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Amazon workers vote against unionizing in Alabama (wsj.com)
566 points by cwwc 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 1218 comments



Speaking as someone who lives adjacent to Bessemer but who does not work at Amazon, you need to understand that Bessemer is a dying city, a slum. These were the best paying jobs that many of these workers had had in their entire lives, it is no wonder that a majority of them decided not to bite the hand that was feeding them.


Wow, you're not kidding.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bessemer,_Alabama#Economy

"Crime increased following the rise in unemployment and social disruption from the decline of manufacturing industries in the area. As of 2019 Bessemer ranks first in terms of violent crimes for US cities with 25,000 or more people."

Population has fallen from its peak in 1970 of 33k to 26k today.

Thanks for the reference.

EDIT: Also home to the world's oldest chicken, who lived 16 years: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matilda_(chicken)


> Also home to the world's oldest chicken, who lived 16 years

frowns in Colorado

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_the_Headless_Chicken


I hereby humbly move to make Matilda the Chicken (or Mike, the Headless) the oficial Amazon mascot. Votes welcome :)

  Funny enough, I have no heavenly idea how, I had actually run into the article on poor Mike before.-

  Further edit: Come to think, poor Mike the "headless" would be a great mascot for -at least- AWS, for obvious, ssh-related reasons :)


Matilda can also be the president :)


Nice call!

  VP of ... "Customer Engagement"? Prime? ...
  ... I got it! "Incubator"!

  I'll show myself out ...


thx for the chicken edit


What the cluck?


A surprisingly detailed Wikipedia article.

Random internet serendipity, shift in topic and mood. We live in such an interesting and strange universe.


I'm stupid, but why does unemployment cause violent crime?


I think being really broke greatly hinders your ability to think rationally.

I never committed any violent crimes, but I know throughout most of 2016 I was really really broke (about $15,000 credit card debt, 3 months of unpaid rent, a lawsuit from my landlord for the back rent). In the process I debated reaching out to one of those payday loan places, despite the fact that I knew they were scams. My desperate brain was overriding my logical brain.

I can only assume I'm not unique in this fact; if it comes down to mugging someone or not eating for a week, I'm not 100% sure which option I would choose. I would like to think that I would never hurt someone, but since 2017 or so, I've had a pretty privileged life.


Thanks for the honest story, congrats on pulling yourself out of debt and into (quoting you) privileged life.

I see the HN crowd as rather monotonic, and thanks to stories like yours, it shows me wrong, and that’s for the best.


Thanks. It wasn't easy but to be honest having a high-paying engineering job certainly helps. I have no idea how I would have escaped that cycle if I had a lower-paying job.


+1

My escape was doubling my pay, then paying off my debt, then refusing to take on any further debt, ever. Currently closing on a house, paid with cash. Never again debt.


Good for you. I like seeing stories like this, especially in here.


"monotonous" I think you meant :). Though the identical etymology makes this a bit silly.


Indeed!:p


> I think being really broke greatly hinders your ability to think rationally.

No: being really broke can cause a lot of anxiety that can lead to irrational behavior.

But often a person has to choose between homelessness and crime and picks the latter as a rational choice, given the alternative.

So please don't assume poor = "crazy" = criminal, it's a bit unkind.


When did tombert assume that poor = "crazy" = criminal? It's a bit unkind to take general thoughts about psychological pathways and unfairly reify them with the use of equality symbols.


> When did tombert assume that poor = "crazy" = criminal?

It's implied here:

"I think being really broke greatly hinders your ability to think rationally."

...by putting that sentence out alone without clarifying the context.

> psychological pathways

> unfairly reify

Are you feeling ok?


I'm sorry it wasn't clear but this seems like a needlessly pedantic distinction.

I never said "poor = 'crazy' = criminal". I don't think poor people are inherently crazy, though I suppose that being mentally ill could conceivably hinder your ability to make a decent income, if we're being pedantic. I feel like you're assuming I said something that I didn't; I really don't think I was being "unkind". In fact, I was trying to have a pretty sympathetic perspective on this. If that was not clear then that's a failing on my end and I apologize.

Yes, you could make an argument is the "more rational" decision is to commit a crime, I read Les Miserables, but keep in mind that my comment was in direct response to someone asking why unemployment led to violent crime, and I specifically did not exclude myself from any category.


Implied? No, not even with the most uncharitable interpretation did tombert even imply that being poor makes you "crazy" or that being crazy makes you a criminal. A hindered ability to think rationally might only make one more impulsive or less able to consider long term consequences.

You are literally accusing the writer of implying things which rely upon a context of your own making, not theirs.


This is interesting - I read that statement exactly like the person who made the post that you just responded to, and thought it to be the clearly obvious interpretation.

I would consider someone that has their rationality stripped (or "greatly hindered") to be irrational. I think "irrational" is a bit more passive than "crazy", but I would personally read those as mostly synonymous.

I wonder why we interpret the same sentence so differently - we may be reading between the lines in very different ways - like the "blue&black / gold&white" dress.


Again, I apologize if it's not more clear, but you do understand that if I implied that they were crazy, that would also imply that I called myself crazy, right?

That's what the following paragraph is about, trying to explain that this could happen to anyone.


Yes? I did understand that - you were saying that being broke can lead one to do and think things that they'd normally consider crazy or irrational.

Are you thinking that I understood your statement to mean that being broke would permanently turn you into a loony? Maybe I generally consider "crazy" to be a temporary state or state of mind that anyone can get into or out of, and you generally consider "crazy" to be a permanent fixture of personality, dividing society into hard lines of people that are either "crazy" or "not-crazy"?


To say one's ability to think rationally is severely hindered, suggests impairment in (for example) considering short term versus long term priorities, or being overly impulsive, or being overly controlled by emotions.

Whereas "crazy" suggests an absence of sanity.

Rational vs irrational. Sanity vs insanity. These are not interchangeable ideas.


> I think being really broke greatly hinders your ability to think rationally

A lot of comments here seem to think that it has something to do with morals, but from living in poor places, what I gather is that people have no other options when they’re backed into a corner.

If you’re unemployed and you need money for rent and food, what the he’ll are you going to do? Survival mode kicks in, and you’ll do anything to make the next day/week. This could include steeling (to consume or sell) and mugging people (actual money, but probably less of a problem in the near future with everyone using digital payments). Now throw into the mix drugs to numb to pain of living an abysmal life... which are astronomically expensive, so most of the time your only option is to steel and mug more.


> I debated reaching out to one of those payday loan places, despite the fact that I knew they were scams.

They aren't scams, but they are only useful for a very narrow band of people in a very narrow band of circumstances. For the vast majority of people that want one of those loans, they are better off not getting it. It's entirely possible to get the loan and use it as intended, it's just the most the people that need it aren't in a position to do so, and the lenders go out of their way to make it real easy to just roll the loan over into a new ones that kicks the problem down the road to the next payday after this one.[1]

1: It's a dark pattern. "You borrowed $400 the other week and you owe use $500 today? How about we fund a new loan for $400 before your payment, roll that into your current payment, and all you have to do is pay the $100 difference this payday, and you can just pay it all next payday when it's more convenient?" Now, the lender has an installment plan for 700-1500% APR as long as they can get the client to keep doing that (but the client does have to choose to do it every time).

At least, that's how it was a decade or so ago. I think it got even more regulated since then, and they can't charge 25% interest per payday anymore (you can likely thank the NY AG if so).


> you can likely thank the NY AG

If I recall, the military had a heavy hand in that. When the payday loan industry has cut into military readiness to the point the generals are talking to Congress about it, it's gone a bit too far.

edit (add ref): https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-109shrg50303/html/C...


> use it as intended

You mean that it's possible for some people to use it in a personally beneficial way.

That is true without any need to get into intent. I think it's unambiguous that the predatory application is the actual intended usage-- since their business model doesn't make sense without it, they have a massive default rate that only gets paid for with the windfall customers that stay on the treadmill for a long time.


I've found that being poor actually sharpens the mind. It reminds you that if you don't eat, you'll die; clarifies that most laws are just rules crafted by the ultra rich to keep them in power; reminds you that many many people have way more than they need, and can afford to have some it go missing without longterm damage.

It's very rational to choose crime over starvation or exposure, especially when our legal framework (US) is morally bankrupt. Why not turn to crime when crime really isn't such a bad thing compared to the other shit going on.


Sounds like it hints at a nasty feedback loop. "Are they stuck in financial trouble because of poor impulse control or are they stuck with poor impulse control because of financial trouble?" Singular they that is.

It is easier to think long term while feeling secure but not thinking long term can lead to becoming insecure. Not trying to make any moral or blame judgements here - just pondering origins of problems and solutions.


I won't speak for anyone else, but I feel that I normally have reasonably good impulse control, even in 2016; I got into debt because a company I was working for ended up not paying me for multiple months and then shut down, and I didn't have much savings.

I think my lack of impulse control came as a direct cause of me being broke. I had previously never seriously considered any kind of payday loan because I knew they were multi-thousand-percent levels of interest, but that part of my brain wasn't the one thinking. When faced with a really tough situation, I think it's common for your "survivalist" side to kick in.

I never actually did get the payday loan because I was able to (begrudgingly) get a loan from my stepfather-in-law for the back rent, and I very luckily landed a decent-paying job shortly afterwards.

I was absolutely one of the lucky ones. It's not hard at all for me to envision a universe where I was stuck in an endless cycle of debt, and honestly I still have nightmares about that time occasionally. Not fun.


There are many nasty feedback loops caused by severe poverty. Even the most basic things like being able to show up for a job interview in an arbitrary location at an arbitrary time wearing presentable clothing and a relaxed demeanour — try doing that when you can barely afford to use public transport and your daily schedule is rigidly monopolised by whatever terrible job/gig you currently rely upon to literally survive.

For all the criticisms of UBI, I think it would be a net win simply because it eliminates the significant time wasted in maintaining welfare entitlement.


Oh yeah, when I was trying to get jobs, I would look around for cops and then hopped the subway gate multiple times because I didn't have enough money to pay for it. I felt a bit bad for doing it, but I wasn't entirely sure what else I was supposed to do, and I figured it's more or less a victimless crime, so I just did it.


You’ve put this well. But you’ve also highlighted my only significant criticism of UBI. I’ve been poor. So poor getting on a bus was laughable: buying packaged ramen noodles was impossible. The notion that UBI is positioned to replace basic social services means past me couldn’t pay rent and eat again, because no matter how I tried to prioritize shelter rules don’t keep up with reality.

I’ll support UBI when it stops being a libertarian wet dream to eliminate all other social spending and becomes a supplementary cause that lets us re-examine social spending when we can see how it shifts if everyone has “basic needs” covered.


Calling UBI a "libertarian wet dream" is unnecessarily reductive. Personally I try to shy away from using any partisan labels to describe any policies because they are rarely (if ever) necessary. And their meaning rarely translates between people of disparate political views.

I don't support any UBI policy that leaves anyone economically worse off compared to existing welfare. In fact I would expect people to be reliably better off after you factor in secondary benefits such as a reduced time burden upon individuals (time can be a scarce resource when you're poor) and increased ability to prioritise your own needs. The last thing poor people need is fewer resources.

I also don't support any UBI policy that attempts to supplant programs which address disability as opposed to straight poverty.

In my mind the essential benefits of UBI are:

• Less fraud. It's much harder to game a system when everyone automatically qualifies for it.

• Less stigma. It's much harder to be ashamed by reliance on a system when everyone automatically qualifies for it.

• Less disincentive to earn more. Most welfare programs cut out out after you exceed a particular income threshold, so many people have an incentive to keep their income low. (Or to lie about income.)

• Less complexity. It shifts the burden of economic rebalancing away from welfare programs (written by politicians and administered by gate-keeping bureaucrats) and towards a system that already exists: progressive income tax. While everyone qualifies for UBI, high earners are progressively, functionally disqualified by having the UBI clawed back in higher marginal income tax rates.

• Increased mobility and increased incentive to migrate to areas with lower cost of living.


> Calling UBI a "libertarian wet dream" is unnecessarily reductive. Personally I try to shy away from using any partisan labels to describe any policies because they are rarely (if ever) necessary. And their meaning rarely translates between people of disparate political views.

I was responding to:

> For all the criticisms of UBI, I think it would be a net win simply because it eliminates the significant time wasted in maintaining welfare entitlement.

The exact wording of the libertarian wet dream I was recognizing. I wasn’t labeling UBI, I was labeling an identifiable expression.

And I called out where this particular attitude would have starved me and apparently HN would prefer I starved.


I think I may have been unclear. When I said “it eliminates the significant time wasted in maintaining welfare entitlement” I’m talking about the time wasted by poor people as they continuously jump through hoops in order to prove they qualify for programs. I consider it insulting that we actively sabotage poor people by lowering their productivity potential.

If I wasn’t unclear and wasn’t misunderstood, you’ll have to explain to me how this has anything to do with libertarianism.


This clarification helps for sure. And I apologize for not getting it the first time. I’m just so used to encountering the Libertarian version, which is an express desire to use UBI as a full replacement of other existing services. I’m 100% on the same page with your clarified motivation.


No worries, I'm pretty sure I was unclear before. Though I must admit I'm not entirely sure how or why "libertarian wet dream" UBI is so objectionable.

Is it because libertarian UBI might not be so generous? That it's motivated by saving taxpayer money rather than resolving poverty? On that I would agree. That's not the point of UBI.

Is it because libertarian UBI would be an excuse to eliminate more poverty welfare programs than liberal UBI? Because I personally see eliminating welfare programs to be a good thing so long as the UBI isn't intentionally less generous than what it replaces.

Or is it because libertarian UBI would mean Governments no longer forcing welfare dollars to be spent in a "responsible" way? Most of the criticisms I've heard seem to work on the principle that poor people don't know how to look after themselves or spend money wisely. So we need Government to force them to spend X amount on food with programs like SNAP, or spend X amount on shelter with housing subsidies. On this point I'd side VERY strongly with the libertarians. We have far too much paternalism in Government.


> Is it because libertarian UBI would be an excuse to eliminate more poverty welfare programs than liberal UBI?

Close but for me it’s less about protecting similarly redistributive programs and more about protecting services best provided by government that nonetheless cost money and require the government to be empowered to administer them effectively.


This used to be a debate and it’s really not anymore. It was primarily the right that used to argue that the reason people committed crime was because of their attitudes and social norms. But with over the last few decades, large parts of white Midwest and Appalachia are facing the exact same circumstances that inner cities faced for decades. So even some conservatives have started to agree with the side of crime follows economics rather than economics follows crime.


> In the process I debated reaching out to one of those payday loan places, despite the fact that I knew they were scams.

Because they're not, the idea that they are is paternalistic bullshit from the kind of people who get their news from John Oliver.

Debt can be dangerous, and payday loans are commensurately more so due to their high rates. But debt is a _tool_, and just like middle- and upper-income folks can use it to prevent disaster or rationally extend themselves, lower-income people can too. Not having access to credit isn't a _good_ thing per se.

Whenever people have actually bothered to look into the use of payday loans instead of pearl-clutching about how the poor don't know what's good for them, they've found that much of the clientele is making rational decisions. As bad as a high-interest loan sounds to privileged sensibilities, the alternative is often worse. It's just more diffuse and thus easier to ignore.


Your arguments are entirely theoretical while ignoring the fact that payday loan businesses are regularly shut down for fraud. Just because debt as a concept isn't flawed doesn't mean the people selling debt are moral.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Tucker_(businessman)

Likewise, just because I post one extreme example of payday loan businesses being a fraud doesn't invalidate the entire industry. As a whole though, I feel the industry is quite scummy and often scammy.


> Your arguments are entirely theoretical while ignoring the fact that payday loan businesses are regularly shut down for fraud

I alluded to empirical evidence of their usefulness. Here's a study from the FDIC[1]. It's dated, but there are structural conclusions about the way payday loans work and why their rates are so high.

I don't see the relevance of specific payday lenders being shut down for fraud. Individual cases of fraud should be cracked down upon, and its widespread prevalence in an industry suggests that regulation is potentially a good idea. But neither of these automatically negate the usefulness of a service, just as the bad behavior of the banking industry doesn't make a bank account useless.

> Likewise, just because I post one extreme example of payday loan businesses being a fraud doesn't invalidate the entire industry.

Yes, this is my point. The comment I responded to and that I quoted from said:

> I debated reaching out to one of those payday loan places, despite the fact that I knew they were scams

The point of my comment is that they can be useful, and the GP's shame at considering an option he "knew" was a scam is unwarranted and down to midwit elites who are quick to fuck the poor over in the name of paternalistic, performative virtue, but never bother to understand them as agents making decisions that are sometimes unintuitively rational.

[1] https://www.fdic.gov/bank/analytical/cfr/2005/wp2005/2005-09...


I'm sorry but in Ontario, prior to January 1, 2017, the charge was $21 per $100 advanced, an effective interest rate of 14,299% (not a typo)

That's not using debt as a 'tool', that is weaponizing it against those can't fend for themselves.


In principle, the debt market charges rates that are commensurate with the risk of repayment. Some studies[0] show a relatively high default rate for payday loans. Moreover, the people who borrow from these facilities likely have very poor credit scores.

That's not a comment on the fairness of the rate charged. But if there is a sufficient amount of competition among lenders, and they were effectively regulated and monitored, we could expect their rates are enough to allow them to make a reasonable profit in spite of the risk of default.

[0] https://thehill.com/regulation/237538-borrowers-default-on-n...


In some country consumer credits are regulated and the interest rate is capped. Also it is not legal in some country to grant a credit if the lender cant't pay it back (e.g. in the european union)


>> Also it is not legal in some country to grant a credit if the lender cant't pay it back (e.g. in the european union

European Union is not a country and every member state has their own rules regulating this, there isn't one payday lenders rulebook across the entire EU.

As for what you said - it's true, except that it boils down to a checkbox on the form "are you able to make repayments on this loan?" and that's about it, that takes care of the legal side of things.


Honest question -- what's stopping anyone from entering the market, offering much lower interest rates than that, and outcompeting all existing participants?


The people that take a pay day loan aren't necessarily maximizing for cost effectiveness.

Consider someone who got a flat tire and it needs to be replaced before the person can go to work. The cost of replacing a tire can be $100-$200. The cost of waiting could cost their job.

They could apply for a credit card with 18% interest and a bunch of fees - and the card MIGHT be delivered the next day. OR they can go to a pay day lender and borrow $100 NOW and get to their job this afternoon.

The tire replacement "should" have cost $100 - now it costs $121, and they keep their job.

You might imagine a similar situation for: your fridge broke and you NEED to keep your food fresh, your heater/AC broke, someone broke your front door trying to rob you.

Life SUCKS if you are poor.

Actual story: I met someone who was returning home on a bus, but was kicked off after having a seizure. She and her bf couldn't afford a new bus ticket to get home (to LA). They were stuck in Houston for at least a week, it is possible they missed work and were fired and missed rent and were evicted. If that was you, how much would you be willing to pay for $500 now? I didn't know them long enough to know if they were telling the truth, but I wish I had given them money.


I'm not sure what this has to do with my question.

I'm not asking why the customer doesn't just go to a bank instead.

I'm asking what's stopping you or me from opening a competing payday loan service that charges "only" $110 instead of $121.

It seems to me that this should be a highly competitive industry, the only barriers to entry being some capital, a storefront in a cheap part of town, and a little physical security? What am I missing?


Oh! Sorry, I totally missed that.

Background: I work at a bank, we specialize in Credit Cards - but I'm in the car finance division. Some of what I have here is an educated guess.

Pay day lenders IS highly competitive. In certain geographies, there are LOTS of lenders. There are some very real barriers to entry:

You have to be credited with certain financial regulators (CFPB and OCC are the 2 I know of) to lend money - and these regulators come with various stipulations (e.g., keep $ in reserve, don't be racist, lend to people who can pay you back, etc)

Many "real" banks avoid this market because the regulators "punish" us - our Credit Card division would be held to a higher standard because we also had pay day loans. Fun fact: during the Obama administration, we also had Mortgages, because regulators "went easy" on the rest of the company. When Trump became president, regulators stopped caring and we sold our mortgages.

All of this being said, if you, right NOW had a lemonade stand lending money to people, you could probably get away with it.

On that note, there is a really interesting shift in the market:

Financial Services As A Service. Imagine: Bank of Small-Town-Maine is a legitimate bank. They know how to stay solvent, they are registered with the right regulators, etc. I approach them and say "let me use your Certifications, I'll use my money, my marketing, I'll buy Identification Services and Credit services - I'll lend money to people and we split the profit".

ACE Cash Express is doing something like this RIGHT NOW - and there are MANY other people doing it, too.


Waiting a day for a credit card isn't the issue. Many auto repair shops now offer instant financing through partnerships with third-party lenders. The problem is that the customers have low credit scores and don't qualify for regular loans.


You are right, and I'll add something, too: the 3rd party financiers will sometimes lend to the low credit score people, but they charge high rates like the payday lenders

And on the point, financing your home appliances is a popular thing (but please, pay up front!)


They do. GP, like so many in this thread, has a poor grasp on the logic here. They're referring to the _maximum_ allowable rate.


Note up top that my comment was in response to someone saying that payday loans per se are a scam, a widely-held view in my social circles which I disagree with strongly.

> That's not using debt as a 'tool', that is weaponizing it against those can't fend for themselves.

Are you familiar with the concept of a poverty trap? We're not talking about people whose financial decisions consist of figuring out how to distribute their securities tax-efficiently across their accounts. There are lots of people for whom there are _very_ few degrees of financial freedom, where not being able to pay for car repairs can mean losing your job which can mean getting evicted, and where a precarious but livable existence can become a financial nightmare trap with a single stroke of bad luck and bad timing.

What's the discount rate on a loan for someone in that position? Why are you so confident that, a million miles away from your situation, you can make that decision better for them than they can for themselves? If someone is underbanked (like 22% of Americans), why are you so sure that a time-sensitive $300 emergency expense isn't worth $360, if they're confident they can pay it back (eg, when they get their paycheck)? If you're actually interested in the well-being of those who feel the need to avail themselves of tools like this, the New Yorker wrote an article about it half a decade ago[1]. There are a million other resources and even studies describing the demand side of the story, but it's a lot easier to just pat oneself on the back about how these poor illiterate people are being saved from themselves and then ignore the people whose weakened access to credit further immiserates them.

> I'm sorry but in Ontario, prior to January 1, 2017, the charge was $21 per $100 advanced, an effective interest rate of 14,299% (not a typo)

There are an impressive amount of things wrong with this short sentence and its implications.

1) This is the maximum allowable rate. It's completely consistent for someone to believe that the worst-possible payday lenders are on-net exploitative without claiming the entire industry is a scam.

2) The parent comment I disagreed with did not say "I was going to a pre-Jan-1-2017 Ontario payday lender, which I know is a scam". He said it of payday loans in general, a belief that's widely held in my social circles for the John-Oliver-related reasons I mentioned before.

3) Nothing in my comment said I was opposed to regulation, up to and including capping rates. Most people (poor or not) are pretty terrible at math, and desperation absolutely can push people further towards irrational decisions. Legally capping rates is a decision that, at a given rate, more people are falling prey to their innumeracy than are availing themselves of a costly but necessary emergency life-raft. There's nothing wrong with this legislative judgment call, but starting and ending your analysis at "look how high this number is!!!!" is just cosplaying compassion.

4) Again, the assumption that just waving your hands in the air and saying a number has any connection to the reality of poverty traps and the incredibly steep discount rates they impose upon people. Removing options from people isn't saving them from their misery, it's just displacing their misery into a million diffuse other problems that you don't have to think about.

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/what-good-are-pa...


I dunno, your logic is sound for people who are not in desperate straits, but people make significantly altered (but still rational) risk assessments under duress. If such people are able to get short term funding at any cost, even if they know they can’t repay it, then the personal risk of the consequences of that decision could well rank far lower than the consequences of the alternative, which is for example that your kids starve. That has nothing to do with literacy or saving people from themselves and more to do with access to emergency funding and information.

Even if we accept that payday lending has a place, I think most payday lenders benefit from this equation and certainly contribute to the poverty trap: even if most of the debtors end up getting (likely minimum wage) jobs, they now have the added burden of repaying the onerous rates that they agreed to while under extreme duress. And that duress is the thing that seems to be missing in your calculus.

The problem with payday loans is not the theoretical application of debt theory but the rational risk taking of people with no other (perceived) options: under almost all circumstances, it is better to be starving next week than it is to be starving today.


I agree that there are cases where a payday loan is a good option, and that if people behaved rationally it would be objectively better to have that option than to not have it. The problem is that people don't behave rationally. And behaving irrationally isn't isolated to poor people (lots of people get 96 month loans on expensive cars they can't afford), but it hurts them the most.

Reminds me of an anecdote from poor African countries. Farmers would buy fertilizer months before they needed it, even though it is logically better for them to save that money and only buy the fertilizer when they needed it (assuming the price of the fertilizer was constant). But they knew if they had the money the would be tempted to spend it in the meantime, so they bought it early to avoid the temptation.

Payday loans can encourage people to take out a loan and spend money even in cases where it would be better for them to find an alternative.


Sure, but it almost seems like you are justifying predatory behavior. When people are really desperate they'll do anything to survive, and providing a 14000% loan to people feels like you're just exploiting people's survivalist instincts.

Also, a lot of these payday loans are just flat-out illegal. If you look up usury laws in the US, they typically cap interest at somewhere around ~25% per year[1], and the highest I could find was on the order of 400% per year [2]. I didn't check every state so it's possible there are some that don't have any caps, but my point is that very often these payday loans are literally breaking the law by charging absurd interest rates.

[1] https://paydayloaninfo.org/state-information/40 [2] https://paydayloaninfo.org/state-information/17


100% agreed, and to some extent people _do_ need to be protected from themselves where irrational decisions are likely. But the comment I responded to referred to payday loans in general as a scam, and anyone who's bothered to study this, qualitatively or quantitatively, firmly disagrees. Note that this doesn't preclude regulated rate caps, which are motivated by the idea that, at a given rate, the innumerate/irrational being harmed outweigh the harm done by removing an emergency liferaft from those for whom it makes sense.

You don't even have to be that smart or read high-quality sources to find this perspective! "Payday loans never provide value" is too dumb for even Vox[1]!

The reason I'm so passionate about this topic is not just garden-variety frustration at how stupid people are. "Helping" people by controlling what they can spend their food stamps on, whom they can have sex with, or how they survive and support themselves should come with a heavy, heavy burden of rigor. History is full of elites destroying the lives of others through their malicious "compassion" and refusal to actually consider that other people live different lives with different problems. The problem with things like payday loans is that the kind of IFLScience midwits that places like HN are thick with won't bother to do the most basic of research beyond clickbaity headlines, eye-popping context-free stats, amd comedy shows that pretend to be informative. It's repulsive.

[1] https://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/8/11/5991137/john-oliver-pay...


I guess I am one of those kind of people who get their news from John Oliver.

Maybe I was being a bit hyperbolic when I said "scam" since they usually do what they advertise. Let me rephrase: they have ridiculously high interest rates that can lead to difficult-to-escape debt, and they are predatory towards desperate people, hence why you usually see them in poorer neighborhoods.

Debt is absolutely a tool and I wasn't claiming otherwise, so when I said "scam", what I really meant was "the worst possible way to leverage debt".


> I guess I am one of those kind of people who get their news from John Oliver.

From your clarifications in this comment, it doesn't sound like you're the type of person I'm talking about. I don't disagree at all that loans can take advantage of people's innumeracy and desperation-driven irrationality. And I consider this a serious concern with excessively high rates. But it needs to be balanced against the bedrock principle that taking a choice away from someone usually immiserates them further, and if you believe otherwise you need a damn high level of rigor to show it.

Tarring the payday loan industry writ large as a scam doesn't stand up to that level of rigor, and there are a thousand qualitative and quantitative pieces of evidence pointing to the fact that the industry does provide value to a portion of the underbanked population.

This doesn't preclude things like capping rates, but this is an explicit recognition that, at the given rate, the cost of the innumerate being taken advantage of is higher than the cost of cutting off an emergency lifeline for people who can use it rationally.

I don't think you and I are especially in disagreement here, given your clarification of what you meant by "scam".


Having access / option for credit may be a good thing. Using a loan rationally may be a good thing.

Not sure where you get your news/experience from ;), but I don't see how any of those arguments apply to payday loan places - in every country, city, society I've lived in, they a) were shut down for fraud and exploitation anytime anybody bothered to look & investigate b) are universally demonstrated and proven to prey upon those who can least afford it. These are not benevolent capitalists trying to help those who nobody else would help - the owners are shameless sharks exploiting and manipulating people into a vicious cycle.

(FWIW I'm not going to downvote, I actually upvoted - your perspective is interesting and must as I may disagree I'd like to hear more and maybe be educated, rather than shut the debate down; but I'd like to see some "counter-John-Oliver" studies and stats to go against the ones I think most of us have seen)

Edit: I mean heck, like with smoking, government here will try their best to talk you out of it; you can still do it, as an adult human being... but it's just a bad, bad idea

https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/...


Spoken like someone who has never lived paycheck to paycheck and been caught in a debt spiral.

You are correct, not having access to credit is a bad thing. But having access to predatory credit is a WORSE thing. There's a reason we outlawed indentured slavery and "company scrip", and payday loans are a half a step up from that situation.


Please don't cross into personal attack. It's against the site guidelines and makes threads worse. Your comment would be just fine without the first sentence*.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

* well, the guidelines do also ask not to use allcaps for emphasis, but that's minor


The reason why payday loans are allowed is that just like with drugs - outlawing them doesn't mean people don't seek them out. It's better to have access to a legal and well regulated payday lender business, rather than letting people borrow money from the "pay us back or else" kind. And they absolutely will, desperate people will seek out desperate solutions.


[flagged]


Please don't break the site guidelines like this, regardless of how badly you were provoked or feel you were. It just sends the threads into a hellish spiral.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Fair enough, and I apologize


You’re not stupid you’ve just never had to deal with a real actual problem in your life.

Unemployment is a cause of or certainly concomitant with having very high stress and a very poor outlook on the future. In a town like Bessemer the thought process is something like “I don’t have a job, I’m not going to get one, I have no money, and this situation is not going to change.” And it’s not just you thinking this, you see your friends and family having the same problems. You reach out for help but after a while the good graces of others run out. So do unemployment checks.

After a few months you get evicted, so no one else will rent to you, and you are either homeless or at least not in control of your living situation. A slum lord may be involved. The food bank (which was already not a great source of food) is now useless since you need a kitchen to make most of the raw supplies they hand out.

The stress and pressure to take care of ones self and ones family under these conditions often leads so serious mental health issues, drug use, and domestic violence. For some it leads to other crimes like stealing, mostly stealing food or stealing things to buy food and drugs. You see your friends falling victim to these issues, getting arrested, dying of exposure, or losing themselves to mental illness. Prospects don’t look good.


No way out either. In a literal sense. There's no national program for helping people relocate to areas where they can have a meaningful job, a home that's affordable to OWN, and hopefully also community as a result. I'm NOT saying it should be forced, I'm saying it should be an option.


There have been plenty of attempts to do so...but if you thought cache invalidation was a hard problem, welcome to sociology.

One of the most infamous is/was New York City's SOTA program [1], which attempted to relocate and provide one year's rent for people from NYC's shelters. They basically shipped families and individuals out of state to other cities, hoping they'd find a job and affordable housing there. NYC is an economic powerhouse if you're credentialed and high enough on the treadmill to make it work, but not an area you want to start out with nothing; you can imagine that someone had the bright idea that there are cheap houses and entry-level manufacturing jobs in other growing cities, someone homeless and jobless might have a better chance of integrating into society than panhandling on Wall St.

The program met with outrage from the destination cities whenever anyone (utterly broke, with a history of homelessness, with no local family or connections...the program worked for some but did not for others) ended up in trouble and the locals found out they'd come from NYC. Turns out a lot of people would rather have their bright and bustling new-money "innovation hubs" and "tech corridors" unsullied by undesirables from dying cities.

It's one thing to turn a saloon and general store into a quaint Old West ghost town when the gold mine runs out. It's another to turn dying cities that once had populations of millions working in bustling industries of rail, coal, steel, or automotive manufacturing (like Bessemer, named after the inventor of the Bessemer steel converter, or other cities like St Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Gary, Flint, Dayton, etc.) into not just the current Rust Belt cities but an enormous ghost metropolis.

1: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/help/sota.page


New York is very far from the place I envisioned such a program operating. I was thinking about helping nature or farms reclaim remote and sparsely populated areas that no longer work in an era of specialization.


No national program to build where people are, either. Which is a shame, because we're the country that built the Interstate Highway System, and a national rail system before it. The truth is that the hyper-local nature of our politics leads to disparity as much as it does prosperity, and the two often go hand-in-hand. There are too many rich towns filled with professionals and managers with a nearby slum that supplies all of the menial and service labor, but we're probably not ready to talk about what the remedy to that looks like, and I'm not certain we ever will be.


I imagine that we'll continue to try everything that doesn't involve privileged rich, mostly white, people making the slightest concession to allow for deplorables to do more than merely exist. As a reminder we've tried: eugenics, bullshit wars on drugs, shipping people to other states, etc.

A good first step is a country wide housing, healthcare, food, and job guarantee. If bezos zuck musk gates etc can be billionaires we can provide a minimal standard of living for everyone. I'm open to considering any research that says doing so is impossible, but I doubt any such research exists.


Actually this is such a simple thing to implement and also would be wonderful to test out.

Subsidize 2 luggages and a 1-way bus ticket per household member, to anyone that wants to move to a new location. No questions asked. You can do it X amount of times in your life, and anyone with income below (a multiple of poverty rate here) qualifies. That's it.


> you’ve just never had to deal with a real actual problem in your life

I don't follow how you made that assumption about OP of the comment


Meh; a bit patronizing but I get the point he was trying to make quickly and succinctly - problems are relative; somebody who's been close to a desperate situation WILL have much more of an intuitive/experiential understanding of the issue, options, temptations, emotions, constraints involved.

(noting there's a difference between "I'm a student living with parents, I'd like a job but can't get one so I'm unemployed" and "I have 3 kids and a sickly partner and I'm overdue on rent and I'm unemployed and I have no social/family safety net")

I wouldn't call it "not having a real actual problem" - again, it's relative and so on; but a charitable read as "never been on brink of famine/poverty" may be a good interpretation?


You wouldn’t ask that question if you had.


But that's still rudely assuming that there is only one kind of " real actual problem in your life", meaning = problem with money and/or unemployment.

Is having to make a decision to take your child off life support a "real actual problem in your life"? How about being told that your visa won't be renewed and you have to leave your entire life, job, friends and family behind and move somewhere else? Is that a "real actual problem in your life"? How about a cancer diagnosis? A cheating spouse?

Not all "real actual problems" in life have to be related to money - you can have plenty of it and still be in an extremely difficult and distressing situation in your life, which won't naturally lead to increase in violence(cancer diagnosis is probably one of the worst events you can have in your life and yet I cannot imagine it's corellated to increase in violence rates at all). I frankly also find the attitude of the previous poster to be condescening and jugemental.


No, the parameters of the discussion was “real actual problem” meaning = “problems that put someone in a position where committing violent crime is preferable to the alternative.” It’s reasonable to assume OP’s intent was not to imply all other problems aren’t real.

And frankly, you don’t have to have experienced anything remotely similar to understand how economic desperation leads to crime, it just requires a capacity for, and willingness to employ empathy.

On the other hand, “Cancer patient goes on crime spree to pay for chemo” sounds like it could be a very funny film, in the hands of the right writer.


Agree with you. Real hard time starts when you lose REAL hope about future.


I think you may be projecting here. There are millionaires living in Bessemer. Bessemer is right next to down town Birmingham, Hoover, Homewood, Fultondale, Gardendale, Chelsea and a not too long drive from Tuscaloosa. There is so much money here for most industries. The cost of living in the GBA isn’t much at all especially north on I65. Also, while it is true Bessemer is more or less impoverished in the city it has some really beautiful outskirts. People who live there absolutely do not have to work there.


Unemployment itself doesn't cause crime, but unemployment and a weak social safety net will definitely cause crime. I've lived in Western Europe countries with absurdly high unemployment rates, to this American, >10%, 25% youth, and I never felt unsafe, mostly. You got a stipend, subsidized housing, and job training.

But in the US, unemployment, desperation, and easy access to firearms can be a big problem.

BTW, I'm still shocked by the casualness of people who threaten to shoot me. Or like to show they are armed in an attempt to intimidate me.


As a US native I’ve never had someone threaten to shoot me or show me they were armed to intimidate me. I’m not exactly living a sheltered life either.

I have a few questions, sorry if this sounds like a lot I’m just really curious.

What city are you in where this happens? What are you doing to provoke this kind of behavior? Why haven’t you moved away to somewhere safer?


I grew up in south-central Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s and I witnessed several incidents of gun violence, one of which was fatal, and I was personally fired at on two different occasions. These were all gang related, random acts of violence, though neither myself nor anybody I happened to be near at the time was in a gang.

> What are you doing to provoke this kind of behavior?

Standing on the sidewalk, hanging out with friends.

> Why haven’t you moved away to somewhere safer?

I left when I was 18.

I'd be happy to entertain any additional questions you or others might have.


That's nuts, thanks for sharing.

Would you happen to know why gangs would bother doing random acts of violence against teenagers standing on the sidewalk? I'd heard that the Italian mafia at least likes to keep themselves out of the public eye, interesting that other gangs don't.


Because they can. Its a game, its a status symbol. Whatever. It doesn't matter what matters is... that it does happen.

They have literal games , such as "knockout". The game is literally to come from behind and hit a random passerby so hard that they fall on the ground... knocked out.

Its some real messed up stuff. I am sure you google.


Either demonstrating dominance or as part of initiation. Requiring recruits to perform illegal acts or even random violence is common. It’s to prove you’re willing to do what is asked of you by your superiors.


Miami. A city with notoriously bad drivers some of them armed. It's better now but was a hell of a lot worse when I was growing up, the 90s. But you can pick any major city and ask a local where not to go, and just don't go there.

Driving, riding my bike, walking. When I was a kid simply walking to school was enough. But people will threaten to shoot you for turning, not driving fast enough, merging, stopping, not stopping. Riding a bike in the right lane.

Growing up down here you get used to it. Far too many Americans have access to guns. Hopefully, they only use it on themselves. But even if only 1% of gun owners were certifiable crazy, that's still over a 1 million unhinged individuals.

I moved to Europe for a time. But career and family brought me back here. And I like money :-)


Road rage is definitely the fastest escalation path I've seen in the US. Do other countries have road rage the way the US does?


Lebanon is notorious for this.

Guns are illegal.

Still, plenty of shootings and killings from random roadrage incidents.


In my experience it happens a fair bit at the long, long, long immigration lines at US air ports if you are not a US citizen. Guards fondling their gun holster and shouting at people for using a phone or sitting on the floor after queuing for 3 or 4 hours. Welcome to America. I guess you don't experience this if you are a US native.

And also obviously it happens frequently in SF from the homeless people. That is probably more worrying as they potentially have "nothing to lose"


I have traveled extensively to the US (I am French), probably 10+ times a year. The way people are "welcomed" to the US is horrible - I felt like this only in Russia.

Once the border officer asked me (or rather - barked at me) "why are you coming to the US?", to what I said "for business".

"For how long?" - to what I answered "for 3 days"

He then asks "why so short?" to what I answered "I swear if I could squeeze it to one day I would gladly come and go not to spend money in a country that is so welcoming" (it was a very long, tiring flight and I really wanted to go to the hotel, afer having queued up for 2 hours)

He told me that I should not reply like this, to what I said that this is the truth. We had a small staring contest and he let me go.

The other similar case in Russia was when the border guard was yelling at me for not having my passport number printed on my ticket (yes, I do not know either), to which I yelled back to kick me out of their country with a "never return" stamp because I am fed up enough to have a week-end ruined with tha travel. I showed him my hands together (as in "handcuff me") and he pushed me into Russia. The stay was great, people were great.


Had a strange experience in my last entry into the US myself. I have a Canadian passport, but have a US green card.

Officer (in a rather rude tone): "what were you doing in Canada?"

Me (sleepy and a bit disoriented): "sorry?"

Officer (suddenly seems to realize that he has my green card in front of him): "Never mind, you're good to go"

My best guess is that he was just too conditioned to grasp at straws for reasons to give people a hard time, until realizing he couldn't deny entry to a green card holder.


I thought this was going to a joke about how saying "sorry" means that it was obviously reasonable for you to be in Canada.


> "I swear if I could squeeze it to one day I would gladly come and go not to spend money in a country that is so welcoming"

This is what greeted my family every time we came to the US. Which fucked up ICE agent will we get this time? Most of them were pleasant but it only takes 1 asshole in the bunch to ruin a great holiday.

And no matter what they say, Canada's ICE weren't much better.


Yeah, I (as a US immigrant) personally had way more problems with Canadian ICE than the US one.

Semi-relevant anecdote: I was traveling in my car with my mom and sister to Vancouver BC from Seattle (back when I was not a US citizen yet). Canadian officer at the border was more than just inquisitive. He asked who i was, where i worked, which team i worked on, what specific product I worked on and what specifically I did (which was already making me feel uncomfortable, because the product wasn't public back then, so I wasn't really allowed to talk about it in general). The questioning itself took like 10 mins and was absolutely unnecessary. Not even mentioning how aggressive he was, I felt like I was an inch away from being escorted to their "office" for additional questioning. And I am saying that as someone who doesn't usually feel threatened much by any interactions with officers.

On the way back into the US, however, it was buttery smooth. The officer confiscated the grapes my mother tried bringing back with her (despite me urging her not to do so), and he was extremely apologetic about it. Then he said "welcome home", and that was it. Took less than a minute overall.

Not trying to generalize anything from this, as, of course, the experiences differ wildly between individual border officers and such. I just thought it was an interesting semi-relevant anecdote.


Oh, don't even get me started on CBSA.

I was driving from a town in Illinois to Toronto (a very long 10 hour trip as it was). Got to the border, they said that I needed to pay several thousands dollars to import my car because according to them I was a "returning resident" even though I kept saying I work in US and was going to return to US (and had paperwork to prove it, to boot). Nope. They kept insisting I was lying about the purpose of my trip, and eventually decided that because I was "lying", they were going to seize my car (and everything in it, including laptops and cellphones).

They then proceeded to tell me I had to pay $14k to get my car back (or to find a cab willing to come to the border. Without a cell phone. At midnight on a sunday.) Did I mention I had my wife and two children in the car with me? Yeah.

So I ended up scrambling to come up with $14k by maxing out multiple credit cards, got my car and belongings back, and finally got our asses out of there at 2am (with still 3 hours of road ahead of me).

I knew the border officers were full of shit so I filed a formal appeal with the government. Six months later, what do you know, it was actually reviewed and it was determined that the border officers were in fact in the wrong and that I should get a full refund. Better late than never, but boy, that night couldn't have gone much worse.


Wow, as a US citizen I've faced much more scrutiny from Canadian border agents than US ones. Also at the border between Vancouver and Seattle.


ICE was a creation born out of the "war on terror"

Shouldn't be surprising that their staff follows the same principles that created the agency in the first place.

Customer service takes a nose dive once you train your staff on how to spot the next shoebomber.


Given that Americans are generally warm and approachable, it is quite surprising just how hostile their border officials.


I have. Seattle. I was mugged by 3 armed teenage hoodlums. It was a long time ago, but I still have a bad reaction when people come up behind me.


>BTW, I'm still shocked by the casualness of people who threaten to shoot me. Or like to show they are armed in an attempt to intimidate me.

What? Where in the US do you live? I've lived in the US my entire life and never, not once has anyone ever threatened to shoot me. Thats a felony in itself and I am really surprised by that.


I had a guy threaten to shoot me in Kentucky once when I was working with him on the Ohio River - more of a 'I have a rifle in my truck' than a 'pointing a gun at you' kind of a threat though.


If you commute long enough through places of high poverty you'll have some stories. I'd get a gun pulled on me for driving. I'd also have friends and colleagues brag to me about pulling guns on other drivers. I'd tell them they were crazy but in their mind it's a completely valid reaction.


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26755014

The US is a big, diverse place with a lot of history.


It's used as a joke in a lot of circles. "My daughter's old enough to date, I better clean my gun"


Except there are two problems with this theory. One unemployment is just as correlated with crimes of passion as it is crimes of opportunity. There’s no reason why a lack of job training should lead to rape.

Two is that America’s high crime rates well preceded the advent of the modern welfare state. New York had much higher crime than London even in the 19th century at the height of Victorian social Darwinism and Dickensian work houses. If anything the disparity has actually decreased in the post war period.

The short answer is America, and in fact the Western Hemisphere in general, is just a much more violent society at its roots than the Old World.


> One unemployment is just as correlated with crimes of passion as it is crimes of opportunity. There’s no reason why a lack of job training should lead to rape.

I think there is a clear reason: nihilism and depression. If you have resigned yourself to being unemployed and impoverished forever, what difference does it make whether you're in jail or not? It's the same reason we argue that jailing the homeless is pointless. They don't care; life in prison might even be better in terms of quality of life. Sure, there's less freedom, but the poorer you are, the less the delta in freedom is. You don't have access to a lot of the freedom that financially healthy people have to begin with. Jailing them is like trying to drown a fish. We don't have any functional punishments for people who don't care about their life (I'm not advocating that we try to invent some).

You mentioned rape specifically. The prevailing theory afaik is that rape is about control over someone else rather than sexual gratification. There are plenty of ways to have sex; the floor on sex worker prices is shockingly low. Doubly so in extremely poor areas. It's not shocking to me that people with almost no control over their lives would lash out in ways that grant them control, or at least a feeling of control. If you're poor and have no safety net, you have little control over your housing (can't afford to move), your job (don't have a rainy day fund to tell your boss to fuck off), your food (you eat what's cheap, or what the food bank will give you), your money (you're lucky if you even have enough to pay bills, much less have money left over that you can pick what to do with), etc. Your life becomes a constant chain of being shunted around and manipulated by people who do have money.

Crimes of opportunity are an attempt to lift yourself out of poverty. Crimes of passion are an attempt to cope with the struggles of living a life that you have almost no control over.

I'm not attempting to absolve anyone of responsibility for their actions, but I can see how someone would make that choice.

Also, suicide is an act of passion, and it's highly correlated with unemployment.


>nihilism and depression

No, that's not quite right. Someone who is depressed is not homicidal and highly unlikely to be violent to anyone but themselves. A nihilist is consumed in the thought that life is meaningless so they would not go around randomly hurting people by definition. A sociopath might but that's different.


> much more violent society at its roots than the Old World

I am originally from Russia, but live in US. I actually feel safer in US than in Russia.

It is far easier to get assaulted as result of road rage or because somebody don't like how you dress in Russia. Hopefully Russia have stricter gun laws, so it's less lethal.


Are you asking why people who have run out of money might turn to stealing? Even if you are trying to be nonviolent a life of crime is hard and eventually you'll find yourself in a situation where you have to use violence because there is nothing else to turn to. You certainly can't go to the cops.


Plus, once you have a felony on your record, your job prospects go to absolute shit, so it’s hard to avoid crime as a way to survive.


When people don't have legally acquired money to exchange for things they need like food, they turn to other means to acquire those things.

Also when people believe that they can't, by legal and socially acceptable means, thrive, their belief in the current social order is undermined. A lot of society operates on trust in fundamental fairness; for people who find that life is fundamentally unfair, that trust is eroded, sometimes permanently.


Hungry people don't just quietly starve to death, especially if they have other people depending on them.


Choices are about incentives. If you feel you've got nothing to lose you're willing to risk it all.


Unemployment -> desperation -> crime


Unemployment -> desperation = Revolution or Riots or Crime or Terrorism


True, also add extra time on your hands. Poverty + boredom.


Being unemployed may make some turn to crime to support themselves.

Crime often puts people in stressful situations.

People in stressful situations sometimes act violently, even if that's not their default mode of conduct.

As a simple example, imagine someone shoplifting some food from a market, where an employee confronts them and bars their way, saying they are calling the police. The shoplifter tries to leave, and a scuffles ensues while the employee tries to restrain the accused. It's very easy for the crime to become assault while someone is fleeing, and nobody needed to intend for any violence at any point.


Starve your self for a week. Hunger will make you do things you never thought you would/could do.


Among other things, unemployment is bad for your city's tax base.

Law enforcement can probably withstand some budget cuts before public safety suffers, and leaders probably cut other things first, but at some point it might have an effect.


No income > can't pay bills or buy necessities > desperation > mild panic & muddied thinking while looking for any way to make money > overrides the inner restraint against crime.


The easiest way to answer this is to just say go watch The Wire.


Because our species derives from irrational ape-like ancestors and entirely too many of us don't realize we're now an ant colony.

Yes, 10,000 years ago our monkey brains were just fine at navigating the world as it existed. They're not just fine at it today. Today, even some of the simplest jobs require advanced skills in disparate areas, and frankly about 16% of the entire world population is not up to the task. Sixteen percent is the amount of the world population with an IQ at or under 85. These are people who struggle with tasks as simple as folding a sheet of paper into thirds, more or less perfectly, and then placing it into an envelope.

The world we live in, and almost certainly the world we're creating, has no place for these people. Even something as simple as receiving merchandise on a dock in a warehouse requires some basic computer skills, from either operating a Windows or Linux machine and interfacing with SAP, Oracle's JD Edwards, or IBM's AS/400, to figuring out the proper layout of boxes on a wooden pallet to maximize storage space of the warehouse. Something your grandfather or great grandfather did with a 6th grade education, now requires a minimum of a high school education by necessity, if not by design.

That brings me to actual answer to your question... because they don't have the decency to lay down and die. Because inside every human is an irrational desire to live, even when you're no longer useful. I know, know... a long argument can, and likely will, be made that "every life is valuable", etc., so forth. I understand and even accept those arguments on an emotional level, because I am not a machine - I am a man, and because I find it morally repugnant to allow people to die because they have no economic value.

That said... clearly there are plenty of others who do not feel the same way. If you work on AI to streamline a process or aid in manufacturing, you feel this way. The people who employ you, feel this way. You cannot design an algorithm that replaces 7,800 jobs and then throw your hands up and say, "I'm just doing my job." We either have to decide that everyone is worthy of life, regardless of their intellectual abilities and their economic contribution, or we have to decide that's not the case. Right now, because no one is taking Universal Basic Income seriously, we're clearly deciding that your value is mostly - one could argue almost entirely - economically based. We have a few exceptions to this that I can think of off the top of my head - the clergy seem to provide some kind of non-productive "good" that enough people, in America at least, feel is worth the cost of supporting them. But the factory worker who makes widgets for your ConsumerGoodX that you bought, she apparently does not.

I would like to be wrong about this, but our actions as a society say otherwise. We reward companies that reduce their "human capital" and return the money that would be spent on those salaries to either expanding their operations or in dividends to their shareholders. We reward them with higher stock prices and increased demand to purchase those stocks. We reward them by purchasing their goods. We tell ourselves another story, because if you really thought long and hard enough about it, you'd likely have to do some serious soul searching. Most of us don't want to do that.


Desperate conditions breed desperate responses.


It doesn't in developed countries, because they have a strong social safety net.

But in countries going through late stage capitalism, if you don't have a job, you have to rob your neighbour to eat.


Oh really? So no increase in crime in Europe with increasing unemployment? I doubt it.


Europe is a continent with numerous countries, each on a different spot on the economic spectrum.

Any country with a strong social safety net will be far better off when unemployment spikes than one without such a net.

When humans care about their fellow man, society flourishes. When it's every man for himself, spiralling unemployment means crime, anarchy, and chaos.


That explains the grenade attacks in Sweden.


How so?

Perhaps you need me to be more clear. When there is unemployment, crime goes up. This happens no matter where in the world you are. I didn't think I needed to spell that out.

Countries with a strong social safety net will be far safer when unemployment rises out of control. That's just common sense.

It's why Sweden is multiple times safe than the US, regardless of the unemployment rate. They have a social safety net.


One person earning $15 Amazon in Bessemer is solidly middle class for that town.

https://247wallst.com/special-report/2019/07/22/worst-cities...


Just as comparison, an entry level firefighter in Bessemer makes about $12/hour starting out. https://www.pbjcal.org/documents/salary/03BS/firefighter.pdf


Rightly so, but the issue is that the conditions pertaining to work in an Amazon warehouse do not lend themselves to being the kind of work one can do for decades+. People burn out, their legs grow week, and they get no insurance benefits for physical therapy, and that sort of thing. It's just not a sustainable job for most people, sadly.


is it different from manufacturing work or work in service industry?


Amazon is infamous for absolutely driving their warehouse employees into the ground.

I suspect manufacturing is somewhat less casual about their employees’ health because much of it is unionized, and training is more difficult. Warehouse workers are considered disposable.

And the service industry is light years easier than warehouse work, at least based on my time in both.


Standing while at work is not bad for you. Who told you that?


Those manufacturing jobs that used to be in the town were non union as well.


I would wager the other factor favoring manufacturing jobs is that in warehouse work, the injuries tend to be less likely to attract OSHA attention.

People being carried out of a factory missing a limb are more noticeable than people who stop coming to work because their backs simply can’t sustain the work any longer.


> but the issue is that the conditions pertaining to work in an Amazon warehouse do not lend themselves to being the kind of work one can do for decades+

But why does this work need to be for decades? Why isn't the worker in amazon also educate themselves or upskill, so that they can move to a different career with higher paying prospects?

The days of working the same job for your entire life is gone - and that it's every person's own responsibility to keep improving their own skills and career prospects, continuously throughout their life.


Firstly, if every Amazon worker (or other low-skill job) educated themselves into a better job, there’d be no low-skill/low-wage workers. I think many of us would really dislike living in a world where these sorts of jobs support even a moderate lifestyle. For example, someone doing the dishes at a restaurant. Therefore, we do find these jobs valuable as a society and we want people to do them.

Secondly, are we really sure that if everyone suddenly educated themselves into a better job that there would be enough better jobs to go around? It seems unlikely. Particularly with increased automation.

My point is that the “get a better job” argument isn’t a strong solution to providing for everyone’s needs. We’re pretty clearly getting worse in this area as a society, with stagnating wages and fewer opportunities for entry-level work which can make ends meet.

At a point, if this trend continues, you get riots and revolution when people feel they don’t have another choice. We aren’t necessarily close to that, but if these trends continue, that’s more people making less money with higher prices. At some point that leads to desperation for enough people that violence happens. Just look at Russia or France in the past couple hundred years.

My meaning with that is that it’s not just someone’s own responsibility, but that there is some level of social responsibility for maintaining a baseline.


> we do find these jobs valuable as a society and we want people to do them.

If they were valuable, they would be valuable enough to pay a high price.

And i don't believe that it is possible to run out of high skilled jobs. It may be that in the further future, these higher skilled jobs paid just as much as low-skilled jobs of today, and the lowskilled job of today disappears due to automation. But that's a good future - it means that production and output must be very high for it to occur. And who's to say there won't be even higher skilled jobs? Or brand-new job types that's not envisioned yet? After all, human have unlimited desires which is the impetus for all economic progress.

> if this trend continues, you get riots and revolution

only if society don't invest in up-skilling. I'm a big fan of society helping those of lower skill to increase their skill. Education is one of the most efficient forms of investment a gov't can undertake.


Didn't Amazon warehouse replaced walking with robots?


Imagining a federal $15 minimum wage will easily level up everyone in the town to middle class... (sarcasm)


What a tragic way to frame it. The USA (and all the world governments) need to take care of it's poor people better so they don't have to choose indentured servitude over poverty.

Edit: Added the bit about all the world governments


$15 an hour is more than you can get in almost any place in Europe or the world for unskilled labor, what are you talking about?


In Europe there are a lot of social benefits that mitigate this.

- Health care

- Worker protections

- Required time off

- Sick time

- Maternity leave

etc.

Here its $15. And you're on your fucking own.

If you compare it to completely underdeveloped or dictatorial economies... Sure I guess its way better. But the US shouldn't be comparing comparing itself to that. Its like saying "This engineer is horrible, but he's not as bad as this drug addict that is yelling all day outside our front door!"


No objection that most of EU is better than the US in these regards, but Amazon warehouse workers get some of the best healthcare insurance that I’ve ever seen in the US. Similar to what the top-level-commenter pointed out, I guarantee that the warehouse jobs in Bessemer provide among the best healthcare available in the town.

The US as a whole is awful at providing healthcare, but healthcare is a particular area where Amazon actually is going way above what is normal and is provided astonishingly well for its workers.


I'm an Amazon warehouse worker in North Carolina. As far as health insurance, I pay 100% of the first $1500, then 10% of the next $15,000 (so $3000 total), then 0% of anything over $16,500. I wouldn't call that astonishing, but it is the minimum $0 monthly premium plan. Also, I'm generally happy at work. I basically feel well paid and well treated.


This is pretty much the same insurance that full-time SWEs at Microsoft receive at Redmond HQ (well, one of the two options, with the other one being tied to Kaiser specifically, but most people I know take the one that's similar to yours). 100% of the first $1.5k, 10% until you hit the total of $3k, and then everything is free. $0 monthly premium as well. That's the one I have myself at the moment.

Glad to see someone like you list the real numbers, because I keep hearing "good insurance" when it comes to Amazon warehouses, but this is the first time I saw someone actually point out the specifics. Also glad to hear that Amazon warehouse workers receive health benefits on par with full-time SWEs (not being sarcastic here, I genuinely am happy to hear this is the case).


(you didn't say this, but) nobody here should fool themselves into thinking a $3k deductible insurance is equal between an Amazon warehouse employee and a SWE at Microsoft.

$3k for a Microsoft SWE is a "dang, I wish I didn't have to go to the hospital" situation.

$3k for an Amazon warehouse employee earning $15/hr can often be a "there go my savings, I wonder if I got this injury due to the amount of physical activity my job requires" situation.


I see your point, but to be fair, it is 10% after the first $1.5k. And it is already a much better insurance than most people working in offices I know get.

Essentially, what it means is that if an employee spends less than $1.5k/yr on medical expenses, they don't gain much benefit. If they spend over $1.5k, they essentially only spend 10% after that on all of their medical expenses. And once they hit a hard cap at $3k, they spend nothing at all. 90% off for most medical stuff is a great rate.

Not even mentioning the fact that this kind of an insurance is a godsend to people with major health problems, given that in the worst possible scenario, they would only ever spend $3k of their own money in a calendar year on medical stuff. And that's only if their actual pre-insurance-cost expenses are closer to the $16.5k, because $1.5k + $1.5k/0.1 = $16.5k.

And I am yet to see a better insurance out of any employers (not just warehouse employers). Even the "amazing" student insurance I had back in college (which I had to pay the premium for) was much worse than this.


> Essentially, what it means is that if an employee spends less than $1.5k/yr on medical expenses, they don't gain much benefit.

Nitpicking here, but they probably do, because the insurance-negotiated prices for many services are much better than the prices prices you could negotiate yourself -- and that is assuming you even have the skills and energy to do any negotiating.

I have a high-deductible plan, which on paper covers literally nothing until I hit something over $7k/yr in expenses, which I thankfully never have. However, I usually pay 30-60% less than the uninsured cash price for my appointments and procedures just because I'm on the plan in the first place.

I often (not always) check this with the provider, so it's not like I'm just blindly assuming the discount claimed by the insurance company is accurate. It's usually not, but the discount still seems to be substantial.

In exactly one case I ended up saving like 50 bucks per dermatologist appointment by paying them directly.


It’s not all equal, but I’m looking at my $7K deductible with a $1.2K/month premium (ACA Marketplace plan) and I’m thinking that plan looks like gold.


Jesus, I hope that's at least for a family of 4 or something?

I'm 38 and also have a $7k+ deductible (my plan is HDHP), costs me $275/mo.


It’s for two people over 50 with no aid from the gov’t for the premium (which means we’re in good shape financially). The “Affordable” in the ACA is not for everyone.


ACA plan costs go up pretty steeply with age, from what I've seen.


You may want to look at your options on the ACA marketplace again. The recent stimulus bill included significantly more subsidies for ACA plans and enrollment is reopened for the next few months.


They also left out the point where Microsoft gives you $1250/$2500 in your HSA to help alleviate those deductible costs (if you choose to).


The benefit is the same, and it's far more lavish than any other $15 job offers. Employers paying for 100% of the health insurance premiums are rare.


Microsoft's healthcare plan used to pay 100% of premiums, but over time it either became unaffordable or didn't work with the ACA.

Currently it's something like "we charge you a lot for the first few months but also give you the money to pay it in your HSA", which makes you wonder why they give it to you in the first place. It's not like you can optimize your prescriptions out of your life, so it's not enabling choice.


I don't have any prescriptions or chronic health issues. My HSA is another several thousand dollars per year of tax free retirement savings (I max out 401k contributions also). Sure, I can only ever use that $ on healthcare, but when I'm older I'm sure I'll use it.


Sure, but that doesn't explain why employers contribute extra to the HSA instead of having salary deductions.

Btw, once you're 65 you can withdraw money for no reason without a penalty, so it's no worse than a traditional IRA. Too bad deposits are taxed in California.


That's still a remarkably good health plan being offered unless somehow people are expecting Amazon and other corporations to offer their warehouse workers a better health plan than they or Microsoft offer their own engineering staff. Even a union isn't going to get them that.


Well not quite, because Microsoft also contributes $1k to an HSA as part of the plan every year.

That said, having to pay up to $3k a year in medical costs when you're earning a Microsoft salary is a much smaller percent of your income than having the pay the same making $15/hr at an Amazon warehouse.


HSA is a separate thing that I don't even personally touch, I was talking about insurance itself.

And I agree with your point, that type of an insurance with a fixed cut-off is regressive in a similar way that a sales tax it. So please don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say that Amazon warehouse workers have it just as good as Microsoft SWEs in terms of benefits (or just in general).

They do, however, have the type of health benefits/insurance that is extremely difficult to beat by literally anyone except what other big tech companies provide to their SWEs. And afaik those benefits for Amazon warehouse workers kick-in on day 1, unlike what it's like at many other similar warehouse jobs.


Are you sure you're not confusing HSA with FSA?

The latter should absolutely be avoided, but an HSA is basically just another tax-advantaged retirement account along the lines of an IRA.


I am not confusing HSA and FSA, but my wording was likely confusing.

When I said "i don't personally touch it", I didn't mean that I avoid it. I just know that it is a part of my benefit package, i get contributions in there, but that's about it. I don't even look at it or interact with it in any way otherwise, because I am not planning to use it until much later in life.


You should at least transition it into something appreciating. By default, you make basically no interest, but you can transfer it into investments.


Ah yes, sounds like you're doing it right, my apologies :)


How much easier is it to keep a job, and thus your health insurance, as a SWE when your body breaks down?


>How much easier is it to keep a job, and thus your health insurance, as a SWE when your body breaks down?

Probably much easier than it would be for a warehouse worker. Though I have no idea how this is relevant to what was said in the message you were replying to.


I'm just pointing out that while it's great that they get pretty decent health insurance, it's a poor substitute for a societal safety net. And for a union that makes sure they're not chewed up and spit out.


Reply to the sibling comment comparing to insurance of MS SWE. While the absolute values are comparable, $1500 is quite a bit more of an inconvenience at a warehouser worker pay level than at a SWE salary level.

Given the physical nature of the work, I'd consider them more enlightened if they provided a lower deductible at the $0 premium level for every warehouse worker across the board. I'm really getting tired of places treating the long term mental and physical health of workers as an unpriced externality that's later paid for by society.

Also, thanks to motardo for the data point. (I will assume you're an actual warehouse worker.)


To help non-US people understand this plan:

> but it is the minimum $0 monthly premium plan.

The monthly premium is the cost of the insurance plan. A "$0" premium isn't actually $0, it means that Amazon is paying 100% of the monthly costs of maintaining the insurance, requiring $0 contribution from the employee. Many companies (especially warehouse type operations) are less generous, and require some monthly contribution from the employee to pay the premium. The worst health insurance I ever had required me to pay 100% of the monthly premium, with $0 committed by the company. That company lost a lot of employees.

> I pay 100% of the first $1500

This is the "deductible". The covered person is responsible for 100% of costs until the deductible is met, although there are many exceptions. For example, a routine checkup might be 100% covered ($0 cost), as well as a range of preventative care procedures described by the ACA.

> then 10% of the next $15,000

After the deductible has been met, the person is responsible for coinsurance of additional costs. An extra $5000 procedure would translate to a $500 bill for the patient.

> then 0% of anything over $16,500.

This is where the "out of pocket maximum" or OOPM is reached. In this case, the most the patient could expect to pay is $1500 (deductible) + $1500 (10% of next $15K) = $3000. After that, all excess charges are handled by the insurance company until the insurance year resets.

In short: Health care will cost between $0 and $3000 depending on how many services are used for the year (excluding fully covered benefits like annual checkup, depression screening, breast cancer screening for women, vaccinations, and other services covered for free under the ACA)


After that, all excess charges are handled by the insurance company until the insurance year resets.

This is an important point. And a related point.

- Because the OOP payments reset annually, there are perverse incentives to over consume medical care after OOP is reached within a given year. Defer preventative health care until after you have a major medical problem that runs to max OOP, then stack up on preventative care before the year ends.

- Related: Insurance is also tied to employer - if you change jobs, all those OOP values reset (to whatever policies are in place with new employer). This causes friction in the labor market - employer-provided and -subsidized health care prevents people from looking for new employment.


Thanks for the explanation. Interesting to compare to Australia, which has a public health system, but where I still pay ~AUD2960/year, after government rebates (at current rates ~USD2255/year) for moderately crap health insurance for my family even with no medical usage.

In general, we wouldn't even use it to access private health care, because we would then face substantial fees to use it (I don't know exactly; it varies significantly by procedure, has a $500 deductible, substantial copay, and has maximum caps), however we're taxed heavily for not having a private policy.

Our family income has recently pushed over some thresholds in the rebate system, pushing up prices even more, might have to shop around to find an even more useless but cheaper policy.

Australia's public health system is pretty decent, but the half baked private system bolted on the side is a mess. Lots of people paying thousands for unusable insurance which is just sent directly to private companies.


Great write up! Only caveat is the limits only apply to in network providers (providers that have made a deal with the insurance company), so if you're on a trip and an emergency happens and you end up in a hospital that's not in network, then you're on your own.

But I assume a company like Amazon is dealing with a large insurer part of nationwide networks like BCBS.

Also, insurance companies have their own doctors and pharmacists that might disagree with the patient's doctor's treatment plans, and will not cover the healthcare costs for those items without a "prior authorization" from the insurer. There's an appeal system in place for this too. Although, this type of thing exists without health insurers too, it's just employees of the government deciding what to approve and not approve.


> Only caveat is the limits only apply to in network providers (providers that have made a deal with the insurance company), so if you're on a trip and an emergency happens and you end up in a hospital that's not in network, then you're on your own.

Actually, out-of-network emergency care is an 'essential benefit' under the ACA, so most plans do cover this scenario.

I actually just screwed myself with this recently. I went to an urgent care while traveling (because that is usually cheaper when I'm at home) and it wasn't covered. An urgent care apparently doesn't count as emergency care. It turns out that I should have gone to the (typically very expensive) ER instead -- it would have been covered 100% because of the ACA!


Thanks for the correction, I did not know that!

Every time I dig into ACA, I find that it’s a pretty decent framework for a non taxpayer funded healthcare system.


Why do you prefer the company choosing insurance and paying x% over them paying 0%? Didn't you get the money they didn't pay? I mean what does it matter. Any tax reasons?


What exactly do you do there?

From what I understand, order picking there must be god awful, but being the receiving clerk might not be so bad. Being on-site IT might not be so bad. Certainly being the Director of Operations for that warehouse wouldn't be bad... at least I wouldn't think.


I don't want to entirely discount your experience, but given that Amazon is not beneath sock puppet accounts, how do I know the post is authentic?


Not defending insurance plans in the US whatsoever because I despise their deductible structures but that’s actually pretty good.


Do they have upgraded plans available for purchase, and are they pretty expensive or reasonable?


What happens when those people stop working for Amazon?


"In Europe" in this case means "Western Europe". I'm pretty sure many would take the $15/hour over the social benefits in say, Bulgaria.


Touch choice. As far as I can tell, the social welfare system in Bulgaria covers unemployment, healthcare, sick leave, maternity and paternity leave. The country looks like an amazing place, however it’s population is in decline, it is corrupt and it has variety of huge problems. Minimum wage is about US$1.16.

https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1103&langId=en https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgaria


No, it means anywhere in the EU for the most part. For example, EU mandates all member states to give workers at least 4 weeks of paid vacation. Many have 5 or 6 weeks, but 4 is the bare minimum.

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX...


> Here its $15. And you're on your fucking own.

You've been mislead by propaganda. They have healthcare, protections, etc.


How so?

In Alabama you cannot qualify for medicaid unless you are a "needy child, parent, caregiver, pregnant woman, or elderly/disabled resident". Meaning you can't qualify just for being low income.

While Amazon does provide decent health insurance, most lower income jobs do not.

I make good money, and have good health insurance and it would still cost me over $1k to go to the hospital. Imagine doing that with no health insurance while making $10/hr.

EDIT: You updated your comment so I'll add on. Sure, Amazon provides health insurance, but a lot of businesses don't. In 2020, ~31 million Americans didn't have insurance. Even if you have health insurance, premiums and deductibles can be astronomical.


> In Europe there are a lot of social benefits that mitigate this.

Europe is not one country. I hope you realize it's hard to generalize.


Ah, my friend, but you can generalize: both from the cultural (Europe in general has stronger welfare states than most US federal and state systems provide), and because members of the EU are bound to EU-wide rules on worker rights. Pluuus, since member states of the EU have freedom of movement within the bloc, companies in the EU compete on these and other factors (like salary), raising the overall standard. (Sometimes problematically, due to brain drain of weaker economies, etc.)

So while your comment is half correct, I think you should give the parent commenter the benefit of the doubt before you try and "well actually" them.


Does Amazon not provide health care to their workers?

https://www.amazondelivers.jobs/about/benefits/


“Are there no workhouses?”

Such a difference between talking about working at a warehouse from the outside vs being born into a life that traps you there.

I think HN struggles with topics like unionisation because most of us have just never been at the bottom of society without a way out. We’re relatively rich and so highly skilled - we lucked out to be nerds in a world of tech, perhaps due to timing or perhaps because our parents were wealthy enough to put us here.

It’s the same phenomena of loving Uber or Airbnb and not understanding the cost to others.

I don’t know how to solve this problem. I don’t personally want to go work at an Amazon warehouse so I can see how awful it is. I work damn hard but I know how lucky I must be.

How do you get the rich to realise that the poor are simply, by definition, less fortunate?


Funny enough, I have often have the same thought. I'm a military officer and the enlisted folks are often living not far from the Amazon warehouse workers. Indeed, the highest paid officers in the military make less than 10x more than the most junior enlisted recruit. These are people who command hundreds of thousands of people.

I think a significant difference is that most folks in tech do not live and work among the skilled and unskilled laborers. In the military, you know the cook, the plumber, the electrician, and the riflemen, the air traffic controller, the network technician. Personally. You've been around the world together, you may have been in firefights together.

In the military, the headquarters jobs with the bean counters are rare. Bean counting is essentially synonymous with 'fat and happy'. In tech, the equivalent of bean-counting headquarters is 90% of the organization. It's extremely advanced bean-counting, but the field units have atrophied quite a little bit.


That's a great reply, thanks. I see from up/down votes that I've hit a nerve.

I really like your perspective. Reminds me of the attempts in new towns in the UK to try to mix different socioeconomic classes on the same street. "Show me and I'll understand." I grew up in a deprived town (but my family was comfortable) and I've worked a lot of awful jobs, maybe that helps.

So a good first step would be to integrate within companies more? Perhaps corporates deliberately avoid that. Much easier to treat warehouse staff badly if your valuable engineers don't know them personally.


almost guaranteed though its not completely covered by amazon, and workers have to pay monthly premiums like most jobs that offer healthcare.


The monthly premium is around $20-80/mo for healthcare plans that are seriously amazing compared to other plans I’ve seen in America, ie $300 deductible and $2000 out of pocket (with $500 of it covered by Amazon).


I was on the bronze-level Obamacare plans for years and it was about $300 for bad coverage in comparison to “real” private insurance.

There is so much digging at Amazon I’d like to see the delivery and warehouse work role required performance metrics and work role benefits posted so we can look at facts.


It offers a company plan that workers DO have to pay for and often choose not to because they cannot afford it.


Amazon warehouse workers have full health insurance.


"You load sixteen tons, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

Saint Peter don't you call me, 'cause I can't go

I owe my soul to the company store"


Free healthcare - yeah I had to go to a hospital in Romania - I'd take my Alabama private hospital any day.


That likely has more to do with Romania than the free healthcare.


Those things are not so easily separable.


They are once you stop ignoring the other countries with free healthcare.


So work hard and get a better job. The fact is that you will not if you have a safety net under you. I lived on welfare and refused to make more money until it was a LOT more money. I finally got off the safety net only when my income increased five fold. Even that was a little begrudging because I had $800 a month in food stamps and free medical care and so all those costs got flipped onto me--not to mention the $6000 tax credit I lost and instead had to pay that amount. There are many families who are pulling down far more in benefits than I was. These safety nets are fucked up, and they gotta go. A better alternative is either UBI or a negative income tax.


The worse job you'd leave still need to exist, it's just going to be someone else toiling in unreasonable conditions. Sure, "get a better job" is something people in low-paying jobs should strive for, but it's selfish only to care about one's own situation and ignore the people you're leaving behind.


There are plenty of jobs in western Europe that will pay similar and won't force you to pee in a bottle or your pants.

That's ignoring the whole healthcare situation... which I think you're leaving out of the equation.

30 seconds of searching indicates the average grocery store clerk in the UK makes 8.80GPB/hr. Add on healthcare and they're coming out far ahead of an amazon warehouse worker.

https://www.payscale.com/research/UK/Industry=Grocery_Store_...


Amazon Warehouse workers have medical coverage here too. So they're leaps and bounds ahead if you want to go ahead and say that.

Of course the US healthcare system is broken so I know what you're getting at but I don't know that I want Amazon to pay their workers > $15 to subsidize a broken healthcare system for their workers I just want a functional healthcare system and for them to continue to make $15/hr.


>Amazon Warehouse workers have medical coverage here too. So they're leaps and bounds ahead if you want to go ahead and say that.

Sorry, are you seriously trying to claim an HSA is better than universal healthcare?

>Of course the US healthcare system is broken so I know what you're getting at but I don't know that I want Amazon to pay their workers > $15 to subsidize a broken healthcare system for their workers I just want a functional healthcare system and for them to continue to make $15/hr.

I'm not even sure where you're going with this. The original claim was that $15/hr was better than you can get in Europe. I pointed out the hourly wage actually isn't much better, and oh by the way, that wage doesn't include healthcare (which it doesn't). If you want healthcare coverage you have a monthly fee, plus your co-pay and deductible. Not even REMOTELY competitive to western Europe unless you're one of the lucky few who literally never gets in an accident and never gets sick (as well as your entire family).


> Sorry, are you seriously trying to claim an HSA is better than universal healthcare?

It's not an HSA and nothing else. It looks like it's similar to my employer plan which is actually more generous than some universal systems - I/my partner use about the same services here and in Australia and I pay less here. Mainly because universal systems don't always cover dentists/specialists/mental health.


I said it pretty clearly, it's not Amazon's fault that US healthcare is broken. Comparing EU to US for wages is thus largely fruitless. Fix our healthcare then your comparison might be useful.

I was attempting to nicely dismiss your comparison.


It is not Amazon's fault but there is nothing legally preventing them from doing better. That is a choice by Amazon. They offer worse health insurance for more money than I have available to me.


> Sorry, are you seriously trying to claim an HSA is better than universal healthcare?

I think it can be. Depends on the details but an HSA comes with a high-deductible plan. This is normally ideal for young people, who are generally healthy and only need insurance for rare catastrophic illness or serious accidents. Normal, routine care (checkups, immunizations, etc.) can be budgeted and paid out of the HSA tax-free. I don't see why that stuff should be "free" for most people, any more than groceries or utilities or housing should be.


> I don't see why that stuff should be "free" for most people

I do. Having a healthy population benefits me. Having people immunised, cared for and well keeps me healthier and safer. Having people lose homes and jobs and potentially their lives because they can’t afford healthcare is not something I support.


There are actually tons of studies that show preventive healthcare reduces spend later on. For instance, if you pay for someone's routine checkup you might catch a heart issue or cancer early. Both insurance companies and the government (Medicaid/Medicare) would save money by paying for preventative care.

Study by the NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5296930/


An HSA doesn't mean that you don't have preventative care. I have a high deductible plan plus HSA and there are things like annual checkups covered without going into deductible.


So about those.

I started with a new doctor after finally getting insurance a few years back. I told them I needed to come in for my annual check-up, and came in with a list of the things that had been bothering me and that I hadn't been able to get looked at (this is common for people who have not had healthcare access). The doctor spent 15 minutes with me, doing the bare minimum of setting up outside testing/imaging - as in, basically no guidance that day - and then coded it as a 45-minute, in-depth consultation ("because of the number of issues addressed"). $250. Before any tests or treatment. For reference, that was about 1% of my annual take-home. For a lot of you, that's like paying a grand or more just for your doctor to direct you elsewhere.

So, yeah, certain things are "covered." But the structure of our healthcare system forces our clinics and hospitals to operate like many other American businesses, which is "in a predatorial manner."


You went for a preventative check, and asked for a bunch of issues to be addressed and you’re surprised it cost you money?


What, exactly, is a preventative check, if not a discussion with your GP about your current physiological status? Given the time described (15 minutes), and the lack of immediate diagnostics, it sounds exactly like what I would expect from a check-in with my doctor here in Canada. The only other option I could see counting as a preventative check is a physical, which would be more involved than what was described.


It’s a matter of billing. A preventive visit does a set of screening and evaluation of results.

If you say “my knee hurts lately”, then that’s separate as the physician will do an evaluation that is separate from a routine physical.

And it’s not just the US. I have family in Canada and they were told maximum of 2 complaints can be addressed as they can only bill for a certain amount of time. Beyond that the doctor is working for free. Another separate appointment is needed.


So, yes, this is the problem. Healthcare should not be a business. It should be obvious that people who have been denied access before will come in to their first visit with multiple concerns, and the system should be accommodating to that without a massive "onboarding" fee. After all, it's not their fault that previous incarnations of said system did not supply care adequately.

If you view a person and their health in a holistic manner, you can't just say, "Well, I've got you set up to check for diabetes and Crohn's, but if you want me to consider that mole then you'll have to pay me another $300 and/or wait a few weeks until I'm not so booked."

My point was that "free preventative care" is not a panacea. Any time a doctor is incentivized to turn that visit into a money-maker, they'll gladly attempt to. And that's wrong.


So you’re against how universal care is setup in Canada? Each visit has a billing code for a certain amount of work. If you brought up other issues you’d be told to make another appointment.


Of course not. Canada's healthcare system is not, at the point-of-care, a business. Whatever business arrangement that exists is between the government and providers, not me and my doctor, so the latter relationship is not directly constrained by economic concerns, as is the case here in the US. If that appointment had taken place in Canada - and let's be clear first that it would not have, as I would have been insured unconditionally since birth and able to deal with each issue as it arose - the doctor would have either helped set up a treatment plan then and there, or she would have let me know that it would require another visit or two to go over everything, as here.

The difference is that I would not personally be out 1-3 weeks worth of food money for each visit, just establishing my baseline. In neither case would what happened be a "matter of billing" because I would never receive a bill.


It’s the same issue of billing for the doctor in Canada as the US.

The doctor gets paid $X for a preventive visit. If you start adding things on that will be flagged to ensure doctor get paid more, typically through additional billing codes.

The original comment was “why do I get billed more when I bring up issues during a preventative visit”?

That’s why.


Universal Healthcare systems can and do provide a significantly better coverage and vastly more cost efficient system. What you just said is selfish healthcare provision, look out for yourself and to heck with everyone else.

You have no empathy for people who can never afford ridiculous health care systems in private systems. This optimises the failed "rugged individual" philosophy that has only lead to ruin.


If you have a HSA it is just as good as any other universal health care. Depending on what you decide to value you can argue it is better or worse, but either way for practical purposes you don't have to worry about going to the doctor when you need to.


> If you have a HSA it is just as good as any other universal health care.

I’m not American and have only just learned about HSAs and totally fail to understand your comment. Could you explain how they help someone poor pay for medical expenses? Doesn’t the account get low/empty and then you’re out of funds?


When the HSA gets to zero you reach your yearly max and insurance takes over and you don't pay any more.

I'm not sure how Amazon works, but my plans works something like (I'm rounding to make it easy, the reality is slightly more complex) that I pay everything for the first $3000, then for the next $15,000 I pay 20%, and thereafter I pay nothing. My total out of pocket is $6000/year, which is also the most I can put into the HSA per year, and my employer matches some of my contributions to in reality I'm getting $7k/year while only a few rare loop holes can get me close to needing that much. It is very rare for anyone to have more than $18k in medical expense per year (I had a baby last year and still am well below that), so for most people the HSA is another retirement account.

Now the HSA does mean I'm not paying $100/month for my insurance, but instead $600/month. However most of the money is invested using the HSA as a retirement account for my medical needs. The idea of the HSA (which has not worked out in practice) is because the money is mine I'll have incentive to shop around for cheaper medical procedures to make sure there is more money for my future retirement, and this should lower costs (in practice most medical things can't be shopped around for, but a few people do look at their itemized bills and sometimes notice a billed procedure that wasn't done).

Now that $600 is $3-4/hr, which is not insignificant to someone making $15/hr. However here again things get complex. That money is pre-tax income, so your taxes are almost cut in half for the year (granted this is only $500 - and only for a single person who can't claim anything else).


Thank you for this - I get it a bit better and HSAs do more than I thought they did.

It’s a phenomenal sum of money to spend, and while you have clearly considered your options, it really shows how expensive it is in the US.

That said, I was surprised to see how high it is in New Zealand where I am ($4204) and how much less you are spending than the average in the US ($10906).

https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/health-...


Average spending isn't very meaningful here because it's just a few people spending a lot - mostly elderly people, which of course has the effect of nobody inheriting anything anymore because it went to hospital bills.

The median person in the US doesn't spend much more on healthcare than the median European and their income is much higher. (Median income in a poor state like Alabama is higher than the UK.)

Plus we have working clothes dryers. Meanwhile in Sweden they're so poor they have to ration the tvättstuga.


> Average spending isn't very meaningful here because it's just a few people spending a lot - mostly elderly people, which of course has the effect of nobody inheriting anything anymore because it went to hospital bills.

That’s the same everywhere though. If you want to record the most expensive year of healthcare in someone’s lifetime, it’s a safe bet that the last year is going to be at, or near the top. Like has been compared with like.

> Plus we have working clothes dryers.

I’m missing something, and I suspect it’s obvious. What’s this about sorry?


> That’s the same everywhere though. If you want to record the most expensive year of healthcare in someone’s lifetime, it’s a safe bet that the last year is going to be at, or near the top. Like has been compared with like.

You're right it is comparable, although it's affected by the country's demographics. I just mean if you're moving to the US as a working-age person, it is not going to represent your situation. A median or age distribution would be more informative.

> I’m missing something, and I suspect it’s obvious. What’s this about sorry?

That's just a fun quality of life fact about the US. Europe has better transit, we have better and bigger housing and our appliances work better. We're more likely to have air conditioning too.

(Clothes dryers don't work very well unless they're vented to the outside, and in older brick buildings like Europe, and for some reason also in Japan, they aren't always.)


the UK healthcare system isn't so great either. It's good enough for a safety net (mostly... the wait times are horrendous for non-emergency work, and I know a guy whose collarbone pokes out at a right angle because his doctor wouldn't fix the break), but if you have a chronic condition that isn't one of the handful of really common ones that all doctors know about (like IBS) then you're mostly on your own unless you go private.


My experience with the NHS has been overall quite good, despite having an exceptionally severe presentation of Crohns and an aggressive leukemia. I’ve never been in a case where I have had to wait an exorbitant amount of time for either acute or routine care. This is across multiple cities and countries in the NHS.

I likewise had some of the best American specialists in GI and oncology. I also ended up with six figures in medical debt despite having incredible insurance and a great job. I also experienced excruciating wait times at emergency rooms that dwarfed anything I’ve encountered at the A&E in the UK.

The NHS obviously has massive scope for improvement and isn’t even the healthcare system I have felt the most secure in (that was the Swiss) but I am confident that the NHS is almost certainly better for the average Brit than the US medical system is for the average American.


Cancer treatment is a really high priority for the NHS these days, I think in part because it was an area where there used to be major issues and people died as a result. There are some really aggressive treatment targets for that handed down from on high and woe betide anyone who falls badly behind on them. Where it usually falls down is chronic and non-urgent conditions - stuff where patients won't necessarily die if not treated immediately, but might suffer long-term harm, maybe even lose a limb or their eyesight, or which seriously impact their ability to take part in normal activities whilst they're left untreated.


I couldn't speak to the US healthcare system, but from what I've heard it's probably much worse for usual medical needs.

I'm glad you've had a better experience with the NHS than I have; my wife has a chronic condition and has had a pretty bad time in the NHS - she hates going to the doctors now from how many times she's been called a liar or accused of just trying to feed a painkiller addiction (despite not actually asking for painkillers). All because many doctors seemingly struggle to admit that they don't know what's wrong.

I just bring this up because I think (and I could be wrong) that some people see socialised healthcare as a panacea but my experience with it is that it's actually very inconsistent and regularly lets people down (not just my wife, a good few others that I know as well). I still wouldn't choose the US system over the NHS though, not by a long shot.


> some people see socialised healthcare as a panacea

Do they? Every socialised healthcare system is crying out for money and is in need of help. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone claim one is perfect.


I'm very open to the possibility that my experience has negatively biased my perspective on socialised medicine such that I interpret relative (to the US) praise as absolute praise - "socialised medicine is good" versus "socialised medicine is better than the current US system". I take no issue with the latter statement, only the former.


I'd take no exception to either, but would object to "socialised medicine is perfect" if applied to any system that I'm aware of.


When I did a month summer education program in Cambridge another student on the trip needed a doctor. The experience was pleasant. What you described sounds like an experience you could just as easily have in the US with one of our many sub-par medical professionals that can't do anything but prescribe antibiotics. Bad doctors will exist no matter the system.

Oh, and granted it was just the one experience, but the wait time seemed on par with an urgent care here in the US.


>> because his doctor wouldn't fix the break

That sounds really weird. Why would a UK doctor not fix a break?

I’m guessing there was a medical reason rather than anything to do with the NHS or quality of care?


there wasn't a medical reason - if I remember correctly, the doctor said that if it wasn't causing any medical issues then there was no need to fix it.

I've had other NHS experiences that make this not particularly surprising.


This is typical in the US as well. Last year my girlfriend broke her nose and they said they just let it heal nowadays because it'll probably be fine on its own and they can deal with it later on the off chance it heals improperly.


> Amazon Warehouse workers have medical coverage here too. So they're leaps and bounds ahead if you want to go ahead and say that.

incorrect. they are OFFERED healthcare coverage. By this use of the word have, I have a private jet because I could buy one if I had the resources.


They nearly universally take that offer (I don't even need to check to state that as a fact, the way US health care is everyone takes what they are offered). That is very different from an offer that nobody takes.


How true is this "Pee in a bottle" thing? It sounds like a single anecdotal evidence widely used as a prop for arguments. Is there a systemic "pee in a bottle" problem at Amazon? I have a hard time believing this.


You obviously missed the part where they hand each new employee a free bottle during orientation and train them on how to use it /s


You conveniently chose one of the wealthiest countries with the highest wages. Here is a more realistic look at monthly min wages across the region. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_...


>You conveniently chose one of the wealthiest countries

Did you know that the United States is the wealthiest country in the world?


It is worth pointing out that Alabama is one of the poorest states in the country (using GDP per capita), along with Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Idaho.


> Did you know that the United States is the wealthiest country in the world?

In aggregate, sure; its somewhere between 5th-8th by per capita GDP, which is the more relevant comparison, depending on source.

But the UK isn’t even close to the US, or particularly near the top in Western Europe (which yas countries ahead of the US.)


Whether its 5th, 8th, or 1st; saying you can't compare US benefits to that of a "wealthy" European country is ridiculous. America IS a wealthy country.


the average grocery store clerk in the UK makes 8.80GPB/hr. Add on healthcare and they're coming out far ahead of an amazon warehouse worker.

Is it fair to compare the average wage of a warehouse worker across the entirety of the U.K. with the starting wage of a warehouse worker in a single deeply impoverished town?


Then compare the same job. The starting Amazon warehouse wage in the UK is £9.70, which is about US$13.70.

https://www.amazon.jobs/en/landing_pages/warehouse-operative


I don't think it's terribly difficult to emigrate from the US to the EU. Aside from plane fare, what's holding someone in the US?

And if it's just plane fare, there are probably a lot of places you can make it with a bus ticket that have better prospects without needing to go to Europe.


> Aside from plane fare, what's holding someone in the US?

Top of mind why someone would NOT want to work in "Europe": - lower salaries - much higher tax rate - stuff in general is more expensive (higher VAT + everything that's imported)


I was referring to lower income people that a union would supposedly help.


Leave US and owe US taxes on foreign income unless the citizenship is renounced. There are costs to renounce US citizenship as well. Therefore, it is not that simple.


> Add on healthcare and they're coming out far ahead of an amazon warehouse worker.

Healthcare in the UK is not as good as you may think it is. Unless you love waiting lines for life-threatening conditions.


I lived in the Uk after loving from oz. never had an issue. Never even saw any lines. This was in London and Newcastle.


While that might be right,You are not taking into account that in Europe you get free healthcare & education.


The warehouse workers get the same (extremely generous) healthcare as every other Amazon employee (due to ERISA).

And even if they didn't, through the Affordable Care Act, someone at that income level can buy a "Gold" plan with low deductibles for $75/month. Obviously for Amazon workers, that's irrelevant.

K-12 education is free, and once you factor in-state tuition and FAFSA, university is also basically free for anyone that continues to make minimum wage throughout their career.


You're conflating FAFSA and Pell Grants. FAFSA is an application for student aid. Pell Grants are the federal government grants given to low-income students. The lifetime limit for Pell Grants is $6,3465. As a low-income student, you may also be eligible for Stafford loans, which are federal subsidized loans. Subsidized meaning that the government pays for any interest accrued while you're a part time student, in your six-month post-graduation grace period, or other deferred status.

The estimated cost of attendance at one of the closest public universities, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has a yearly estimated cost of attendance of $28,695 for in-state students.

University isn't 'basically free' for low income students. My parents lived below the poverty line their entire lives. I graduated with my bachelor's degree and $80k worth of loan debt.

Sure low-income students might be eligible for needs-based grants and scholarships offered at their college. But federal support for low-income students is pitiful and college for those students is a far cry from free.


What you’re talking about is highly variable based on college choice and location. Federally, the student aid situation isn’t great, but there are many universities that will fully cover all tuition (and sometimes more) if you are under a certain income threshold. See: University of Texas.

You’re also narrowly scoping this to talking about one of the largest and fanciest universities in the state. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other colleges in the area that cost fractions of Bama. And of note, Amazon actually pays for up to 95% of tuition/fees for warehouse workers who choose to pursue associates degrees.

There are certainly societal problems in the US regarding education costs and healthcare, but these are both areas where Amazon is actually providing for its workers way, way above what the federal government provides, and even way above what is normal for most Americans (the health insurance that Amazon warehouse workers get is likely better than the health insurance of most of the people posting in this thread). This is the kind of stuff that needs to be kept in mind to understand why Bessemer residents don’t all see Amazon as evil.


>"but there are many universities that will fully cover all tuition (and sometimes more) if you are under a certain income threshold. See: University of Texas."

The University of Texas's program is: 1.) Recent 2.) Covers students enrolled at the time the program went into affect. It doesn't cover recently-graduated students. 3.) Only covers Texas residents (meaning it's irrelevant to a conversation about Amazon employees in Alabama) 4.) Only covers tuition, not cost of living. Cost of living, of course, is more than half of total cost of attendance at the University of Texas.

Go ahead. Ask me how I know what it's like to be a low-income student at the University of Texas.

> "You’re also narrowly scoping this to talking about one of the largest and fanciest universities in the state."

I scoped it to one of two public universities near Bessemer, Alabama. UAB isn't the flagship campus, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. By the way, the other public university near Bessemer is the University of Montevallo. It has a cost of attendance of 27,845 per year for in-state students.

> "And of note, Amazon actually pays for up to 95% of tuition/fees for warehouse workers who choose to pursue associates degrees."

Is that generous? Yeah. To some extent. But keep in mind the following:

1.) It only applies to associates degrees. 2.) The yearly payout is $3,000 (for full-time employees, half that for part time) 3.) You have to have worked for a year to be eligible 4.) Amazon only covers certain degrees

You also have to continue working a demanding job with irregular hours. It's not nothing, I agree. But I've worked other non-skilled jobs with much more generous tuition reimbursement packages (including, but not limited to: eligibility for dependents, unrestricted major choice, applicability to four-year degrees, and more generous yearly maximums).

> "This is the kind of stuff that needs to be kept in mind to understand why Bessemer residents don’t all see Amazon as evil."

I never said anything about Amazon being evil, or whether Bessemer residents see Amazon as evil. In fact, if you look at my posting history, I've been very upfront that I am an employee of Amazon.

Further, 'not being evil' and 'providing more then the federal (or state governments)' is a very low bar to cross. It doesn't obviate the need for a union.


You’re also narrowly scoping this to talking about one of the largest and fanciest universities in the state. Wow, so low-income students should not aspire to go to schools as 'fancy' as U of Alabama?

Infuriatingly disingenuous argument.


Did anyone say anything even close to that?

Talk about an argument being disingenuous. Don’t put words in my mouth.


Sorry to hear that you had $80k worth of debt, that's certainly a lot. It's also several standard deviations above the median. The median student loan debt in the US is about $17,000 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2020/02/03/student...).

In Alabama, you can actually use the net price calculator here: https://financialaid.ua.edu/net-price-calculator/

For a family of 2 that earns minimum wage tuition goes as low as $8,000/year in total, and that's excluding any Federal grants or loans.

Generally speaking, sticker price != net price for the vast majority of students: https://www.manhattan-institute.org/new-approach-curbing-col...

From the link: "The average annual net cost at a four-year public college has grown by almost 81% beyond inflation over the past decade, to $3,870."

Again, I'm sorry to hear about your personal experience; it's totally valid. It's, however, not representative of the median or the majority of the lower class.


> For a family of 2 that earns minimum wage tuition goes as low as $8,000/year in total, and that's excluding any Federal grants or loans.

To rephrase: "For a family of 2 that earns minimum wage, tuition remains more than 50% of your gross income."


That's ignoring Federal grants. Once you factor in all external grants, the median per-year tuition is half of that, if you read the last link. And that's the median. The bottom quintile is ostensibly much less.


Tuition also does not reflect the full cost of attendance (books, materials can be hundreds or even thousands a semester, depending on your major, and housing can in some cases exceed tuition[0]).

The same source notes that the net TFRB (which I'm reading as cost of attendance, as it isn't defined anywhere) is $15,500, with $6,500 in grants. Or a CoA of ~$9,000 annually. This remains above the 50% number I mentioned.

And it's worth noting that these grants aren't solely federal grants. Universities (and states) offer all kinds of non-need-based aid. The one I'm familiar with, since I'm from Georgia, is the Hope scholarship.

This grant offers 6-10K per year, which is amazing, unless you lose it part way through your education (by failing to maintain what can be a fairly difficult GPA requirement). I nearly lost it my first year. That would have been an additional cost of ~20K over the remainder of my education. That was stressful for me, an upper middle class person with financially responsible parents who had decent savings for my education.

That kind of stress would be compounded for someone who started in more dire financial straits, and who was more heavily relying on the grant money.

[0]: And while some people can live at home, this is not available to many people, and can negatively impact your ability to network and build a social support network with peers at university, which is extremely valuable.


I'm from Georgia as well (I went to Georgia Tech).

In addition to HOPE, you also have Zell-Miller which is even more generous (covers housing, food, and books).

The fact that Georgia's aid is tied to merit is a system that I personally agree with, but understand why someone might not. It's something that the voters of each State should litigate.


FWIW when I said 6-10K a year, I was including Zell on the upper end of that, and it does a great job of helping the people it helps, and as far as I know is one of the superior grant programs in the US (which is to say, you'll have less support in most other states).

> (I went to Georgia Tech)

Then you're probably familiar with at least part of the controversy: maintaining the Zell/HOPE GPA requirement at GT is difficult. So for an above average, but not exceptional student, or a student who doesn't have a strong support network, the rational decision can be to go to a worse school because maintaining the GPA requirement will be easier.

That means UGA (or State or KSU) over Tech for many people. I think that there are a variety of reasons that's a misalignment of incentives (and thankfully there seems to be some improvements happening in this area).


> So for an above average, but not exceptional student, or a student who doesn't have a strong support network, the rational decision can be to go to a worse school because maintaining the GPA requirement will be easier.

Yes, and I don't see a problem with that. The best schools are for the best students. This response shouldn't surprise you, coming from an alumna of Georgia Tech, which is an extremely rigorous and prestigious school.

I understand that values differ, but at some point, personal responsibility and merit need to count for something.

If the net result of this is that an unexceptional poor student ends up going to KSU or Georgia State instead of Georgia Tech, I'm okay with that. KSU and Georgia State are perfectly fine schools, and its graduates go on to lead perfectly fine lives outside of poverty. I recommend playing with this tool which allows you to see, for every single school and major, what the earnings vs debt is: https://www.wsj.com/articles/which-college-graduates-make-th...

Not everyone is entitled to go to Georgia Tech (or MIT or Harvard) for free; and there are plenty of middle-of-the-lane universities that provide opportunities for unexceptional students, at little to no cost.


I went to college (University of Georgia) with Pell Grants for free. 100% free including lodging and dining, both Bachelors + Masters in Physics. My parents were unemployed at the time and we interviewed at the deans office for the grant, I clearly remember when my father broke down in tears. I had to borrow friend's books, use the library scanner to create PDFs of the pages that were important - couldn't afford textbooks.

I am eternally grateful for the FAFSA/Pell Grant program. Without it, I wouldn't be conducting fundamental science and getting paid 6 figures.

I know this is N=1 sample size, just wanted to put it out there.

I think college should be free only for people that cannot afford it. Rich kids should pay.


I went to Georgia Tech, and another huge advantage in Georgia is the HOPE and Zell-Miller scholarships. IMO a model that should be replicated by other States in the Union.


Oh yea, I also had HOPE scholarship I remembered now. It required minimum GPA from highschool if I recall.

Here is some more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HOPE_Scholarship


No one’s saying it’s impossible for someone like to you spend $80k on a four year degree, just that you don’t have to.


If you were below the poverty line when you attended university you could've attended most state schools for free.


Tell that to my student loans. You can try to lie to others, but you're not going to gaslight me.


Do they get free university with an interest free loan of which they only have to pay 50% and only up to 10,000€ back? And 20+ days vacation days plus 6 weeks paid sick leave plus 18 months job guarantee in case of a longer healing process while being paid 60% of their last wage? Plus 1-2 years unemployment benefits, also at 60% of last wage? Plus 60% paid for up to a year in case of being on furlough during a pandemic? Plus parental leave of 12+2 months at 67% of last wage? Plus full health care regardless of being employed? Plus no deductibles, limits, or copay for any health issue?

Talking about Germany here by the way.


I'll take the lower tax rate, thanks


Do they get coronavirus vaccines?


I don't know what this has to do with anything but Germany administered 720,000 doses on Thursday and the Pfizer vaccine was actually developed in Germany by a company called BioNTech.


> Talking about Germany here by the way.

Talking about the wealthiest country in Europe. I'm glad you are not cherry picking your data when you expose facts.


This is in comparison to the US as this whole thread is about the US.

Unless you mean that the US is in fact not a wealthy country if you are looking at above facts. Then that's something that could be argued.


No, this whole thread is about Alabama.

The US is almost exactly as diverse as the EU (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_terr...). Alabama is more comparable to Estonia than it is to Germany.

If you want to compare apples to apples, there are States in the US where citizens pay higher taxes and get benefits like free university: https://money.cnn.com/2017/04/08/pf/college/new-york-free-tu...


In Europe free healthcare is guaranteed even if you lose your job, and there are essentially no limitations (if you need an expensive treatment, you get it, no matter what).


That's a very general statement which is false in some countries (e.g. in Poland unless you are a child or elderly and are unemployed, you are going to pay out of your own pocket)


>lose your job

>are unemployed

Well, yes?


If you're unemployed you are not covered by health insurance.



> even if

Bullshit. In Italy only the lowest income brackets get free healthcare, everyone else has various degree of copay. And even then you get terrible services, with queues several months long for exams and quality far inferior from what you get going trough the private sector.

And when I worked and lived in Dublin, same story, I had to pay 270€ for using emergency services at a public hospital and was lucky to have them covered by the private insurance my employer provided.


In Italy copay is very limited, almost symbolic, even for those in the highest income brackets. As you point out wait times can be (very) long for exams (at least when there is no indication of urgency), but for serious/complex procedures the quality is way higher in the public sector than in the private one.


Bullshit. Plenty procedures aren't even covered, as soon as you're slightly out of the commonest procedures and you want some quality healthcare you're going to pay, and part yourself from thousands euros.

Proper dental procedures, substitutive hormone therapy, plenty rate stuff require specialists or medicines that mutua doesn't pass. heck if you have a condition that require a specialist during pregnancy you're going to have to pay everything out of your money to avoid the random ginecologist rotation, to the tune of 120€+/visit, and you're going to need ten or more if any complication arises.

This is the typical uninformed comment from some ableist that never actually had to suffer from the Italian healthcare beyond the most basic services.


> In Europe free healthcare is guaranteed

Utterly false as a general rule, and free is not as glamorous as you make it sound like. Some doctors will refuse to see patients who are on the free healthcare system, too.

> if you need an expensive treatment

Yeah, if you can wait for it. Ever heard of surgery that sometimes take a year to reserve? Well that's the standard in Europe for certain conditions.


Wtf?

I need more information about that health care plan. Last time I looked at the market I was looking at worse premiums, coverage, and limits and making garbage pay.

My plan is $500/mo from me and $1500 from my employer with, iirc, 8000 max oop

Edit: I reviewed the plans they offer. Mine is significantly better, excluding the max oop. Anyone know what the costs are for for the plans?


From past experience at Amazon, it’s anywhere from $20 to $80 per month for individual coverage.

I honestly have trouble believing yours is “significantly better”. One of the Amazon plans is a $300/year deductible with $2,300/year oop, and costs $80/month, and Amazon contributes $500/year towards your HRA. Another plan has no deductible, and $1,500/year oop. Those are some of the best healthcare insurance plans I’ve ever seen in the US, period. I’d believe it if yours was about the same, but it’s pretty difficult to be “significantly better” than those.


Between less/no copays and specific services my employer covers directly my plan is significantly better for me and my circumstances. My previous employer had virtually identical coverage with higher oop and monthly payment. Just a perk of being in a strong union I guess.

E: I'd love to see the official coverage breakdown offers with prices if anyone has them please share, email in profile if you don't want to share publicly.


This is incredibly expensive compared to the Amazon plan.

You understand that you are paying more in premiums than the premium _plus_ out-of-pocket maximums of these plans, right?

A quick Google search gives https://www.premera.com/documents/042884.pdf which indicates $31 per month (or $14.31 per biweekly pay period), which is $372 per _year_, plus Amazon refunds $500 into your HSA.

There is no way your plan could be better for you, regardless of your circumstances. You start off more than $6000 in the hole compared to the Amazon plan.


Also, population for the city is near 25k. A small fraction of those folks enjoy the benefits of this healthcare given by working for Amazon.

Furthermore, it is a bad historical precedent to rely on employers for healthcare. This was a poor side-effect of the wage-hike stoppages during WWII that was later tax-exempted through federal law. It was never well thought out.

Finally, how many people in this town feel they have equal opportunity for social mobility? Decades of economic stagnation and degradation have thrown any plausible arguments towards a "meritocracy/American dream/everyone has an equal chance at success" out the window.


Neither of the options you listed is free.


Sure, and healthcare isn't "literally free" in loads of high standard of living first world countries. In France, for example, there's a 20% coinsurance that's paid on all treatments. With a few exceptions, most single payer countries have co-pays.

Amazon's plans can be found here: https://www.amazon.jobs/en/landing_pages/benefitsoverview-us

These plans are extended to every single Amazon employee, including the warehouse workers. Most of the warehouse workers we're talking about would probably choose the Kaiser HMO that has $0 deductible and 100% coverage; all they would pay is $30 co-pay. This is more or less how the single payer healthcare works in Australia, for example.


> Most of the warehouse workers we're talking about would probably choose the Kaiser HMO that has $0 deductible and 100% coverage;

No. We're talking about workers in Alabama, and Kaiser is listed on that very page as regional: Kaiser Permanente HMO (California, Colorado, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Washington)

I'm assuming Amazon charges employees some portion of the insurance premium, as most employers do? Also, there's this:

> Amazon’s benefits can vary by location, the number of regularly scheduled hours you work, length of employment, and job status such as seasonal or temporary employment.


Kaiser operates in Alabama too, just FYI.

You're correct that there's regional variation, but that's mostly a function of the medical networks. For instance, UHC's network may have more coverage in the Northeast than Blue Cross Blue Shield (or vice versa).

Ultimately, as full-time employees, Amazon's warehouse workers are entitled to the exact same health insurance as their white collar counterparts sitting in the offices, and they offer extremely above average Cadillac health insurance.


> Kaiser operates in Alabama too, just FYI

I didn't think so. My company offers us Kaiser as an option as well, but only for folks in states where Kaiser operates (I'm in Michigan). I thought one of the distinctive features of Kaiser is that they offer insurance _and_ have their own clinics.

Regardless, the point of Amazon offering quality healthcare plans to the warehouse workers is still great to hear!


Education is free up til college in the US and the healthcare for Amazon warehouse workers is the same as for their engineers and Jeff Bezos.


You mean costs the same and as a result is entirely a function of how well you're paid in order to be able to afford better coverage?


It means the employer has to offer a sufficiently generous benefit so that enough of the company’s lower income employees sign up for it, such that it passes non discrimination testing rules. Which means the health insurance benefit must be good enough that even the lower paid employees find it makes sense to sign up for it.


This ignores that health insurance is generally pretty inelastic in its demand.


No, exactly the opposite. ERISA is a Federal law that strictly regulates how plan fiduciaries can operate employer-sponsored health plans. A key element of ERISA is that an employer cannot offer more generous benefits to some employers over other; everyone in the company must be offered the same plans, and within each plan, every beneficiary must be treated the same.


prior to the No Surprises Act just signed (and maybe after too?) ERISA allowed for balance billing. Which means not even California laws against balance billing would apply.

For anyone not living in the permanently-fucked US, an explanation: your health insurance covers you for "in network" doctors at an "in network" hospital. If you go to an "in network" hospital you would assume (wrongly) that you are fully covered. But no. Some random anesthesiologist can come into your room, provide their service for 20 minutes, and stick you with a $5,000 bill because they are "out of network". And you have ERISA insurance and you are just plain fucked.

Anyone getting health services in the US must hang a sign on their door saying "In Network Only". I'm 100% serious. Every person that walks in your room must be vetted. And good luck if they can't find an "in network" surgeon for that emergency service or whatever.


Full disclosure: I work in this industry and am a claims adjuster on fiduciary plans that fall under ERISA

Everything you're saying is partially correct, but it heavily depends on the specifics of the plan. FAANG companies, in particular, typically have extremely generous PPO plans that offer 0 co-insurance and broad networks. You're correct that, out-of-network, balance billing may occur, but Amazon's plans have networks so broad that this is unlikely to happen.

In addition, if you look at Amazon's plan documentation, they also offer a Kaiser HMO for which none of this applies.

There's a lot that can be improved around price transparency, but Amazon is one of the few companies that offers Cadillac gold-standard insurance, and because ERISA requires that all employees receive the same benefits, this extends to their full-time warehouse workers too.


> but it heavily depends on the specifics of the plan

> Amazon's plans have networks so broad that this is unlikely to happen

I mean, this doesn't sound reassuring you know. "unlikely" and "depends on the specifics". That's kind of the problem. No one knows what is covered and what is not. Billing in the US is this labyrinthine thing where hospitals, doctors, and insurance all seem to be making it up as they go along in conjunction with whatever they feel are the laws and whatever they feel like they can get away with. Leaving it up to the patient to appeal after appeal after appeal on a flood of bills they will receive, depending on their operation or service.

You can't even get a detailed bill out of some of these places. The doctors vanish and you're literally stuck talking to one of those robocalling bill collector agencies, which probably has a PO Box in fucking Alaska. It's shady as hell. All of it.


Believe me, you're preaching to the choir. I personally adjudicate claims, and some of the stuff I see is downright asinine.

All that being said...

> I mean, this doesn't sound reassuring you know. "unlikely" and "depends on the specifics". That's kind of the problem. No one knows what is covered and what is not.

The "likelihood" of this happening, while probabilistic, isn't purely random. I found this tweet by a health policy expert to perfectly capture the status quo: https://twitter.com/CPopeHC/status/1234510323425652737

"American healthcare in short: ~60% (in good employer plans, generous state Medicaid, or M.Adv/Medigap) have the best healthcare in the world. ~30% have insurance with gaps/risk of big bills. ~10% uninsured must rely on uncompensated care, go without treatment, or risk bankruptcy

The strength of M4A proposals is that they begin with an understanding that the 40% exist and need things fixed. Their weakness is that they pretend that the 60% don't, and threaten to take away what they have."

Amazon is, pretty reliably, part of that 60%; it offers some of the best employer health coverage out there. Like, it doesn't even compare to public health plans in a lot of the world.

All of the problems you brought up (labyrinthine systems, appeal processes, bill collector agencies in Alaska) are real problems that you and I agree need to be solved, but they're also problems that don't afflict beneficiaries of generous plans paid for by rich companies, and that's what we're talking about in the context of Amazon Warehouse workers.


So, what the parent said - they offer various plans, and engineers can choose the more expensive ones, and line workers less expensive ones.


Most FAANG companies cover all of the premium amount. The only difference is in the deductible. Some engineers might choose a higher deductible plan so that they can take advantage of an HSA and enjoy the triple tax advantage. Warehouse workers are probably better off choosing the $0 deductible HMO plan that Amazon offers.


Decide for yourself how to think about affording these plans: https://www.amazon.jobs/en/landing_pages/benefitsoverview-us


And education is free at almost all Ivy’s if you’re below a 100K or so salary family.

That said: prereq is you’re bonkers smart.


That said: prereq is you’re bonkers smart.

Meh. I went to an Ivy league, as did my sister. My wife was a grad student at Stanford. My classmates were clever, but they weren't that smart! The standardized test scores can be improved with work.

As for standing out with your essay and CV, I remember a talk from an admissions officer from Harvard. His take was that it's easy to stand out from 99% of students just by actually doing real, substantive work. He wasn't talking about the stuff that's designed to be a student CV stuffer to impress admissions. Do actual, substantive work.

Something like a substantive contribution to a scientific field. Amateurs can still do this. Maybe run a real business. The example this admissions officer gave was someone who dropped out of High School, got a GED, then started repairing motorcycle engines. Then, you also need to make sure your essay is well written, which is another skill which can be learned. Relate your experience back to the academic opportunity, and how this would enable you to benefit society.

There is a problem with this way of thinking of admissions: If you do pursue it in earnest, you might well decide to skip university entirely.


To some extent, I wonder if the perception that your peers aren't that smart is just due to getting adapted to your environment.

I went to an Ivy coming from an inner city public school and I found it a big culture shock in terms of both how well behaved people were in classrooms and also how quick/smart people were to grasp what I was saying and build on it. By the time I was a senior, I had lapsed to the "people here actually aren't that smart" line of thought - but I wonder if I just got used to being around more intelligent people.


I did not go to an Ivy, but I went to the 1-2 ranked public institution in the US (for CS). The baseline is definitely higher, but there is a big gap between people who got there by their own grit and determination and people who got there almost helplessly due to a tidal wave of fortunate circumstances (e.g. parents were in sweng, went to cushy private schools that inflated grades, "did" a bunch of charity work / extracurriculars to pad their resume for college).

The "not smart" people are the latter category: they can still pick things up quickly, but they viewed getting into the institution as the last hurdle they'll have to go through in order to be set for life. They just coasted and got Cs and didn't really care about learning new stuff because they knew the university's name on their degree alone would land them some cushy PM job where they wouldn't need that pesky coding ability every again).

It was actually infuriating because I really enjoy CS and getting paired up with these folks who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths but didn't care was disappointing. Most of them were uncomfortable with the mental struggle of doing difficult group projects, often just showing up for the "design session" but skipping out on most of the coding. I made a lot of enemies out of them when I told the profs to look at my (GPG-signed) git commits and consider how they want to distribute grading points.


> I made a lot of enemies out of them when I told the profs to look at my (GPG-signed) git commits and consider how they want to distribute grading points.

I laughed. Did it change something in the end?


In most cases it did: I even wrote a python script to use matplotlib to generate a few "contribution graphs" like one sees on github. That visual was usually enough to tell the profs to not give my teammates any credit when they didn't do diddly squat for code.

I learned most of the "defensive git" tricks during this time because I caught one of these guys trying to rewrite history to claim credit for my commit. That guy got referred to the university's "ya dun messed up bigtime" committee (I forget the actual title) and I think he was kicked out for academic dishonesty. Ever since then I gpg sign all my commits!


I was in a group project for a Psychology of Business class. This 4th string quarterback/son of a politician or some such just told us on the 1st day, "Well, considering we're graded as a group, I want to tell you I don't care what grade I get, so you guys are doing all of the work!"


> because I caught one of these guys trying to rewrite history to claim credit for my commit.

Great. It's one thing not to do anything (and get penalized for it accordingly) but trying to claim ownership is a whole new level.

There's an expensive way of protecting one's work: have an individual oral quiz on the code that was written.


To some extent, I wonder if the perception that your peers aren't that smart is just due to getting adapted to your environment.

I've met people who I would describe as "bonkers smart", as the comment I was replying to had it. That is, people who are literally 2-3 times faster at getting to the next step, and just leave the entire room behind, when the room contains a dozen graduate students. They are not that common, even in a place that's supposed to be populated by the intellectual elite.

how well behaved people were in classrooms and also how quick/smart people were to grasp what I was saying and build on it

These are just skills/habits that can be learned!


*and do not have significant assets or college savings


The same is true at the in-state universities. At that salary, your kid can study at University of Alabama (a perfectly fine institution with great campus life) basically for free.


The University of Alabama also has surprisingly good merit scholarships for students who are from out of state. I was considering going there and they offered me full tuition + 2 years of housing covered + some other grants (and I wasn't even that good of a student, definitely not Ivy caliber).


> free healthcare & education.

Not everywhere in Europe, and "free healthcare" is largely a myth. It's free until it's not. You need glasses? Out of your pocket, and it's super expensive. You need to stay in hospital? It's not going to be anywhere free. And they will kick you out as soon as they can as they are starving for beds and resources. Good luck with that.

Sure, you can always go to the emergencies to get free treatment, and wait 10 hours to see someone who is overworked to diagnose your issues.


Basic glasses are usually at least partially covered, and whatever extra you need to pay for frames is very affordable unless you want a designer brand.

Nobody is ever going to kick you out of hospital. It's covered and the stay is usually longer than in the US where they kick you out right after you wake up.

The wait times are not worse than in the US, never had to wait more than 2-3 hrs in the hospital.

Neither you would ever receive a surprise bill from the hospital.


That and more: 1. universal disability benefits 2. usually min 20 days of vacation 3. pension 4. unemployment benefits incomparable to the US 5. unpaid overtime is usually taboo

I live in the US (originally from EU) and I don't like people arguing the EU healthcare sucks without experiencing it themselves.

No matter what your job/status is, you don't have to be scared to see any doctor - dentist, specialist, eye doctor...


Well, specifics vary; like in the U.K. - good luck on finding an NHS dentist. Virtually everyone I knew in the U.K. had private dentistry despite it putatively being covered by the NHS.


in the US a "simple" no frills root canal and cap costs $600 for the drill and fill, and about $500 or $600 for the cap/crown/whatever milling. That includes anesthesia, post care prescription (not the medicine itself, just the scrip), x-rays, etc.

Usually you know when you need a root canal. It's usually because just getting a tooth filled is more expensive than getting it pulled, and most 'decent' dentists won't do pulls, because it eventually, allegedly, leads to all of your teeth shifting and falling out.

I've had dental insurance a couple of times, and while it was $20 to get a full cleaning and xray or whatever, they wanted me to get braces for $2500 out of pocket. I've never had another dentist i was paying for myself ever mention braces or anything else. from 20-38 i went to the dentist like 5 times, 3 cleanings when i had insurance, and 2 wisdom extraction. I'm well aware i lucked out in the dentistry lottery, most people i know have way more problems with their teeth, and i am unsure why, so i never judge people on their dental accoutrements.


Healthcare isn’t free in most countries in Europe.

Germany and Netherlands for example the payment is in the order of 100 euros a month for health insurance.


> You are not taking into account that in Europe you get free healthcare

Single payer health care is not necessary 'free'. Here in Czechia one pays mandatory 'health tax/insurance' in addition to regular income tax. But still (IMHO) better than US system.


Ok, this is perhaps a pedantic rant, but this term "free healthcare" is not valid. Money came out of citizen's pay checks to pay for the healthcare.

Why do we keep using this term? There is no such thing as free healthcare. There is taxpayer paid healthcare. I'm not being critical of taxpayer paid healthcare. Those countries made that choice as to how they would pay for healthcare. Cool. Sounds like a good choice. But can we stop calling it "free" please.

Education is also not free... Rant off. Sorry for the interruption.


free? they’re paid for by taxes.


Free at the point of service is a great solution considering being hospitalized is exactly when you can't afford to pay for things.


Free? Nothing is free, what do you mean? Healthcare and education don't grow on trees. Dublin income tax is between 30% to 40%, you pay one way or another.


The you paying taxes in question might be different from the you that is unable to afford healthcare.


$15 an hour is what you get in Eastern Europe as a senior software developer.

But yes, it comes with affordable healthcare, free education, longer vacation, and maternity leave.


I love the label unskilled.

I don't think most of my colleagues in academia could physically complete a shift in an Amazon warehouse. Is that a skill?

The labels unskilled and entry level are used to depress wage expectations not accurately represent the requirements of the work performed because the work is deemed to be of low economic value.


It is called unskilled because there is no particular set of unusual credentials, rare talents, or uncommon training required. The entry bar is very low in that respect.

It doesn’t mean, and has never meant it was easy work or anyone could survive doing it for long - rather that the necessary skills (for the majority of the population who doesn’t already have them by dint of existing) can be taught in about 5 minutes by someone not trained in teaching it to you.

Ditch digging is ‘unskilled’ because anyone who can figure out a shovel can do it, and theoretically any random passerby could do it (for a time) to a competent degree. This is unlike a ‘skilled’ trade, or craft such as electrical work, surveying, etc.

It’s something very few people could actually sustain for very long - I spent a week ditch digging before when I was younger - but part of why the pay is terrible and the work is hard is because any rando who needs some cash this week can do it. There is a ton of competition keeping prices low and conditions hard.


I did tour of Amazon warehouse (they used to run public tours) and most workers there did not look particularly fit or athletic. I would say that people in typical tech office looks more fit. Also Amazon gives you time to ramp up - while your collegues in academia may struggle first week, they will shape up pretty fast.


Most of your peers in academia could build up the needed physical fitness in a few days and within a week be just as productive as someone else who has been there for years (assuming similar body - obviously someone who is physically disabled can't compete). By contrast it would take the warehouse workers years of study to write software that is any good.


Why are you comparing absolute dollar amounts? Is the cost of living the same every where?


If the post above about average houses costing $90k there are true, then the Amazon workers are earning about $26k a year, that's around 3.5x salary to house cost.

I live in the middle of The Netherlands; the average house price is 360k and the average wage is 36k, that's around 10x salary to house cost.

One important point: in almost all cases in NL both partners work, the general rule is that women work part time and increasingly couples under 40 both work full time. That's how the insane house market is propped up.

Healthcare costs are around 200 EUR / person / month at the limit (you pay ~110 and the deductible is about 900 EUR a year).


You need to add costs of education, which is free in Netherlands, and multiple other social services (like public transit).


Education is most certainly not free here. It would cost me 20k to do a Masters, and my wife took on debts of ~80k to pay for her education.


Cost of living in the middle of nowhere in the US is almost certainly less than nearly anywhere in Western Europe. The media home value in Bessemer is like $90,000.


Go on...

Food? Health care? Transportation?


If you have a counterpoint, make it.

I'll try for you: the cohesive view of cost of living would show these rubes to be peasants to the unskilled European's millionaire.

Interesting point, where's your data?


> Interesting point, where's your data?

Exactly. Why would u/flavorous make a drive-by comment and not cite any data?

I expected something like this, for international comparisons:

https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/cost-of-liv...


rayiner did give a data point. Just not a source. And that's because they were indulging you.

That link and your refrains about data are signs of flailing due to lack of rhetorical content. Your argument is Europe good; US bad.


Food and housing is extremely cheap in America. Americans have an extremely low cost of living and low taxes compared to every other wealthy country. Also higher wages for similar jobs.


One reason everyone thinks it's bad is journalists are 1. naturally neurotic people 2. all have student debt 3. all live in expensive cities like NYC and 4. their industry has fewer people earning less than they did 10 years ago. Similar for some other activist classes, though not all.


> their industry has fewer people earning less than they did 10 years ago

has fewer people and they earn less, not fewer people who earn less.


The COL in Bessemer is going to be less than in Western Europe. Do you live in America?

You're right that healthcare could be more expensive, but there is also employer-covered health insurance.


Healthcare is likely less expensive at that income level. An ACA silver plan in Alabama for a single person making $30,000/year is expected to cost $85/month with subsidies: https://www.kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/

That’s 3.4% of income, lower than the typical health insurance tax in European counties.


Food in America is cheap. Transportation is pretty cheap because gas is cheap and old Japanese cars are low maintenance. At $15/hour healthcare is cheap because everywhere in the US has subsidized healthcare through the ACA.


I think the cost of living in Small town Alabama is going to compare pretty favorably to anywhere in Europe.


Until you get sick and/or can't work that is.


Up thread there were claims of reasonable (by broken American healthcare system standard) zero cost insurance plans offered by Amazon. Was that true or false?


asdff's point is that if you're unable to work, you no longer have access to those benefits since you will no longer have a job.


Every state I’m aware of has workers comp, federally everyone gets COBRA, Medicare, Medicaid, SS disability, short and long term disability- these are all things.

Are they perfect? No. Pretending the systems flaws are somehow Amazon being evil vs the American medical and safety net being a morass of bureaucracy and bullshit is just wrong though.


Good point, it's even cheaper in Bessemer AL than basically anywhere in Europe, too


energy is cheaper in the US: electricity and gasoline (half price or cheaper). Groceries are significantly cheaper (food is of lower quality, but at least cheaper). Sales tax is around 20% in Europe vs 4% in Alabama. Property tax is a quarter of what it is generally in Europe...I can go on and on. If you are not a felon, you own a car and are healthy, life is pretty easy in the US, even for a low wage worker.


You should include car costs ( + gasoline, maintenance, insurance) vs walking/biking/public transit. And healthcare costs, and education costs, and social safety net ( meaning that you need less of a savings account to be able to avoid disaster ).

I'm certain that a small town in Italy or Spain could come out cheaper.


Ditto life expectancy, suicide rates, and other happiness index stuff.

Apropos of nothing: Much pedantry about wages in a blighted area. Crickets about billionaires sharing some of their cheddar with the peons.


Crap, i also forgot time off, maternity/paternity leave, "sick days", etc. It's hard to put a price on 30 days of paid vacation per year.


That the labor conditions being just as one would imagine for a near-trillionaire's empire creeping on the distressed poverty of a white supremacist soul devouring harvester.

Why ... what did you think that the subject was, dear ?


Lidl in Germany has a minimum starting salary of 12,50€ per hour. With other benefits like 30 days of vacation.

https://jobs.lidl.de/lidl-als-arbeitgeber/mindesteinstiegslo...


so...that's about 15 dollars. Do you consider them to be slaves too?


30 days of vacation... With that many their effective hourly wage goes up 10-15%. How many vacation days do you think amazon workers get? The parent post might consider amazon warehouse workers to be slaves, but that is likely more due to the harsh working conditions rather than their pay.


You can earn 15 €/h (18 $) on average for cleaning in Munich. Minimum wage is at 9.50 €/h (11.30 $) though in Germany.


Munich is one of the most expensive cities in Europe - cost of living in Bessemer is probably 30% of Munich. You can buy 3bdrm 1500 sq ft house is Bessemer for 60k. You will pay in one year that much to just rent comparable house in Munch.

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2414-6th-Ave-N-Bessemer-A...


Have you lived in Alabama on European unskilled-labor wages? I don't think it's a good idea.


$15 x 8h x 20 days = $2400 monthly would place you in the top 5% earners where I live.


I made what translates to roughly $14 doing gallup calls as a teen in Europe.


Nah, most jobs in super markets would net you the same (if you have no experience.) Germany here.


My wife was working at a Starbucks in Munich and started at 10 EUR/hour, which is like 12 USD.


Minimum wage in Germany was €9.35 in 2020, which is about $11 USD.


In Europe, workers have workplace safety protections that these Amazon warehouse workers don't have. Amazon workers are treated as disposable, and unlike Europeans, their healthcare benefits don't extend beyond their usefulness to Amazon:

https://revealnews.org/article/how-amazon-hid-its-safety-cri...


USA needs better education so that people understand economics and labor markets, so they wont calling paid positions indentured servitude.


We need better education so that people stop voting against their own self-interest, in union elections and generally.


...or maybe they just have differences in opinion to you?


That's entirely possible, and very likely. However, that does not do away with rationality completely. For some given situations, with data on the situation and a set of options, we can deduce pretty quickly what is rational to do, what is right to do, and what is in one's interest to do. This is how we (and that includes me and you) are able to criticize people on those grounds all the time. If someone is poor and has a choice between buying a stereo system and saving the money in a high-interest bank account, I doubt you'd have any problem saying that it's in their self interest to do one of those options and not the other. Economists talk about the principles of economic rationality all the time.

So yeah, you can have your own opinion. That doesn't mean that the opinion is beyond criticism, nor does it mean it's a rational thought out opinion from all points of view, considering all the facts.


> If someone is poor and has a choice between buying a stereo system and saving the money in a high-interest bank account, I doubt you'd have any problem saying that it's in their self interest to do one of those options and not the other

Curious, what would you say is better to do? I could see either one of those choices as being equally rational and justifiable. I honestly lean a little more towards the stereo. Your answer depends on your outlook in life and your interests and wants/needs in the moment. It's not so simple as objective 'data on the situation'. Furthermore, claiming that you can deduce quickly what is rational and right for someone else is a little condescending.


What you call irrational is often a difference in views and life axioms (which as you probably know can’t be proven).


You mean like all those inner city women who constantly vote for gun control despite easy access to hot lead being the best way they can protect themselves from violence?

Or are we talking about the hicks that vote against government healthcare and social safety nets despite the fact that they would themselves benefit?

"Voting against their interest" is just how the ivory tower crowd derides the poor for sticking to their ideological guns even when it doesn't benefit them. The poor have opinions and beliefs and making sacrifices in the name of their beliefs does not make them stupid.


The scope of what you're considering to be their "ideological guns" is very historically recent. Before the Southern Strategy [0], the things that people typically associate with these "hicks" in rural parts of the US were not politicized; most of these hot-button ideological issues were considered to not be the domain of politics (e.g. abortion).

In fact, the people who were the first "rednecks" would most likely reject all of the fascist bootlicking that goes on for most conservatives (not that neoliberal bootlicking is better, just less prevalent; I don't see hordes of foaming-at-the-mouth Biden supporters screaming adoration about Biden with some goofy flags and apparel on the street corners, while I still see the Trump folks doing the same cult worship of their new "god"). The original rednecks were miners who violently opposed capitalist exploitation [1]. This culminated in the battle of Blair Mountain [2], in which miners living in exploitative conditions violently rebelled against the authoritarian private police (the "Pinkertons") in their attempt to form a union. This is also the first time that aerial bombardment is used on American soil (preceding Pearl Harbor).

Needless to say, I think the original "rednecks" have nothing in common with those who pretend to espouse some sort of "rural identity"; the original rednecks would not have looked to the state to force their own restrictive ideas of living on other people.

It's fine for people to have their own opinions about these things, but when these people who stick to their ideological guns do so in the face of facts (e.g. all of the cult-of-trump people who intellectually contort themselves to see him as some skilled businessman when he has a history littered with business failures, including losing money on a casino!), it's a little difficult to respect their opinions; this is especially true when their opinions are incoherent (e.g. the GOP celebrating Goya and that my pillow guy for "getting involved in politics" when it benefits them, while deriding companies looking to boycott states that plan to impose Draconian voter suppressing laws to "stay out of politics") and involve restricting the liberties of other people to comport with their own strict world view (e.g. restricting the right of other people to get same-sex married, as though that is somehow an "attack" on hetero marriage).

Ultimately it's about being able to accept new evidence and change one's mind, which I think these people who vote against their own interest (hicks or not) are not wont to do. Just as not all people in the GOP are fascists, but all fascists vote for GOP candidates, not all people towards the liberal end of the political spectrum are open to new ideas and changing their mind, but all people who are open to learning and change are on the liberal side of the political spectrum.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy [1] https://www.appalachianhistory.net/2009/08/original-redneck-... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain


I live in deep deep Trump country and know a good number of the Maga hat, Trump flag flying folk. None of them “look[ed] to the state to force their own restrictive ideas of living on other people.”

It’s quite the opposite actually.


Gay marriage? Abortion? Prayer in school?

I mean there are plenty of people alive today that lived through a time when interracial marriage was illegal, too [0].

Even if the path they use for their goal appears to be deregulatory, they're more than happy to call in the cavalry when that same deregulation allows actors with whom they disagree to also partake in the newfound "freedom":

* Whenever some state capitol puts up the commandments in the state house because "wE'Re a ChRiSTIaN NaTiON" under the guise of freedom of religion, then gets upset when the church of satan wants to put one of their own symbols right next to it [1]

* They were more than happy to stand on the ground of "A company is a private business and should be able to operate as it pleases" when it was about a bakery and a gay wedding cake, but now that Twitter is kicking off right-wing wackos, all of a sudden they pull a complete 180. Not to mention that this was the same mindset of the Jim Crow "separate but equal" disaster in the US's history.

[0] https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/388/1%20 [1] https://www.westernjournal.com/satanic-temple-protests-10-co...


> making sacrifices in the name of their beliefs does not make them stupid.

Most of them are not aware that they are making sacrifices, though. They were convinced that the only alternative is communism.


Or in other words, we need to indoctrinate people so that they vote the way I think they should.


I prefer indoctrination that improves people's wages and working conditions as opposed to the present anti-union indoctrination that only serves to empower bosses at workers' expense.


Is it beyond your imagination that perhaps those workers have a better idea of their own self-interest than you do? I understand that you're well intentioned but you need to consider that someone can be an informed, intelligent person of goodwill and come to a conclusion that is different than yours.

And while I don't know you, I'm gonna assume that you don't work for Amazon in Bessemer. Neither do I. So our responses to the situation might just be more about us and our baggage, than the actual facts on the ground in Alabama.


Anyone who doesn't want higher wages or better working conditions isn't defining their self-interest very rationally. And anyone who doesn't believe the union is the best way to get there is probably being persuaded by anti-union propaganda rather than sound arguments.


Perhaps if higher wages and better working conditions are the only items that define your self-interest. I suspect while those two items may be important or helpful, they are by far not the only factors that define my self interest. I have given up both willingly and much happier for it. Perhaps my happiness is not rational but it’s damn sure more important than money and whether or not I have a 1” or 2” standing mat under my feet.


> And anyone who doesn't believe...

Right, because no one has any relevant experiences which might influence their thoughts. You said anyone. You come across as incredibly condescending


Condescending is opposing giving low income people more money and better working conditions because of some abstract philosophical argument used to justify redefining self-interest in a totally bizarre way.

People in this thread are all like, "Don't tell me giving someone food is in their self-interest! What if they want to starve?"


You are framing the argument disingenuously. This isn't a simple formula where union = better. There are reasons why people don't think a union is in their self interest. Contrary to whatever you're parroting, there are actually people who have good reasons why they don't want a union--including things they have actually experienced. The fact that you can't possibly see the other side of it and can't even fathom an argument against it just shows how biased you are. The fact that you don't even think other people can make their own rational choice shows how condescending you are.


> Anyone who doesn't want higher wages or better working conditions isn't defining their self-interest very rationally.

higher wages or better working conditions don't happen in a vacuum. Thinking it's a godsend or something is the definition of not thinking rationally.


I’m pretty sure that if labor costs in Bessemer AL == Labor costs in another location, say.... Seattle? Bessemer, AL wouldn’t have the worry about the anti union indoctrination and would have to worry about starving again.

For these communities, these are well paid jobs with great benefits compared to what they would otherwise have.


Saying you don't need a union because your wages are good is like saying you don't need democracy because the king is nice to you. All that can change very quickly, and when it does, you're going to want the power that collective bargaining gives you in those negotiations.


Not disagreeing with you - if you have a mortgage and kids keeping you somewhere and a king that will abandon you and leave you to starve if you vote for Democracy - you can die on that hill if you want to, and the King probably won’t care. He’ll move next Area over, have the same or better deal, and you and your kids will starve.

At that point the question is - why should you starve so someone else can be happy about Unions?

These issues only get solved with society wide action. The poor sap casting their single vote here can’t afford to make this call on their own, and they’re just happy their particular king is generous enough to grace them and not more abusive. Because there are a LOT of more abusive ones , and they’ve probably seen that first hand unlike most of the posters here.


Unions outside the US are "society-wide". We have per-company union organizing because of quick hacks applied to the legal system, the same way our healthcare system was created. Sectoral bargaining systems like Europe are less antagonistic and the employer has less motivation to fight against them. It can make the company more efficient since the execs don't only hear what middle management tells them.


There are a whole ton of asterisks on that kind of statement. Most European unions are at most national (which geographically is more equivalent to a specific US State than pan-EU). Many of them are regional, which is even scoped more like a city.

Conditions for a laborer in Bulgaria, Romania, and the UK are on a completely different level. This is not that dissimilar.


Things can also change when rising costs of manufacturing due to a unionized, aging, and over-paid workforce cause the company to decide to shut the factory down. It works both ways.


> I prefer indoctrination

Interesting, so you prefer people who don't use their own brains.


I'm wondering what sort of education exactly would prepare someone to decide if they should vote for a union or not. I'm assuming the would-be union would have made its case beforehand and Amazon hasnt been idle with their PR. So again, what education helps in making the decision?


Generally unionization of an organization fails when the union does not make a sound benefit case for their presence or the company already provides wages and benefits that meet or exceed the local market.

Contrary to what folks seem to think, unionization is not always a “no brainer”. Been through two orgs that went through the process, considered joining one because they presented a good case, rejected one because there was no value to the $50 the wanted to pull from my paycheck.


One of the things we discovered in the 20th century was that people do not always act rationally, even when it's in their own best interests. This cuts across political ideologies, education levels, income levels, race, religion; whatever. It's a feature of human beings.

Often when I hear that people need to be educated about some issue, what I understand the speaker to be implying is that the reason a person disagrees with them is due to ignorance, when that's often not the case. We may think we arrive at our opinions based on cold logic and inarguable facts, but in reality there are many more factors that influence all of us.


I used to make comments like this when I was young, but then I grew old and gained wisdom instead.


I'm from Canada, but certainly education on economics would be amazingly helpful, I agree.


I imagine GP is being facetious


How long do you think people will survive if they aren't working? Not calling employment servitude is dishonest.


By that definition, who on this entire planet is not an indentured servant?


Most rich countries take good care of their poor. In the US, most states will pay for food, heating, sometimes even internet access, not to mention healthcare, if you are poor. Indigent children also have separate healthcare programs targeted towards them and receive free lunches at school to encourage them to concentrate on school. Furthermore, there is also Unemployment Insurance which provides for months of basic income if you become unemployed. Finally, there is disability payments. This is the situation where you are severely disabled and can't work, in which case, the government will pay you a basic income for the rest of your life. Most of these programs are well-run and disburse money efficiently.

Fraud to get disability payments is very high. People who are unable to rejoin the job market sometimes make the difficult decision to connive with sympathetic doctors to get this. But once you do this, you can never go back to work in any official capacity. This is the one case where people who are chronically unemployed give up and become wards of the state. So the 'desperately poor' are actually taken care of in some fashion in the US.

The problem is that the people who are the 'working poor' often get shafted. These are the janitors who are working all hours of the day, the baggers at the grocery store, the short order cooks, the security people who patrol industrial and residential facilities, etc. Even though their children are eligible for all the benefits above in many cases, it's still difficult to raise a family if there is one breadwinner who makes minimum wage. These people are not eligible for many benefits programs and also do not generally get healthcare from their employers (employers deliberately keep hours/week down to avoid this expense). The problem is, 'taking care' of these people is very hard: they are the majority of the workforce, and I suspect that there is not enough money to fund programs for these people because of the sheer size of this workforce. Also remember that this group oftentimes does not have powerful unions (many subgroups do), which means politicians do not have to listen to them.


I agree though. If we ever want to have a chance at closing the gap between low and middle classes, then we need a basic income for people making under a certain income. Taking away the hardships of deciding whether to put gas in your car or get groceries isn't a decision someone should have to make. An extra $500-1K per month for those people would make a world of difference and ease a lot of those everyday decisions.

The utopia would be having low income housing running on solar with affordable EV's for people under a certain income level as well. Combined with a basic income, it would certainly make a huge decrease in poverty and allow these people to bootstrap themselves into the middle class.

EDIT: for poor math skills. lol


> could've given every person in the country a million dollars each

That'd be $329 trillion[1], which is on the order of 100x what we spent.

1: https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%241+million%2Fperson+...


Can I ask where you heard that we could have given every person in the country a million each? I've seen that quoted all over the place, and can't figure out why, given that it's off by a factor of about a hundred.


That's completely incorrect. If you take the us population over 18, that is 209 million. If we assumed 5% are wealthy, that's 198 million who would need to get 1 million dollars. If you multiply 1 million by 198 million, you 198 trillion dollars.


> we just had several trillion dollar stimulus bills that could've given every person in the country a million dollars

damn, didn't know covid killed 99% of the US population. rough.


It’s ironic that, in a post promoting basic income, you make an error in arithmetic amounting to hundreds of trillions of dollars


Well reality so far is that things will stay unbalanced for a while.

I come from a shit city in France, a former textile powerhouse that lost everthing after the war when it became automated abroad and we couldnt compete. And I moved to Hong Kong years ago.

Well... between this city and my new one, there's such an imbalance, I think I wish a few companies were trying to enslave people back home to teach them something else than shooting heroin and cheating on social insurance... And the French gov cant fix it, they can't make people clever and useful just with money and will...


Where does the money come from? What would the unskilled labor produce?


Yang had a nice plan for that :(


And no sustainable way to fund it.


I don't get how people keep saying this. A UBI is effectively a tax credit. You fund it with higher nominal rates. These mostly cancel out for working people, netting to zero in the middle. People at the top pay on net so that people at the bottom receive on net.

It's completely sustainable and is effectively just a simplification and improvement of the status quo of having unemployment insurance and a bunch of means-tested benefits for low income people, but without the poverty traps, perverse incentives and excessive bureaucracy.


a) Crunch the numbers, find out how much you need. If you don't have exact, precise numbers and a precise plan on how to get to that number, the idea is worth nothing since you don't even have a starting point to analyze viability. People who have run the numbers tend to realize how inviable it is. Those who don't, also think you can just endlessly print money or just tax people more until you get to the happy number. Which leads to b)

b) Observe the real world, see what happens when you "just increase tax rate". You'll find that very often when you increase taxes you actually end up collecting less, as more people decide to illegally dodge taxes or simply close up shop.

Given a country's economic output, laws, culture and a thousand other factors, there's a hidden function that determines the maximum tax rate you can employ where anything more than that is counter-productive with both short-term and long-term results, the latter often including reputational damage that can be nigh impossible to repair, soft-capping your economy far below what it could've been. See: Laffer Curve, and the shining example that is Argentina.


> Crunch the numbers, find out how much you need. If you don't have exact, precise numbers and a precise plan on how to get to that number, the idea is worth nothing since you don't even have a starting point to analyze viability.

Mean personal income in the US is ~$54,000:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MAPAINUSA646N

For a $12,000 UBI that would yield a flat tax rate of ~22%.

In real life it's more complicated than that, but not so much more complicated that the number is going to be off by an order of magnitude. It's completely viable. People are already paying nominal rates that high.

> Observe the real world, see what happens when you "just increase tax rate". You'll find that very often when you increase taxes you actually end up collecting less, as more people decide to illegally dodge taxes or simply close up shop.

The primary causes of this are that higher taxes give people less money to spend which hurts the economy and that higher marginal rates deter working.

A UBI is a transfer payment, so on net nobody has any less money to spend and in practice people with less money would have slightly more and those people are more likely to spend it. So this factor goes in favor of economic growth.

Meanwhile half the point of the UBI is to get rid of the crazy marginal rate cliffs created by means-tested benefits programs. The status quo deters work more than a UBI would, e.g. you lose unemployment if you take a job. Terrible incentives that would go away.


Higher marginal rates also reduce marginal outsourcing of labor. At a 40% combined federal and state rate, in order to pay a tradesperson $150 to come do some minor repair task at my house, I have to go out and earn an extra $250 to get that repair job done as compared to doing it myself.

Make the combined marginal rate 60% and now I have to go earn $375 in order to have $150 extra to pay for the labor for that repair. For the equivalent of $375 in wages for a service call, there's a lot of things I'll bother to learn how to tackle myself.


Marginal rates are weird because you can compare your marginal rate against every decision, but at that point, you aren't comparing every dollar earned to every dollar spend, so effective rates seem to be more useful (marginal would be useful if I was considering working more, I think). Anyways, as someone with a high effective tax rate, I'm totally fine only keeping 60% (or keeping 40% if we added another 20), if in return we all got UBI.


Again, a UBI will in many cases reduce marginal rates, because no more means testing. Right now if you want to hire a maid to clean your house, you have to overcome the loss of government benefits to them from taking on more work hours.

Meanwhile at the top the difference would be less than an increase from 40% to 60% because the UBI is replacing all of these other programs which would no longer have to be funded, or could be made strict alternatives to the UBI which would make the UBI less expensive.


People whose marginal tax rates would be reduced by the implementation of a UBI are probably not hiring maids either before or after the implementation of UBI.


It's not the employer, it's the maid.

To get the maid to show up, you have to cause their bank balance to increase by at least $10, after taxes. If the government is taking 80% of what you pay them away in food, housing and education assistance, you have to pay $50 to get them their $10. Get their real marginal rate down to 40% and you can pay $20 while they enjoy a surplus of $2.


> For a $12,000 UBI that would yield a flat tax rate of ~22%.

Yes. And that is absolutely monstrously huge. You just doubled the US tax rate!

Sure, you could cut spending elsewhere, or whatever, but once you do a program that is on the scale of literally doubling the US tax rate, you are definitely at a point where the costs of the program are very high, and likely unviable.


The total tax burden in the US (federal, state, local; income, sales, property) is closer to 50%, and most to all of the 22% would be in replacement of existing programs.

(Half the funding for many of the existing programs don't even show up in the federal budget, even though they're federal programs, because the feds condition the program on the state government providing matching funds, but the state's taxpayers don't get any refund of their federal taxes if the state doesn't implement the program. So the states are coerced into funding inefficient programs, and those would go away.)


> most to all of the 22% would be in replacement of existing programs

I think people are reasonably skeptical of this part. I've never seen someone show me the math around how all those programs would be rendered redundant by a UBI. Before getting to the political problem of dismantling benefits, some of which pay out more than $12,000 a year and have a vocal, sympathetic minority willing to fight for them.


>I think people are reasonably skeptical of this part

I think that understates it: some enormous fraction (like 45%) of federal government spending is for retirees (Social Security, Medicare and government funded pension) who represent only about 15% of the population.

That's the unsquareable circle for UBI.


It's actually pretty easy to solve, because it long-term replaces social security.

Social security has a dumb design if it's supposed to be a safety net. It pays out in proportion to how much money you made. That's not a safety net. If someone who made $20,000/year when they were working can survive on a given amount of money, someone who made $80,000/year when they were working can survive on the same amount. If they want more they can use the extra money they made to buy an annuity. And that's why social security costs so much -- it pays out more to people who, by and large, need it less.

Now, you're not going to pass a repeal of social security. The people currently receiving significantly more from it than they would from a UBI would revolt.

So you do this. You give people an election between a UBI for life or social security after retirement. Current 65 year olds are all going to pick social security. Current 18 year olds are going to pick the UBI, because the net present value is higher. That means social security long-term goes away.

In the short term, social security has a trust fund. It gets spent down to make up the difference between what existing retirees would get from the UBI and what they'll be getting from social security. In the long term, when all of the younger people who chose the UBI over social security reach retirement age, the high cost of social security goes away because nobody wanted it.


>Social security has a dumb design if it's supposed to be a safety net. It pays out in proportion to how much money you made.

Well, sort of. There're two bend points where the proportions go down fairly sharply (90%-32%-15%). It's extremely progressive from that point of view: those with lower average lifetime earnings get a much higher proportion of income replaced than do those with higher lifetime earnings.

Median annual Social Security benefits for 2020 are about $15K, vs. mean of about $18K., for example.

>So you do this. You give people an election between a UBI for life or social security after retirement. Current 65 year olds are all going to pick social security. Current 18 year olds are going to pick the UBI, because the net present value is higher. That means social security long-term goes away.

It makes a big difference where you set the level for UBI, and which entitlements programs you claim it replaces. Without knowing the specifics of the proposal, you can't get good numbers.

But it sounds like you're saying UBI will replace Social Security. Let's assume UBI pays $12K per year to every adult, which is less generous than a lot of numbers I've heard. This means it would replace about two-thirds of the average Social Security benefit.

Based on U.S. life expectancies, that UBI number and average Social Security benefits, I think that puts the break-even point for lifetime UBI to equal lifetime Social Security about 56 or 57. So let's say that everyone 57 or over stays in Social Security.

>In the short term, social security has a trust fund. It gets spent down to make up the difference between what existing retirees would get from the UBI and what they'll be getting from social security.

Social Security's "trust fund" was about $2.8tn at the end of 2020. That's 2.61 years of payments. The idea that Social Security is, in some sense, pre-funded by payroll taxes is completely false. It is effectively a pay-as-you-go system with a small buffer.

Under the assumptions above, you will exhaust the trust fund in less than 8 years, which is a problem as life expectancy at 65 in the U.S. is almost 20 years. So you now either have to stop funding the gap between UBI and Social Security (politically impossible) or raise more taxes.

Over to the UBI then. Social Security brings in taxes of just over $1.06tn year year. Let's just call it $1.1tn. By the way, non-benefit costs for Social Security are only about 0.05% of the program cost, so there's very limited opportunity to make gains by streamlining administration as is often claimed for UBI.

US population is about 330m. Take out the child population (about 19%; they aren't getting UBI) and the over-65 population (about 16%; they're retired and are getting Social Security). So you now have 215m people who will receive UBI.

Your $1.1tn of payroll taxes funds only about $5,100 of the $12,000 that's supposed to be paid in UBI. Payroll taxes would have to increase by 2.35x to cover the cost of the UBI, and that's before you plug the Social Security gap.

Making UBI less generous encourages more people to stay in Social Security which means your funding gap gets wider.


> Before getting to the political problem of dismantling benefits, some of which pay out more than $12,000 a year and have a vocal, sympathetic minority willing to fight for them.

The best way to handle this is to give people a one-time election of whether they want the UBI. If they want the UBI, they're disqualified from all of these other programs, for life.

Then nearly everyone picks the UBI. The person receiving $500 from other programs certainly does, so does the person receiving $10,000, probably even the person receiving $12,500 because they get to avoid doing the paperwork every year for all the other programs.

You're left with the negligible percentage of people who actually receive non-trivially more than $12,000 under other programs, representing a minority of the existing funding. This could also be assisted by dropping some of the less sympathetic programs immediately and further reducing the number of people on the other side of the $12,000 line. And the percentage shrinks over time, because someone picks the UBI at age 18 and then 10 years later discovers they might have received $16,000 this year from some other set of programs, but they've already made their choice. After a few years the other programs have so few people using them that there is no political will to continue them at all.

And recall that one such program is social security, which is currently funded by a 12.4% tax. That by itself is more than half the way to 22%. And all the existing retirees who choose that over the UBI would then not have to be paid the UBI.


Perusing the Wikipedia page for the Laffer Curve (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laffer_curve), it seems that most studies find we could double our current tax rates and still be on the left of the peak (65%-70%). Given that our current federal revenue is appr. $3.5 trillion, it seems we could afford Yang's $2.8 trillion in UBI without issue.

Source for UBI total cost: https://freedom-dividend.com/ note: I ignored his ~$0.9 trillion in predicted savings/economic growth but that would lessen the bill even more.


You can ballpark these numbers just fine. 500/mo UBI for 350 Million recipients is $2.1T per year. US GDP prior the pandemic was ~20T. Expenditures were about 4.4 trillion, revenue was 3.5 trillion (2019 numbers).

500/mo or 1k/mo UBI does require raising taxes and consolidating programs (a polite way of saying cutting). At 500/mo you'd raise the total tax rate (as of GDP), but it'd not be an unreasonable raise (as compared to 2k/mo UBI for all citizens which would need taxes at 40% of US GDP).


We are no where close to reaching the top of the Laffer curve, and we never have been. It is a non issue for economists.


Definitely have seen and experienced the same thing - but hey, if we succeed in banning cash, no one can dodge taxes?

It also removes a huge relief valve for large segments of the population to survive that can’t meet the bar demanded of the ‘normal’ workers.


I can try to give you a theoretical tax breakdown using real numbers.

In 2018, the household income quintiles were as follows (https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/statistics/household-income-...)

Lowest quintile mean: $13,775

Second quintile mean: $37,923

Third quintile mean: $63,572

Fourth quintile mean: $101,570

Highest quintile mean: $233,895

There were about 159M employed persons in the US in the most recent high (https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/employed-persons), about 50% of the US population. We want our UBI to cover everybody.

To make this simple, because quintiles comprise an equally populated group of people, let's imagine that instead of there being ~32M people per quintile, that our nation has 10 people, where 5 people don't work, and each of the remaining 5 falls into one of the quintiles.

If we wanted to define a UBI of $18,000 per person, we need to somehow come up with $18,000 * 10 == $180,000 to distribute to everyone equally.

If we fund this progressively, each individual would have to pay:

Unemployed #1: 0 (statistically, a child)

Unemployed #2: 0 (statistically, a child)

Unemployed #3: 0 (statistically, a retiree)

Unemployed #4: 0 (statistically, a retiree)

Unemployed #5: 0 (statistically, a disabled person or stay-at-home caretaker)

Lowest: $8,000

Second: $12,000

Third: $21,000

Fourth: $36,000

Highest: $103,000

Total revenue: $180,000

Then consider that everyone here is receiving back 18,000 under the UBI. The highest quintile earner’s net take-home is, thus 233,895-103,000+18,000 == $148,895, which effectively renders their effective tax rate approx 36%. If you run this breakdown across all quintiles:

Unemployed #1-5: $0 - $0 + 18,000 == $18,000

Lowest: $13,775 - $8,000 + $18,000 == $23,775 (effective tax -73%)

Second: $37,923 - $12,000 + $18,000 == $43,923 (effective tax -16%)

Third: $63,572 - $21,000 + $18,000 == $60,572 (effective tax 6%)

Fourth: $101,570 - $36,000 + $18,000 == $83,570 (effective tax 18%)

Highest: $233,895 - $103,000 + $18,000 == $148,895 (effective tax 36%)

You'll notice that the top 2 pay a tax rate that’s comparable to today’s. We wouldn't necessarily need to increase everyone's taxes by the above amount, because there's some wiggle room in the Federal budget. Examples: we can probably eliminate Social Security (which would just be replaced by the UBI), EITC/CTC (basically already a BI), and food stamps (ditto). Medicare, which is an in-kind benefit, can either be eliminated, or it can continue to exist but be paid for by the UBI. Ditto Medicaid.

Also notice that because the lowest quintile still ends up with more than the unemployed person after their taxes, there isn’t a disincentive to work.

This math also assumes that we're giving people $1,500 per month, and also assumes that children will receive the same amount as adults — a UBI may only pay $1,000 per month to adults, and $500 per month to children, in which case the effective tax rates would be lower.

This math also assumes there is 0 VAT. This math also ignores payroll taxes, which account for 35% of the current Federal revenue.

We can play with different levels of progressivity and generosity, but the idea is the same. We can scale up from single-person quintiles to million-person quintiles, but the percentages don't change.


We get China to buy our bonds forever :)


China owns about $1.1 Trillion in US debt compared to the $28 Trillion in total debt. Most debt, ~85%, remains owned by Americans.

Also, China has been trying to unwind their US position over time, but it is a difficult task because they have to do something with the US dollars that they get due to the trade imbalance.


Are you sure this is realistic, or would it end up being a net negative for people earning above $20k-$25k? There are a lot of people who are opting out of paid employment, one way or another, under the current model.


The people at the top will move to a tax haven.


The nice thing about a UBI is that it's still progressive even if funded by a flat tax, like VAT, because with the UBI it's still a net transfer to lower income people. How are the people at the top going to avoid VAT? By moving all their customers to a tax haven?

Also, in this context "the top" is anything above the middle. Are lawyers and petroleum engineers going to move to a tax haven?


> Are lawyers and petroleum engineers going to move to a tax haven?

Yes? I'm not a particularly special engineer, and a significant part of my decision to leave California was the income tax. I'm certainly not alone there.

Also bear in mind that "tax haven" is a relative term. Canada can become a tax haven if their taxes are lower than ours. Europe can be a tax haven if their taxes are lower. If my net income in the US (taking into account higher salaries) comes out the same as what I would make in Europe, I'm moving to Europe. I'd much rather have the safety net than UBI.


> The nice thing about a UBI is that it's still progressive even if funded by a flat tax.

I think this takes more thought. I agree that we want a progressive curve, and that UBI-with-a-flat-tax gives us a progressive curve, but I don't think we've established that it gives us the curve we want. Moving from the ideal curve to the (potentially) less than ideal curve for the sake of easier enforcement may still be worth it, and may still produce a system that we'd prefer to the current one, but we have to actually establish that.


UBI-with-a-flat-tax gives a very nice curve, and on top of that you can make it arbitrarily more or less progressive by adjusting the amount of the UBI. A larger UBI with a higher flat tax rate is more progressive.

It's mostly just not that compatible with confiscatory-level taxes on very high income people, but the cause of the trouble there was never really the taxes (once they were paying the same rates as ordinary people). The problem there is regulatory capture and inadequate antitrust enforcement leading to abusive consolidated corporate empires.


> UBI-with-a-flat-tax gives a very nice curve

It gives a family of curves, and as you say you have a knob you can turn...

I don't have a strong opinion about exactly what shape the curve should have, but I do have a strong opinion that it's probably important and I've noticed a tendency (first in myself!) for UBI proponents to be satisfied having checked the "it's a progressive curve" box without having looked carefully at whether it can produce the particular progressive curve we (more broadly) want.

Edited to add: I suppose if we do find that we need people to be taking home marginally more for the first N dollars earned, we could add a rebate based on reported income. Small fraud ("I reported a little more than I actually made") winds up pretty bounded in the amount it can walk off with; larger fraud ("I invented 500 people who are reporting income") isn't that much bigger a concern than it would already be with a UBI since the maximum rebate is probably much smaller than the stipend that would otherwise be expected. Note that I'm not calling for this, just exploring the space.


Unless they're going to stop using banks with branches in New York, that's not going to help a ton if the IRS gets funded.


People who move abroad still have to pay taxes in the US, unless they renounce citizenship.

Some remote workers who can might do that but I doubt very many.


> People who move abroad still have to pay taxes in the US, unless they renounce citizenship.

There are almost no countries in the world that milk their citizens that way.

Two exceptions I know of:

    - USistan
    - Eritrea
Nice company you guys keep over there.


And China.


Good. Let them. They don't produce anything.


Are you just saying that or did you look at his proposed plan? It included VAT and other ways to make it sustainable.


And hard to evade too!


[flagged]


if you're worried about how bad certain organizations were in the 70s i've got bad news for you about corporations


> The USA (and all the world governments) need to take care of it's poor people better

I believe The USA spends most on social welfare than any other country.


The amount of money spent doesn't mean anything. The US also pays insane amounts for their health system but the result is a system that's far more expensive than in other countries.


> These were the best paying jobs that many of these workers had had in their entire lives

What does that have to do with health system


You believe so, but at least Wikipedia says the US are 22nd per capita (which is more relevant than the total spending) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_social_...


> Wikipedia says the US are 22nd per capita

I see USA at 10 in per capita section in your wiki link.


You are right, I have made a mistake there. The USA are 10th in spending per capita and 22nd in spending in percentage of the GDP.


so either way the us is not at position number 1... at that point it doesn't matter.


ok


The people need to take care of themselves first, then their family, then their immediate surrounding, then their region and their country. Reversing the dependency on a large scale is not sustainable. Someone's right is someone else responsibility, for someone to receive money, someone else has to provide it. The government is a middleman in this transaction that wastes a substantial share of the value in the process.


The problem with the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” thinking is that it ignores being born into the problem. Sure, some people can work their way out of a rut that their parents were in, but the majority can’t.


Not just that, but if we rank everyone, some people will inevitably be worse than others. Should those at the bottom be condemned to poverty?


Should those at the bottom be condemned to poverty?

The lesson of the GINI coefficient and the psychology of relative wealth, is that absolute, material well being isn't the issue. The issue is whether people think the cards are so stacked against them, that they will never win.

So the answer is no. We know that condemning those at the bottom will result in civil unrest. Everyone needs to live in dignity, or there will be violence. Psychology has pretty much determined this to be a fact of human nature.

However, this doesn't mean we should have equity. People should be rewarded, and people should also have something to strive for. It's the dignity of the common person which has been eroded over time.


That's pretty much the main political divide in our country. Should poor people have it better off, or worse off?


That is an argument and such bad spirit.

The actual discussion is about the degree of which government should handle re-distributing wealth to the lower class and to what degree the middle and upper class is responsible.

The “divide” is that politicians on both sides who’s actions don’t always match their stated positions.


yeah as long as they keep the conversation on the extremes they never have to give up anything. If you ask them to give up a 4th car for someone to have food then they are evil for saying no. So they say "Oh we have to give up EVERYTHING and live in the DIRT because of your RADICAL EXTREMISM!"


Sure, there are limits to the extend in which people can take care of themselves. For example if they are born with a low IQ they may never be able to do provide a net benefit to any job or almost any job. So that they are effectively unemployable. But if you are able to do anything of benefit to the society then you should do it. And having a job is the way to do it and be sustainable.


The problem with the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” thinking is that it ignores being born into the problem.

This is both right and wrong. Asian immigrants are notorious for arriving on foreign shores, penniless, then winding up owning businesses and sending their kids to top tier schools. The problem isn't being born into not having money and things. The problem is being born into an environment that sets children up for future failure.

The good news, is that such cultural practices aren't attached to race or ethnicity and so can be learned and adopted. There are historical precedents for this.

The bad news, is that other cultural practices can do the opposite, and insulate groups of people against things like valuing education and a work ethic.


Most people who are immigrants have almost by definition a better-than-average work ethic. You can see this if you know a bunch of people from country X when you live in country Y (where Y is usually a country "better off" than X), and then you go visit country X. You'll see that the "expats from X" you see while living in Y may be of a higher caliber (e.g. entrepreneurial, in your example), the people who did not expatriate do not often contain the same values.

As someone who lived in the US for a long time and now lives in Europe, I can tell you that all of the Americans I've met over here (who are not vacationing) are incredibly driven and entrepreneurial. They do not at all reflect the average American back in the US (e.g. I don't know a single Trump supporter over here; the Democrats Abroad caucus typically goes far more liberal than any state, supporting Bernie Sanders in 2016 by a very wide margin).


Not sure how true that generalization is. If you look at Germany, you'll see high unemployment rates (and less education) among immigrants from Turkey and Arabian countries, while you'll see significantly more success on all fronts for immigrants from e.g. Vietnam.


> If you look at Germany, you'll see high unemployment rates (and less education) among immigrants from Turkey and Arabian countries, while you'll see significantly more success on all fronts for immigrants from e.g. Vietnam.

Are refugees counted as immigrants? A lot of the refugees from Syria come through Turkey, so I'm curious if that's throwing off the numbers.

Refugees and immigrants aren't really comparable. The most stark difference is that refugees can (and likely will) be sent back when their country stabilizes enough. If you're a refugee, there's little point in building up a new life when you know it will all come to an end.


> Are refugees counted as immigrants? A lot of the refugees from Syria come through Turkey, so I'm curious if that's throwing off the numbers.

No, it's about immigrants from Turkey (who came mostly in the 60ies as regular working migrants to both feed Germany's hunger for workers and buy Turkey's entry into NATO). The Vietnamese on the other hand were often refugees, much poorer and with much less support.

There aren't any relevant numbers about the migrant crisis '15 yet, it's too recent to get meaningful statistics.

> The most stark difference is that refugees can (and likely will) be sent back when their country stabilizes enough.

True, but that very rarely happens in Germany. It's considered cruel to deport someone who has lived in Germany for a few years.

Deportations of asylum seekers usually only happen for so-called "safe countries", e.g. Balkan states, when the request for asylum is denied.


I think both can be true: people who emigrate from a country to pursue better career / life opportunities typically are more industrious in my experience than are those who do not (on average; there are plenty of people who don't emigrate who are just as industrious; it's just that those who are NOT industrious do not emigrate at all), while at the same time some immigrants will differ in industriousness based on their country of origin.


Not to detract from your main point, I agree that people who change countries are going to tend to be more driven than those who don't, but I don't comprehend how "supporting Bernie Sanders" maps to "entrepreneurial".


It was more to say "expat Americans are not proportionately representative of non-expat Americans", i.e. I have not met one Trump supporter while abroad (or if I have, they have kept very quiet).


> I can tell you that all of the Americans I've met over here (who are not vacationing) are incredibly driven and entrepreneurial. They do not at all reflect the average American back in the US (e.g. I don't know a single Trump supporter over here;

This is a strange observation to me because Trump did very well with the small business owner demographics.

https://news.gallup.com/poll/284396/small-business-owners-hi...


If they were driven they'd own big businesses.


I would guess that the interests of SMB owners for US residents and expats differ. SMB owners in the US probably think more short-term and think that policies from Trump will help them (which they may, but will ultimately continue the steady decline of the US workforce, e.g. lack of a social safety net, upward mobility, lack of education, a broken patchwork of poorly-maintained car-centric infrastructure).

SMB owners who are US citizens abroad, however, are driven by primarily one thing, regardless of party affiliation: who will be most likely to support a rewrite of the punitive tax laws that the US places on its expatriate citizens (which no country other than Eritrea does).


All immigrants work hard. That's how they ended up here.


> Someone's right is someone else responsibility

I don't follow. What are some examples of this?


If college is free (or loans are forgiven), people who never went to college would have to subsidize those who did.

If healthcare is free, people who are healthy have to pay healthcare for those who aren't.

I'm not taking a stance one way or the other on these issues, just trying to illustrate the argument.


Ok, thanks. IIRC, that's called collectivism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivism


Amazon moving into these impovershed areas, becoming the majority employer, and having absolute influence over the local governance and electorate they themselves employ makes these places de facto a company town. Brilliant move, totally evil genius move, but brilliant.


So let me get this straight: companies shouldn't be investing money into revitalizing impoverished areas?


It's complicated. When you're the only game in town you enter an ethical gray area where the community is your hostage. Things seem alright now but what happens when the mines run dry?


What a ridiculous way of looking at it. Companies are damned if they do, damned if they don't in the eyes of some, just by the very fact that they are a private entity motivated to make a profit.

Nevermind the fact that from my eyes looking at America from overseas, it seems like companies are the only institutions/organisations that are functioning even remotely in a socially optimal way.

Your government is a disaster and couldn't meaningfully manage the pandemic at all, academia is a disaster and is bankrupting your future, military is a disaster and has heavily underinvested in next generation weapons programs so they could spend more time bombing the middle East, your unions are self-serving enterprises (aren't schools in your most populous state STILL closed due to teacher's unions?), your newspaper are incredibly corrupt across the spectrum.

The only things that seem to work correctly are your companies which are still world-leading and world class. Amazon is a gem in your society, but demonised as if it is the source of all problems.


Excellent comment


Is Amazon a monopsony employer in this town? It sounds like they aren't since their warehouse created 1500 jobs and the population is 27000.


Assuming 60% of the population is employed (roughly more than the US average), that's just under a tenth of the workforce of 16k. Assuming 50% of the workforce is employed by small businesses (slightly more than national average), that makes them a fifth of all people employed by companies large enough to afford to really push local politics around. It's enough numbers to swing most controversial issues

It's not company town level of influence, though. A defining feature of which IIRC is that the company owned most or all other businesses in the town and often extracted most of the workers wage through extortionate pricing of basic goods and services.


Didn't Walmart do this in a lot of small towns? And sometimes just pack up and leave? What happens when they leave?


>> Didn't Walmart do this in a lot of small towns? And sometimes just pack up and leave? What happens when they leave?

I think a good question to ask before is what happens if they dont come in the first place? If I were a resident in a town wanting jobs, i'd probably be more excited about jobs arriving than the possibility they might eventually disappear.


Walmart doesn't go in blind, they are in the business of extraction. Typically they look to setup a regional store in an area where towns already have optometrists, florists, sporting goods stores, grocers, bakers, homegoods, electronics, hardware, autoparts, the entire town basically. What happens if they didn't come in the first place is life continues in a more decentralized and localized manner, and less of the taxable profit is carted out of the county. Presumably these optometrists and sporting goods store owners of the past paid their income and property taxes from their salaries locally in the area.


I dunno, there doesn't seem like a simple answer to this. If the choice is between starving or working for a heartless/soulless corporation doing the bare minimum, the system has failed miserably


> So let me get this straight: companies shouldn't be investing money into revitalizing impoverished areas?

No, they should do so, just not be so exploitative about it (e.g. deliberately going into areas full of desperate people, for the reason of using that desperation to exert maximum control with minimum accountability).


The lowest paid person at Amazon is earning well over the median wage in Bessemer, Alabama.

Amazon could probably have no problem staffing the center at $11/hr there, but they're paying $18-$22 instead. How on earth can you define that as 'exploitation'? It's borderline charity, given the observable labor market equilibrium there.


Paying someone more money does not make working conditions less exploitative.


Is the lowest Amazon job as easy and safe as the below median jobs in Bessemer?

Speedwalking an Amazon warehouse carrying objects, run by hyper-optimizing automation that times tasks to the second, is different from leaning on idle cash register at McDonalds, or slowly pushing a vacuum cleaner.


So your issue is specifically with the mindset of the company, not the actions themselves? Why would a company ever do anything out of the goodness of their hearts? Shouldn't we just be looking at the result of them following market incentives?


Of course companies don't do anything out of the goodness of their hearts. Companies will do as much evil as they are allowed to and as much good as they are forced to.

The society should act accordingly.


You're missing my point on purpose.

I am trying to say there is a contradiction in what you are saying. You claim to want companies to move into impoverished areas, but also say doing that is evil. No company has ever moved into an impoverished area to help people, they have always done so out of self interest.

So which do you want, companies to move into impoverished areas (acting evil), or not (acting good, according to you).


I want strong labor protection laws everywhere, so that poor regions don't have to compete on allowing companies to exploit the local workforce.


You've completely changed the direction of the argument.


Like a $15 minimum wage? The one Amazon is paying?


And paying for time spent in security checkpoints, and not counting "walking from workstation to break room" as break time, and compensation for workplace injuries.


This assumes that everything that is benefits a company is evil and everything that hurts a company is good.

Luckily, this isn't true. There are absolutely areas where companies can do good and profit. Moving good jobs into a blighted area is a classic example of a win-win. The company gets low wages, and residents get some of the best jobs they have access to.


So, I think I mostly agree with your stances here, but I take major issue with this:

> Why would a company ever do anything out of the goodness of their hearts?

Because a company is made of people. I won't fault a company for following market incentives, but questions like yours sometimes imply that a company shouldn't do anything out of the goodness of their heart. Then you get people saying stuff like the company's goal must be to maximize shareholder value and stuff, and getting angry when a company does something out of the goodness of their hearts, which I take issue with. <end rant>


You're right, I could have phrased it better.


Have you ever shopped around for lower pricing? The collective population of the world does this when we chose to purchase things for cheaper prices made in countries with more lax environmental and labor laws.


> Have you ever shopped around for lower pricing?

It's one thing to shop for a lower price, it's quite another to notice someone's desperate and take advantage.

> The collective population of the world does this when we chose to purchase things for cheaper prices made in countries with more lax environmental and labor laws.

An a lot of people object to that, too, and they often lack the power to make any other decision.


When you shop around for price you are shopping around for someone to exploit with the lower price. There is no difference, zero sum, if you get a product for less, somewhere in the world someone got less money.


The economy isn't zero sum (from a capitalist PoV) and reducing someone's profit margin isn't exploiting them (from a Marxist PoV). It's important to avoid thinking partial equilibrium effects are the actual effects of something.


This isn't about the total ecconomy, this is a single transaction.


The difference is plausible deniability, I guess.


> companies shouldn't be investing money into revitalizing impoverished areas?

Isn't that what taxes are for?


Where do you think taxes come from?


Carpetbaggers carpetbagging is a story as old as time. At least they're creating jobs and distributing money into the community. It's not like there's a long list of others who would willingly pick up the slack if they went elsewhere.


The way to solve this is with Federal worker's rights reforms specifically around working conditions. It is hard to see that happening with the government very pro-corporation right now.


That's what they did in Seattle.


Amazon is situated in Seattle, and the incompetence and corruption of goverment here is well-known.

I wouldn't search for evil intent in those moves.


As someone whose great uncles worked in the steel factories nearby, whose parents before that labored in the cotton fields, I can also testify the multi-century efforts of Black workers who fought the “hands that was fedding them”. America's Johannesburg [1] and Hammer and Hoe [2] for reference.

[1] https://ugapress.org/book/9780820356273/americas-johannesbur...

[2] https://uncpress.org/book/9781469625485/hammer-and-hoe/


That gets harder as capital gets easier to move.


I am asking for it but what the hell.

I was a union member back in the last 1980s through 1990s early. I was in a low skilled job where we paid our dues and got exactly nothing for it. Oh we had a wonderful contract that specified it all. It was great for basically keeping anyone new boxed in. Each quarter if we were lucky we got a visit by our local union rep in her Mercedes which cost more than many of us made a year. So I am so not a big union supporter and lean against them.

On another personal note, they spent decades harassing my uncles, now cousins industrial roofing business calling OSHA and other inspectors out to where even the OSHA representatives joked about it. It became a coffee break for them. All this over a company with less than thirty people at max.

So while they may have some application on higher paid jobs when you are low wage there isn't much they do for you other than suck two hours of wages or more from you each month.

People here glorify unions have no experience with them at the level that would have been seen in Amazon. They have these grandiose ideas how everyone benefits. Oh don't get me wrong, you are likely to get some changes that are beneficial, but in the end you are still exactly where you are before but now its all in nice pretty print writing which spells out exactly how you aren't going anywhere fast. Oh, don't forget the monthly payout (could be weekly in some places) and don't expect much if you ever actually reach strike stage.


Unions also start boxing out new experienced employees. The railroads have no way to bring in experienced workers from other industries because everyone is mandated a certain starting wage by the union...entry level wages ($50k) plus overtime. Looks exactly like regulatory capture.


You see this in a lot of industries that are unionized, if you move across the country or have a life change and are in a unionized environment you can be screwed by a) losing seniority and b) comp can drop.

Had a friend who was a pilot. Personal situation - moved, wanted to live in base rather than deadhead yadda yadda - you start off at ground zero at the new airline - literally next to guys with no time on type (and you could have thousands of hours on type - which is years of work).


This is what happens when union reps are in bed with the company they're supposedly holding to account. It happens because of corruption and nepotism, not because of unionization.

I might recommend to watch Waiting For Lefty to understand the distinction.


This may be a bit of an ignorant question, but...

Are "dying cities/slums" a purely American phenomenon, in terms of rich first-world countries?

Is there similarly a "rust belt" in Germany, of cities that had an economic collapse after manufacturing died out? Are there rich European countries with flailing cities that devolve into crime and poverty? Does Europe have its own Bessemers, Detroits? (though I do hear Detroit isn't as bad as it's made out to be)


>Are "dying cities/slums" a purely American phenomenon, in terms of rich first-world countries?

The UK definitely has declining factory towns (often called mill towns there) similar to the US. Northern England is like that for the most part. Less of a rust belt and more of a rust hat.


America's "Rust Belt" cities all tend to have one thing in common: a large black population that originally migrated there in the 20th century for industrial jobs that largely no longer exist. Think Detroit with the auto industry. Camden NJ with New York Ship, Victor, and Campbell's Soup. Gary Indiana with US Steel, etc etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Works

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Migration_(African_Ameri...


> America's "Rust Belt" cities all tend to have one thing in common

Not anti union, but these also had high union activity, which some explain as a cause of their 'rustification' as companies moved production elsewhere (like Alabama) to avoid.



HN should reformat wiki links to jump straight to the page title, since these long lists render identically before you open the thread.


Not sure what point you are making here. Most of these seem to be segregated unions for AA people that existed in the same places as the corresponding non-AA union run by the same overarching organization (e.g. AFL-CIO, etc).


Not even Alabama but overseas where not only is there no union, but companies can get away with paying starvation wages to effective slaves. How an American is going to compete with a guy willing to work for $0.50/day on an 18 hour shift 7 days a week is a mystery. He doesn't even ask for healthcare, and when he dies of exhaustion there are hundreds more waiting to take his place because that's a huge amount of money for them.

One of the few things I think Trump got right is when he brought tariffs back. If you want companies to keep jobs in the US you have to make the labor cost just as much no matter where you find it. Otherwise it is just a race to the bottom.


> How an American is going to compete with a guy willing to work for $0.50/day on an 18 hour shift 7 days a week is a mystery. He doesn't even ask for healthcare, and when he dies of exhaustion there are hundreds more waiting to take his place because that's a huge amount of money for them.

Well, that guy would do a really bad job, especially after he dies. You can compete with him by staying healthy and being much more productive.

That's not an accurate description of overseas labor though, those people are skilled at what they do and their PPP-adjusted pay is better than that. (Sometimes overseas developers aren't skilled at enterprise development, in that case their skill is scamming the outsourcing manager.)

> One of the few things I think Trump got right is when he brought tariffs back. If you want companies to keep jobs in the US you have to make the labor cost just as much no matter where you find it.

That's not what a tariff does, a tariff makes foreign companies' products more expensive for domestic customers. It's just a pointless tax increase. And when the other country fights back it makes your products more expensive for foreign customers, hurting you.

Keeping jobs domestically means doing the opposite, increasing foreign customers for your stuff. This falls under industrial policy and it's what the overseas countries taking your jobs did better than us.


I mean it depends on the job... you are not going to outcompete textile workers in South or Southeast Asia.


The thing about Trump's tariffs is the rhetoric didn't match the way it was actually used (to the extent there was a strategy at all, it seemed like moving production from China to other low-wage countries was a bigger priority than protecting pay and working conditions in the US).


In the former "rust belt" of Germany unemployement rate is higher (~12%) compared to the rest of Germany (~6%). And although we had social reforms in the 2000s cutting unemployment benefits - today with unemployment benefits, "free" health care and social security payments you can live from (though should be higher), areas with higher unemployment are not comparable to the US.

(Also German carmakers have - at least until now - done much better than Detroit for a variety of reasons).


It happens everywhere or almost everywhere in the West. Some country simply lose population due migration to other countries.

Inside immigration is also big. Small towns/cities are losing population while big cities/capitals are rapidly growing. We have hundreds of towns that once had thousands inhabitants and now they barely have a couple hundred and haven't seen a kid in more than a decade.

But as far as I know, there's no Detroits in Europe. The cities with most crimes are also the ones that are attracting more people and immigrants. The abandoned places are quiet and peaceful.

There's also growing trend of trying to revive those places by people that just can't take big cities anymore or people who work for home, etc. Why would they pay a huge chunk of their salary for a crappy shared flat on the city when they can live on a nice house with garden only 5 hours away?


Detroit is growing back these days. Even though a lot of it is abandoned, it's still hard to buy the old houses because you have to pay their back taxes or something, but it is coming back thanks to companies like Quicken.

As for crime, it's some economic and some that Detroit was the center of the car industry which means everyone was huffing leaded gasoline fumes for decades. In Europe everyone is still breathing in diesel, which just kills you rather than makes you a rage monster.


No.

Most of Japan is dying as nearly its entire population moves to Tokyo.

And that's only a slight sprinkle of hyperbole. Other regions are sustained only by tourism or by other industries where the average worker age is past 60.


Government employment and construction (buoyed by frequent government spending on infrastructure) are also major sources of employment outside the Tokyo metro area. Osaka and Kyoto also have fairly decent numbers of jobs, I think.



Oh yes.

Charleroi Belgium comes to mind. Once a prosperous industrious town, now the glory is gone. Recently read somewhere there is a bit of revival, culturally at least. Economically I’m not sure. A bit like Detroit maybe.


Yeah, Charleroi is a very good example. Very similar (in spirit, I don’t have first hand knowledge) to Detroit.


Lots of dead industry in Sweden too because there was a major shift during the 90s and 2000s that remotely located industry in the Swedish forest could not keep up with.

I don't know more details, I am only speaking observationally. Someone else might tell you why this happened.

I would assume it has to do with globalization and other nations being more competitive than local business.


It's because everyone has to book their washing machines two weeks in advance.


GTFO of my head.


Chinese cities in the northeast Yellow Sea area (like Dalian) were historically industrial centers, but are now somewhat of a Chinese rust belt while the industrial gravity has moved south (ex: Shenzhen, Chongqing).


I believe the Ruhr valley experienced some rust belt like phenomena. Abandoned factories and such, but not like NAm. Germany’s economic might rests on their mittelstand midsized businesses (KMU) typically family owned or run and which are to some extent protected by the gov.


> Is there similarly a "rust belt" in Germany

Not yet, but we are doing out best to deliver that in the near future \s

What we do have is sort of a coal belt. The Ruhr Area, where coal mining used to be big but has died out. Some regions did not recover from the closing of mines, Gelsenkirchen for example.


Yeah, outside of Berlin a lot of eastern German states/cities have lost people IIRC.


I don't have any first-hand experience, but here in the Czech Republic (not rich by any means, but still pretty up there) there are some places that have the reputation of ghettos. They're mostly located in border areas, which had a sizeable German population a were annexed by nazi Germany. After World War 2, most of the Germans were driven out and "resettled" under the communist regime. Add heavy industry and mining activity sometimes destroying the original towns and you can see how the region might not be the most cheerful place. Someone also had the brilliant idea of moving all the Roma from a town to a separate ghetto, which turned out as expected.

It's not that any city is altogether full of crime and poverty, personally I'd say they're just less desirable with full-on "crime and poverty" being noticeable only in some hotspots (but then again, I don't live there and only ever visit for short periods of time, so really all I can say is "it doesn't seem that bad").


>(though I do hear Detroit isn't as bad as it's made out to be)

Observe for yourself the recordings by CharlieBo313


we have dying cities and poverty in Europe, but it does not devolve into crime. Each city in Europe have at least a suburb where crime is more prevalent, poverty is a contributing factor but not the only one.


Reasonable point of view. However, have you asked why Bessemer is a dying city and/or a slum? Was it always a slum? Were there no businesses there since it was founded and incorporated?

And if it was such a hell hole, why did Amazon choose to open a warehouse there? Out of the goodness of their hearts? We need to ask questions as to why Amazon had to become a "savior" for the City of Bessemer. Not just focusing on effects but looking into causes too!


Bessemer appears to be in the outskirts of Birmingham. Seems like a reasonable place to put a fulfillment center: land is cheaper than somewhere more central (but a warehouse doesn't need to be located on expensive, high demand, centrally located land). It's also probably a reasonable commute distance for many in the Birmingham metro area.


Definitely... and I'm sure that there are many other cities in Alabama just like Bessemer.

My comment isn't about Amazon specifically as much as the fact that there are so many cities all over this country (supposedly the wealthiest in human history) that have fallen into so much disrepair and so much distress that they need companies like Amazon to come "save" them.

We need to ask why is all I'm saying.


What exactly would the retribution from Amazon look like, had this passed? They can't pick up the fulfillment center and move it somewhere else (without inconvenience, time, and expense, of course). They will need workers willing to travel to Bessemer for work, which presumably are people who live near or adjacent to Bessemer.


They could suck up the losses of closing a 1 year old warehouse to send a signal. Walmart has claimed unfixable plumbing problems at union stores and closed them in the past.


They also stopped selling fresh meat through a butcher window all across the US when the butchers unionized.


If in their judgment, it became not in their best interests economically for them to continue doing it, what else would have them do?


That’s why you need strong labor laws as a balance.


You're right, but obviously the fear of retribution was enough to influence the vote.


I've lived periods of life in different cultures, income levels, etc... It's interesting how people see things in such a binary sense (eg: x is good while y is bad, universally). Everyone does it and it presents itself differently in each perspective, but it's been an interesting watch.

As I've grown older I've tried to resist the urge to marry myself to these stark beliefs. Following this thread there's a lot of good information on what those competing perspectives actually entail. In my current area, which is mostly liberals of varying degrees, unions are almost universally championed. If you ask about the downsides or present an example of how they can be bad you can face people who think you're some kind of oppressor, or that you must be conservative. Where I'm from, which is mostly various flavors of conservativism the mention of unions causes similar outrage but in the other direction. If you mention how a union could be useful or various implementations that are non-stock (such as unions that don't try to practice authoritarian control over pay and just maintain representation for working conditions) then you'll be demonized for being a socialist. I used to think, "these are bad people of varying variety" but I've come to understand they're just people without experience in each other's geography and problem set, so it becomes easier to speak dogmatically.

Sometimes a union can be good, sometimes it can be bad, sometimes it's a bit of both pending nuance and implementation details, but at the end of the day this is a truth: the only people whose opinion matters is the people whose lives it will directly affect.


Ah, nuanced centrism. The golden midway. This is where progress is made.


>a majority of them decided not to bite the hand that was feeding them.

How did we as a nation go from the land of the free, a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, to "beg for scraps or you will starve."


Black people might object to the US once being "land of the free." In fact, almost every unskilled worker might.


> land of the free, a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage

All of this has always been propaganda, nothing more. The average unskilled worker has never had a good life in America.


Has the average unskilled worker "had a good life" at any time or place in the Earth's history?


It was pretty good in the postwar era if they were white, since the average worker came back from the war on the GI Bill and got free education and subsidized suburb buildouts.


dude it was only free before the colonialists came over and killed all the indians :laugh: :cry:


who the fuck is begging for scraps. with 15$ an hour they are living like kings in their hometown, above the median income


No one is living like kings on $15 per hour anywhere in the US. Unless your definition of kings includes lack of retirement security, income security, health security, and working back breaking shift work at odd hours. They will especially be vulnerable in their 50 to 65 years, when they will become unemployable for manual labor work.

They'll be able to put a roof over their head, and not worry about their kids' next meal or maybe even their kid breaking their arm. But they're not going to advance to the next rung of the socioeconomic ladder.


Not everywhere in the US is SF or NYC. 15$ an hour is a very good wage (especially for non skilled work) in a majority of the US


Two parents working at Amazon almost hit median household income in the US. Houses in that part of AL cost <$100k, so ownership is within reach. Retirement is provided by social security (pays better than Canada’s public pension does). And they get great health insurance from Amazon.

You’re painting way too bleak of a picture based on zero data.


My best friend growing up in the 80's - his dad made around $20/hour, working at a GM factory in the union. Mom was a stay-at-home mom. House was paid for, everything they bought they paid cash, pension, the works.

This was basically the norm from 40s to late 80s after reganomics started widdling away workers' rights.

This is the way it should be - 1 parent at home, 1 bringing home $$.

Else, the government should cover child care, or pay stay-at-home parents a salary for providing their own child care.


Above the median income in a small town doesn't mean you've got a great absolute standard of living, it just means you're better off than others in your town.

If a company can sell its products two towns over for 2x the price Bessemer can afford, it's not going to slash prices in Bessemer just because everyone there is poor.


It's exploitation- people are attracted by $15/hour work. Unfortunately, the work in unsustainable on your body. Eventually you go on disability. This seems to be biggest complaint [1]

1 - https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-wo...


I wonder how much of this is strategy.

Find a dying city with huge unemployment. No problem finding workers for a factory where most employees don't require anything more than ability to walk and read.


That's a complicated way of saying "open shop where labor is cheap".

This why we need national and international coordination on minimum wage and minimum work environment laws.


I think Amazon fulfillment centers are a special case. Most people working there either move packages around or drive a truck. At least that is my understanding, somebody with better/first hand knowledge would be welcome to share.

Normally having a huge employer would be a boon to the city, but most of these people are going to be working for close to minimum wage and Amazon most likely negotiated with the city so they don't have to pay a dime.


Amazon pays significantly over minimum wage in Alabama, since they don't have one and use the federal $7. This is Amazon's advantage over smaller companies - they're more efficient and so they can afford to pay more.


There will never be international cooperation on labor laws. Countries have too much to gain from allowing companies to open sweatshops.


I had a feeling most people were looking at this as a vote for yes is a vote to close the warehouse. They would never see the benefit of the union because Amazon would just close the whole place down before they let other distribution centers see what a union can do.


"It Is Difficult to Get a Man to Understand Something When His Salary Depends Upon His Not Understanding It" - Upton Sinclair


That's even more depressing then that they are accepting what the corporation wants to give them.


Perhaps they read the cautionary tale of "Why there is no moloch13":

https://everything2.com/title/Why+there+is+no+moloch13


What would Amazon do if they did Unionize? Move the warehouse?


Possible. As others have noted, WalMart has done similar things.

I think a retail/warehouse workers' union only really works if it's a national sort with local chapters so that a company can't hire except through a union.

I'm not saying such a situation isn't rife with its own problems, but as long as these unions are essentially on a per-location basis, a company with the resources can always close one location and open up down the street to avoid the union.


Unions need several things to work: two of the big ones are a job such that you cannot replace someone easily; and a sense that "we are all in it together".

If you don't have the first it is easy to replace anyone striking, and the union doesn't have power. If you don't have the second the better employees will want more money and so they won't work with the lesser ones

In retail it is generally easy to replace people. It only takes a few minutes of training and the new person will figure it out.

In retail there are a lot of different jobs. People who can do more (and have been around longer) are worth more. Many of the jobs do have metrics that can be measured to say who is better. While the pay this results in isn't much more, it is enough.

That isn't to say you need the above to have a union. There are counter examples that work, but they are less powerful than unions that have those factors because they find it harder to get everyone to stand together.

As such retail unions have trouble working. It is too easy to hire someone else if they go on strike.


Yes. This is why unions have to be big to be effective. The union has to be big enough to cover anywhere the company might be able to move to. This is why the Teamsters work so well, you can't outsource US trucking to Namibia.

This is also why the UAW started dying once containerized shipping made it practical to move factories overseas.


That Union couldn’t manage to get the starting wage for their members to $15. I think that says it all about how ineffective they are as an organization.


Comments like yours remind me that I shouldn't jump to conclusion and ask 'why' instead before making an opinion on a matter. Thanks.


The hand feeds them in exchange of their work. It’s not some benevolent entity providing out of goodness.

They voted to allow the “hand” to maximize exploitation without restraint.


All the while, the hand was spending many multiples of their yearly income on telling them all the things they would have to go without when paying $500 in dues yearly.

America is utterly rotten.


Are you saying the campaign cost multiples of their yearly labor expenditure, or the whole plan multiples of the yearly pay for one employee? If it’s the latter I don’t see how it makes them rotten. That’s an incredibly small expenditure, much less than would be paid in dues for instance


> These were the best paying jobs that many of these workers had had in their entire lives

Until they get hurt on the job and Amazon fires them for failure to show up to work:

https://revealnews.org/article/how-amazon-hid-its-safety-cri...


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