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I have three jobs and I still can’t pay rent

The world we live in is one ruled by capitalism and revolves around those who are making the effort to maintain a capitalist world economy. How much you have in wealth is tied to your self worth and perceived worth, so basically, who you are and how people see you. If you benefit from capitalism, you are seen as successful, with no regard given whether the system is intentionally created to benefit you or not. Likewise, if you are not benefitting from capitalism, it is perceived that you are a failure. Taking or using welfare tools or donations is seen as needy or greedy or avoidable when in reality you are merely taking the needed steps to survive in an economy created to fundamentally work against you. 

This sets up a system where the exploitation of workers for a larger and larger amount of capital has officially become the norm. Ideas of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and shoving your own way into capitalist benefit literally originated in Puerto Rico with “Operation Bootstrap” in the late 1940s. In this plan, the United States created exploitative work for people of the island, while making sure that there were not enough jobs for everyone, making it easier to convince people to migrate onto the US mainland as a new, desperate, and most importantly exploitable source of labor both on and off the island. The United States said that this would create employment for the island, giving the population more funds which all imply that Puerto Ricans will gain the opportunity to better climb the class/social ladder.

The United States as a government, in support of both itself and its affiliated companies, investors, and lobbying groups wants to minimize their bottom line and pay their workers as little as they can so more can go in their pockets. This way of thinking is majorly flawed because the capitalist needs someone to buy their goods and of all the workers are just enough to live there is gonna be no one to buy their goods. Right now the minimum wage in Puerto Rico for workers not covered by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act is 6.55, 70 cents lower than the federal minimum. Lowering the minimum wage below that will do nothing but depower the working-class people and make it more difficult for them to get by and live their life.

 Articles like this one and this one justify lowering the minimum wage by saying that there is not enough evidence saying that raising it will be any good and even go as far as to say that raising it will be catastrophic. The biggest case made is that raising the minimum wage will also come with an increase in unemployment while a decrease in the wage will create more jobs as capitalists will be able to pay more people. They also argue that prices will rise to meet the payments and will put us back where we started. All these reasons are not only flawed but short sited. 

Cutting the wage might lead to more jobs due to more money being available to pay but it does not do anything to increase the buying power of those with money and makes it worse for them. Without the price of living also going down cutting people’s pay is just going to make their lives more difficult and deter them from consuming goods. With how crucial money going back into the system that is capitalism and people buying things it makes no sense to lower the buying power of the people in it.

This way of thinking is flawed as it makes it seem like the company has no other way to make more money to pay employees other than cutting them or raising prices. It stems from the idea I mentioned earlier of capitalists trying to maximize their profits. CEOs are making more than they ever have now and this greed has made it so the working class is struggling just to live. It is also why plans for raising the minimum wage might not work. Instead of taking the money they are making and hiring more or paying more these CEOs are keeping it to themselves. If they took a pay cut they could very easily compensate for the rise in the minimum wage. 

As much sense as raise in the minimum wage in Puerto Rico, it is only a band-aid in the problem that is its economy. As of 2019, Puerto Rico is 74 billion dollars in debt. This unescapable amount is the root of many of Puerto Rico’s problems and can not be solved in just one easy move. While raising the minimum wage would help the people with jobs and most likely stimulate the economy unless there’s also a system set up to create jobs for those that do not have one it will be meaningless. Subsiding job-creating opportunities or creating more government jobs would do a lot to a country with 7.7% unemployment. 

These plans to lower the minimum wage are only to further the exploitation of the working class and to widen the wealth gap that is already huge. It only benefits the capitalist to lower them goes against how the capitalist system is meant to work. More meaningful and proactive policies can be done if the U.S. government really wants to help the people of Puerto Rico but the history of the U.S. says otherwise. Protests growing in Puerto Rico demonstrate that the people are tired of being exploited by not only capitalist but their own government as well. With the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló hopefully, brighter days are ahead for Puerto Rico.

1 Comment

  1. Great job, Jeremy! This is well written and argued (with great deployment of memes LOL) If there were more time in the semester I would have asked for minor revisions for clarity of your main recommendation, but overall this is excellent.

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