But somehow you can still navigate around here without tripping over a dead twenty-five-year-old. In fact, they look pretty hale. They're stacked on sofas and tanked on lattes and they wheel happily down the street with their laptops tucked in their bike bags and good will tucked into their smiles. Is it possible they can make it on selling coffee and buying coffee?
I'm starting to think it's possible. I'm not acquiring much anymore. But I do love to go out to a good restaurant now and then. Or walk a dozen miles and stop somewhere for an IPA and something off the happy hour menu. Sometimes it seems like an indulgence when we already have a good cook at home who is not me. But here's what happens. Every dollar we spend out there goes in someone's pocket. It's a waitron's or a cook's or a farmer's or a vintner's or a mushroom gatherer's pocket. And then they all go out and buy a latte or a bike light or groceries or a haircut. And then the people they give the dollar to--the very same dollar--go out and do the same thing. Our dollars are making the rounds, and everyone's making out all right.
Any economy based on making out like a bandit is doomed to have victims, but if we all provide a reasonable product or service we can hold each other up. That's why I've started paying close attention to the latest movement to raise the minimum wage. Not by the usual four cents, but to something a person might be able to live on: $15 an hour. But that can't last, they say. Eventually all the prices go up and then no one can afford anything and you have wage inflation and pretty soon everyone's poor again. Really? Apparently you can offer $15 an hour to everyone working at Burger Barn and it will inflate the price of a standard meal by seventeen cents or so. Sure, prices might rise a little, but if we can't afford to buy things unless someone is forced to work all day long and not make enough to live on, then we're profiting off slavery, or something close enough to it. Is it any better if our slaves are an ocean away, and eight years old? Is it okay if we just don't bother to think about it?
So fuck them. Let's raise the federal minimum wage to $15. We'll agree to pay a tiny bit more for what we need or enjoy, and we'll pass all our dollars around the community until they come back to us.