covers some of the damned medical bills.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Aug 28, 2007 2:56:57 PM

pseudo,

Plus, it's also fairer to businesses who try and do the right thing for their employees. I never understand why the corporations who are actually generous in this regard don't get fully behind UHC.

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Aug 28, 2007 3:58:23 PM

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Posted by: judy | Oct 11, 2007 6:52:38 AM

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