The Return of Mr. Block: The Minimum Wage by Thomas Martin Saturday


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In the early part of the last century, radical labor used the cartoon character Mr. Block to demonstrate how the average working man acts and votes against his own interests. The depiction of Mr. Block with a head that is a wood block not so subtly suggests the man is, well, a blockhead. In the waning days of Babylon, we see America has more than its share of blockheads. The results of the midterm elections are proof enough. Mr. Block holds strictly to the views of his employers, and what he perceives is truth itself as espoused by Teabagger conservatives. Mr. Block spends far too much of his money at a neighborhood bar where political discussions are free, but the beer is expensive, and watered down.

MR. BLOCK ON INCREASING THE MINIMUM WAGE

“Hello Mr. Block. What’ll it be?”

“Oh the usual I guess.”

“Right you are, I’ll pull a pint of Fairy Tale for ‘ya,” said Mr. Factchecker the friendly barkeep.

Mr. Block took a long draft and rubbed his mouth with his sleeve.

“You know Factchecker, it sure is nice that we repudiated Obama, and smashed the Democrats in the midterms. Now we’ll hear no more silly talk of minimum wage increases from those fools.”

Factchecker wrinkled a brow and brought a moist towel across the bar. “Why do you say being for increasing the minimum wage is foolish?”

“Well, anyone knows that increasing the minimum wage kills jobs,” said Mr. Block, taking another sip of beer.

“How you figure that?”

Mr. Block shook the heavy timber above his shoulders as if this were common knowledge. “They tell me it makes hiring workers too expensive, so they don’t hire people and reduce hours for the rest.”

“Don’t you think making $7.25 an hour in an under forty hour a week job is reason enough to argue for a wage increase?”

Mr. Block took his time with his answer, looked up imploringly at the mud spattered ceiling and then smiled. “I’ve got it.”

“Got what?” replied Factchecker.

“Your answer. Most of the people working fast food or low end retail is just a bunch of pimply-faced teenagers looking for spending money mom and pop won’t give them. Any kind of wage should do for that.” Block folded his arms and looked as much like an Einstein as a block of wood could manage.

“That seems a little odd since U.S. Labor Department statistics show two thirds are middle aged adults supporting children, and far too many of the millions of these people are single parents, mostly women.”

Block scratched the side of the solid oak and was puzzled. “That really true?”

Factchecker just nodded. “What do you think would happen if people say get fifteen dollars an hour instead?”

“That’s easy. The problem to keep people working would just be that much worse, and we’d have a whole barrelful of inflation.”

“You know Mr. Block,” replied Factchecker, “our economy is nowhere near full capacity to cause a lot of inflation, and inflation has been running low for a decade and more. What’s more, what do think you would do with such a large pay increase?”

“I’d spend it all stupid. I don’t have anywhere near enough money to cover this glass of beer, let alone the rent and the rest,” said Block with a sigh.

“What would happen if a whole bunch of blockheads came in where you work and bought stuff they needed?”

Mr. Block looked like he was being asked to extend the reach of theoretical physics. “They’d really have to gear up at our place and hire people to keep up with all the new business we’d get.”

“And the company’s profits and economic growth?” Factchecker waited patiently for the logical end point even Mr. Block would reach.

“Gosh, the company would make a bundle. . . and”. . . Block just sat there, with a look of revelation in his eyes, and slapped ten dollars on the bar, and got up and turned to leave.

“Hey Mr. Block! You haven’t finished this beer of yours. Where you going?” called Factchecker, surprised Block had paid in full and given him a nice tip besides.

“Goin’ to ask my boss for that raise to fifteen bucks an hour. It seems a mighty good deal to me.”

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