Sunday, July 18, 2010
Cents and Responsiblity
Tips are counted towards the difference in minimum wage, not on top. Emmer is suggesting after a lot of push back, that he would like the first $20,000 in tips to be tax-free. Which is great except that most servers don't make enough in tips for this to be a benefit for them. Emmer is insisting he wants to see servers make more, not less. He hopes that more might come from customers tipping more, not restaurant owners paying more.
Emmer wants the customer to pay servers. Not restaurant owners. Except that it is the restaurant owner that hires the server. It is the restaurant owner that has the ongoing relationship; not the customer.
Emmer wants the restaurant owner let out of the responsibility of paying his or her employee. He wants to shift that responsibility directly to the customer, who is under no obligation to tip.
In West Virginia, there is currently a temporary halt to blowing the top off of a mountain for coal mining, near a tiny community called Pigeonroost. Blowing up the mountain top would make the coal inside the mountain easier to get to quickly and cheaply. But it would also destroy not only a good part of the mountain itself; it would mean that the top of that mountain would end up in adjoining areas, polluting the water and damaging the land. The debris from this kind of mining procedure releases all kinds of highly hazardous toxins like selenium into the surrounding land and water. Republicans have favored allowing this kind of mining as a cheaper way to get coal out. But the costs of the long term damage to the land, to the waterways, and to the people who live in communities like Pigeonroost are not part of those mining costs. They don't figure into the cost of that cheap coal. The mining company keeps the profits of selling their coal at the same price as responsible mining operations; the people of WV get left with the expense of the damage; financial expense, and the cost of damage to their health and home.
In the Upper Big Branch mining disaster there appear from the information to date to be ample indications that the mining company took short cuts and ignored safety regulations to save money. Twenty nine miners died in the disaster at that mine. The lives of those twenty nine miners was not figured into the cost savings of short-cutting safety in the final pricing of that cheaper-produced coal. Miners die, families are hurt. Upper Big Branch mine owners have pocketed the money from the short-cuts as increased profits when they sell their coal at the same price as the responsible operations.
BP cut corners on safety, and 15 people died at one of their Texas refineries. BP appears to have operated the drilling operation on Deep Horizon as cheaply as they could even if it meant cutting corners on important safety measures - safety for the oil well itself, safety for the people who were operating the drilling. On the Deepwater Horizon, 11 people died. Their lives are not priced into the savings on the oil, but you can bet the expense of the clean up from the negligent, ill-considered cost cuts that endangered the drilling platform and the lives will be. Those costs will be passed on to customers. Those costs will be passed on to everyone who lives in areas affected by the spill. Those costs will be passed on to all of us, because we the citizens and taxpayers will never be fully reimbursed, any more than the people affected by the Exxon Valdez were ever reimbursed. While BP made record breaking profits, they shifted their expenses to the pockets of others.
There are mining and drilling companies that operate safely, and still make profits although less spectacular profits than BP. Their workers don't die, aren't injured to make the owners money, and they are paid fairly. There are restaurants which pay their servers well and still stay in business through good management, without reducing their servers to less an hour than most underage baby-sitting teenagers earn.
Republicans like to use the word responsibility. They like the word; they don't have a good track record of matching actions and decisions to it. Republicans have consistently favored in every possible way companies shifting the responsibility for their expenses, their costs, their risk, their liabilities, to others -- often others who can afford it the least, or who are the most vulnerable. You won't see Tom Emmer, or other Republicans ever suggesting an owner or an executive be paid less than they are now. That is saved for low-paid workers.
That's not just a misuse of the word, the concept of responsibility, it is an abuse of it. And it gives new meaning to the phrase nickel and dime to death.