Start with the premise that every adult goes to college, gets a degree, stays healthy and fulfills the imagined expectations of the steps necessary to achieve the American dream. Every single adult. I know it is a far-fetched premise, but imagine it – or even a future where most adults enter the job market with great educations and equal footing to the job market. Our push toward more education, health and opportunities ultimately results in just such a scenario if we can ever come together and agree upon a common implementation for access to resources.
How do we decide who mops the floors, cooks and delivers the pizza, works at Subway, or digs the ditches? How do continue to pay them less than is needed to sustain themselves?
We could no longer justify a terrible minimum wage. No one would “deserve” it. If we are still able to choose our field of work, most people would choose to do the work that traditionally has been identified as more meaningful. (Some people tell themselves that others have earned or somehow deserve their lower economic place in life. I know you find that hard to believe – that someone could be so dumb, right? Maybe laziness is a factor for some people, but certainly not everyone?) Implicit in this context is the idea that we are demeaning those who do service jobs by assigning their functions to the column of “less important.”
Factor in that we have continued to automate manufacturing and other sectors to such a degree that labor is at a massive surplus. Throw in the idea that we will still have a large population, one which grows increasingly old as health care, diet and lifestyle make further significant inroads toward human longevity.
Since people live longer, they retire later, further minimizing the job pool for those earning their degrees and looking for a spot to work, regardless of pay. No one is to blame as younger adults have no method of earning a living in the way that our ancestors did.
How do we “pay” those who have no means of employment? If we don’t pay them and no jobs are available, how do we fund a system to sustain them?
For those who do work, why would we allow a system of pay that cannot sustain them in the economy? Again, someone has to perform the service jobs and other functions that can’t be done by machines. If people are allowed to choose careers, then we will undoubtedly have a role reversal toward those who are willing to do the service economy jobs that are currently looked down upon by many people. It is indeed a strange possibility to imagine that well-educated people could and would choose occupations that are otherwise considered lower class in our current system.