When I write a column, I’m usually pretty good at predicting what kind of criticism it will receive.
The most common complaint about my columns is that I made a crack about a very specific thing that’s a sore spot for a particular reader; for example, “I was completely with you until you made that joke about someone getting trampled by an elephant; after that dark day at the circus when my grandpa lost his life and then had to be buried in a pizza box, I’ll have you know that there’s NOTHING FUNNY about etc. etc. etc.”
I generally try to be considerate of such matters, but at a certain point, the only thing I have left to write about is that ice cream is nice on a hot day, and even then, someone will probably complain that I’m lactose intolerant intolerant, so there’s not much point in trying.
Sometimes, however, complaints catch me off guard.
My last column was an open letter to Wendy’s in which I talked about how my recent order was wrong and also cost nearly $25; if fast food restaurants are going to hike their prices to the point of absurdity, I argued, they should also pay their staff enough to care that I get my order right. As the saying goes, minimum wage equals minimum effort.
One reader commented that I was a hypocrite because I routinely rail against the wealthy elites yet I also have enough money to buy a cheeseburger at Wendy’s. That struck me as a pretty buck wild argument, but I did confess to ordering the Dave’s Double like some debauched Roman emperor, so I guess I had it coming.
Another complaint, however, struck a chord with me.
One reader complained that Wendy’s employees shouldn’t be making $20 an hour because there are nurses making $20 an hour.
This is an argument I hear pretty often, particularly when it comes to raising the minimum wage to $15. Of course, the battle for a $15 minimum wage has been going on for so long that $15 is now too low; had minimum wage increased in line with productivity and inflation, it would be somewhere around $26 an hour now.
I’m reminded of a phenomenon called “crab mentality.” According to anecdotal evidence, if you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, they’ll all try to crawl out. Whenever one crab is able to work its way to the rim of the bucket and get a taste of freedom, the other crabs will drag it back down in their own efforts to escape.
Humans may be significantly more advanced and substantially less delicious, but we’re wired the same way as crabs. When we see someone else succeeding faster than we are, there’s an innate desire to grab them and pull them back down to our level.
When it comes to wages, we need less crab mentality in the world; we need to replace it with blackjack mentality.
One of the biggest rookie mistakes in blackjack is paying attention to what the other players are doing; there are very few situations where the other players will affect your strategy. In blackjack, you’re not playing against the other players, you’re playing against the house.
I absolutely think that fast food employees should be making $20 an hour at least; again, that’s still below where the minimum wage ought to be. But I also think a nurse should be making more than a fast food employee. Preparing my cheeseburger is a noble and important pursuit, but if someone is stabbing a needle into me, the stakes are somewhat higher.
But where, you ask, will all this money come from?
Normally I would say it should come from taxing billionaires, but I insist on only buying name-brand sour cream, so I guess it would be hypocritical for me to suggest that.