What No One Will Tell You About Minimum Wage and Capitalism

I’ve been told too many times to count that I’m naive when it comes to the way I think about the world and the “liberal” views that I hold on the way things work–or at least, the way I think they should work. And I willingly admit that I am a deeply opinionated person who probably holds too many opinions on things she knows very little about. But on the flip side, everyone who’s ever told me I’m naive has just as many opinions on things that they equally know nothing about. I’m no economist, but I am living the hourly grind, and with all the fuss that comes with cities like Los Angeles and Seattle raising the minimum wage, I wanted to share something that I’ve had a lot of time to think about: My thoughts on minimum wage.

Let’s begin with the concept of “deserve” because this buzz word seems to come up a lot in conversations about minimum wage salaries. Let me breeze through this one quickly by saying if you use this as an argument for, or against, raising minimum wage–either way–just go home now. Whether a person “deserves” to be paid more or less is a totally inoperable way of thinking, as not only does everyone have differing opinions as to who deserves what, it’s invalid in its reasoning because everyone “deserves” to live, and part of living is making a living wage. (In this case, the term “living wage” is used to mean a specific income that is required to meet basic human needs.)

Speaking of the “living wage,” did you know that the living wage for Los Angeles is around $13/hr? Do you want to know how much minimum wage in Los Angeles is? $9/hr.

Huh.

Well that seems weird because that would mean that men and women who work full-time minimum wage jobs are not making enough to provide for their own basic needs. Which means that they aren’t making what they “deserve” (just to drill it home for you).

Yep.

But doesn’t that go against the whole idea of “minimum” wage? Like, there’s a minimum wage possible that you can pay your employees because they have to be able to live?

mmmhhmm.

I once took a class in college that studied the history of peace and conflict and the historical causes of certain instances of peace and instances of conflict and war. The class was amazing, and I learned so much about structural and hidden violence, stereotypes, and think tanks. However, something that my teacher told me that has not only stuck with me, but also haunted me since is this: “Capitalism was built on slavery, and survives on slavery. The only difference being that in today’s world, capitalism is functioning on less visible forms of slavery. So, sweatshops, minimum wage, unpaid internships–you know, the things you’re already used to seeing/hearing about, might have experienced yourself. If a company isn’t outsourcing, then they are acquiring source materials for a free or extremely cheap rate to keep costs low and competitive–this usually results in some form of abuse on natural resources, like bottling companies that drain community water reservoirs because they are not strictly regulated.

In other words, the “greed” which “fuels” corporations and businesses to compete and grow or die trying (the philosophy behind Capitalism) also fuels “resources” like poorly-paid sweatshop and field workers in third-world countries and creates reasons as to why minimum wage workers here can’t be paid a proper living wage.

And yes, there are arguments against increasing minimum wage because of the damaging inflation it causes and the fact that sooner rather than later inflation will catch up to the wage (probably before a new minimum wage even goes into effect) which will render the new minimum wage obsolete. It’s a vicious cycle. But it’s a vicious cycle that’s also partly fueled (again) by the desire to make as big a profit margin as possible. Yes, companies raise prices to cover larger staffing expenses. But they also raise prices to keep their profit margins the same, because they can’t accept living on a smaller profit.

Now, this obviously isn’t a perfect argument, as small business often get thrown under the bus with big corporations when they are simply trying to keep their heads above water. I’m not saying that every single business has a huge, greedy profit margin. That’s not always the case. But it does bother me that there are people who work at places like Walmart and still need public assistance, and while that’s going on, others are being ignorant assholes using the whole “deserve” argument I mentioned earlier.

The living wage is different in every city, and so perhaps $15/hr minimum wage doesn’t make sense in every place. But my bet is that with inflation the way it is now, by the time LA hits the year 2020, even $15/hr won’t be livable.

So that’s my two cents. Hate me, call me names for trying to knock capitalism off its stupid pedestal, say I’m a socialist (I’m okay with that), whatever. I don’t care. This is how I view the world.

-tlc

 

 

Surviving in LA: What You Shouldn’t Spend Your Money On

I’m sure by now you’ve heard it at least once–and if you live in LA, then you’ve definitely heard it a thousand times (and know it to be true)–that it costs an arm and a leg to live in LA…and maybe a kidney and a lung as well.

But at the same time, you can make a bigger living out in LA, too, so why all the fuss? Why do so many people struggle to make ends meet? There are so many different types of jobs and all kinds of paying work that you can find out here, why does everyone (including yours truly) feel the suffocating pressure to have more–need more–money? It goes beyond the natural human tendency to be greedy. It’s an exhausting fear that anyone and everyone living in LA who can’t afford a Range Rover as their everyday-commute car experiences.

Let me break it down for you: ignoring the socio-economic and political roots behind poverty and its persistence (because getting into that discussion would be an entirely new mess to untangle in itself) let’s just assume that the target group I am referring to are twenty-somethings and young thirty-somethings who come from upper-lower class and middle class backgrounds, trying to make a go of it in LA in job fields that aren’t rolling in the dough (i.e. any job that doesn’t exist in silicon valley or Seattle–I’m convinced even the baristas in Seattle know how to code). Often these jobs are gig-to-gig, and not steady office jobs, but even steady jobs can be somewhat of a challenge financially. So here’s why, even with an income coming in that is marginally better than the income you could get for the same job in the midwest, the financial struggle in LA seems so much more daunting: besides the constant reminder that you are poor by comparison to that guy driving the Ferrari in the lane next to you, there are just more expenses.

End of story, that’s it, show’s over, enough said.

Even if I didn’t take into account that real estate out here drives rent prices through the roof (literally), the cost of driving a car and routine maintenance (because that smog is killer on a car body), along with the price of food (meat will cost you your firstborn, so you might as well go vegetarian) and unforeseen costs (i.e. things that shouldn’t cost you money but do because people out here what to squeeze every dollar they can out of you, like parking) make it difficult to feel like you have a dollar to hold in your hand.

That being said, here are some tips I’ve learned to help cut back your expenses and save every dollar you can to prepare for the jobocalypse (that thing where the gig you’re working on now wraps up and you don’t have another job lined up because life):

1) Furniture–There are so many people moving in and out of LA every single day, it seems like there is always an estate sale going on, and tons of curbside pick-up opportunities. A word of caution, though: even wood can carry bed bugs, along with termites and other pests so be careful choosing what you’ll bring into your home. I also say this in the midst of attempting my own apartment, and though I stand by what I say, I should also warn you that it does take some patience. Whole apartments were not furnished for free in a day, people.

2) Fruit–Okay, so you might have to buy some fruit in the grocery store if you eat a lot of it, I get that, but chances are, if you drive around whatever neighborhood you live in, you’ll eventually come upon a lemon, lime, orange, avocado, or even pomegranate tree. Our new apartment has an avocado tree in the backyard, and I used to pass a pomegranate tree on my way to my first internship every day. You guys, you can seriously live off of avocados for weeks at a time. WEEKS.

3) Food–Speaking of food, holy crap is there so much free food if you know where to go! Especially if you work in the industry on a production, there is ALWAYS food! And if you’re super nice to the Crafty person, you might even get to take home leftovers. I literally have not spent over $25/mo on food in three months’ time. It’s insane. A lot of free networking events will also have food, and if nothing else, go to the grocery store and buy individual ingredients for a simple dish, like soup, make a large amount of broth and prepare your ingredients, then freeze the meal in individual serving sizes and live off of that. I’ve still got the makings for about another five chicken vegetable soups in the freezer, and I prepped that back in January.

4) Clothes–Here again, estate sales and garage sales are going on ALL THE TIME. And it’s not always gross, worn, ugly stuff. You can find some legit trendy vintage stuff for an affordable price. If that’s still too shady for you, there are a million and one thrift stores around town. And we’re not talking all those trendy thrift-but-we’re-as-expensive-as-nordstrom stores. We’re talking decent, clean, affordable clothing. Besides, a person doesn’t need a whole new wardrobe every season, or even every year, particularly if you don’t have the budget for that.

5) Mani/Pedis–If you’re a woman (or a guy–no shame) who needs to Treat Herself (Himself) every once in a while, just go to the beach! The sand serves as a natural exfoliator and the beach is so relaxing anyways! So much better than sitting in a cheap massage chair and having a strange man pick at your nails.

This is a short list, but I’ve once again managed to turn this into a long post, so I’ll stop here for now. If you want any opinions on a specific thing you spend money on, or would like more advice on this subject, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can drum up!

-tlc

What You Need To Hear About Fuck-Ups

First may I say, pardon the language, but “mistake” seemed too small, and “disaster” was just dramatic. No, indeed “Fuck-Up” is truly the only way to describe the day at work I’m going to tell you about.

First, have I mentioned that I love my job and the people I work with? I work with the most amazingly professional, kind-hearted, and understanding people. I will truly be sorry when this season ends and everyone starts going their separate ways. In some ways, though, (as I know I’ve said before) that makes it so much worse when I do mess up, because it means I’m disappointing people and causing headaches/frustration at a job that I actually care about. Does that sound terrible? I mean, I’m not a careless person even if I hate the job I’m doing, but it’s just worse when I don’t hate it.

On to my actual story/point.

This week I had the worse day at work I’ve ever had since starting this job, and it was entirely, wholly, completely my fault. It wasn’t a HUGE fuck-up, but a fuck-up none-the-less.

Sidenote: Have you ever had those days where you make one mistake, and then it somehow snowballs into something increasingly terrible until you start to wonder if maybe you’re really Truman and suddenly you’re paranoid that everything around you is somehow a camera that’s recording your every movement? Only me? Okay.

You’re probably really curious to know what this fuck-up was, now that I’ve built it up into this terribly dramatic thing. You ready? Here it is: It somehow escaped my notice that we were down to less than a full box of white, 3-hole punch, copy paper. Anticlimactic?  Maybe for you, but I’ll have you know I print scripts for a living. And I’m not the only one. There’s about fifteen people in our office that could need to print scripts at any moment, meaning the need for 3-hole punch copy paper and lots of it is very, very real.

As the resident person who prints scripts for a living in the office, part of my job is to let the resident office supply orderer (don’t you love our occupational titles?) know when we are low on printer paper. So imagine my regret when I came to work one day this week and discovered that not only were we extremely low on 3-hole punch paper, but that we were almost out on a script printing night. Not just any script-printing night. Shooting script night. The night I have to print twice as many scripts as any other night. Queue Hans Zimmer: *The Fuck-Up begins.*

Since I was the one who somehow missed how incredibly low on paper we were, naturally, I was the one who made the run to Staples to buy some more paper to hold us over until our paper order was due in the next day. I went for two boxes of reams, but Staples was entirely out of boxes of reams. Thank God they still had individual packages of reams, but did you know that a single ream of paper is something like three times the price it would be still in the box? Ridiculous. So I wound up walking away from Staples with about half of the amount of paper I came for, for about twice the price. *The Fuck-Up Continues.*

Things for most of the rest of the day went okay, but I could tell that my Fuck-Up was an added frustration and distraction on top of an already-stressful day. Still, I thought things were starting to calm down and that I might have a peaceful evening of trying to forget about my stupidity, until we got word at the very end of the day that the production schedule was changing, including the episode that we would be shooting for the next week, which meant that a new batch of Table Draft scripts would need to be printed.

On the one day that we were scraping for script paper. FML

At this point I was so fed up with the day that life had thrown me I couldn’t even process sentences that people were saying to me correctly. I must have offered about a dozen times to come in early the next morning to print scripts, to a continuous and unanimous “no” from my bosses because I wouldn’t have a long enough turnover. However, when they kept telling me it was because I was expecting a late night waiting for the current shooting script to be finalized, I–for some reason I can’t even explain other than that at that point my brain had just given up for the day–thought they meant that I would be having a long day the next day (a non-printing day and typically my early night). Just the fail on top the Fuck-Up cake, I suppose.

But why am I telling you all of this? Is it because I want your pity? Your sympathy? Is it because I like being a potty-mouth on the internet where everything is forever? Heaven’s sake, no. I’m telling you all of this because there is something that I think every twenty-something needs to hear about Fuck-Ups that I just learned from this very-first fuck-up at my very-first real, I-care-about-this job. What I think you need to hear is this:

Fucking-Up is nothing if you put your big kid pants on, patch-up the problem as best you can, and move on. Feeling sorry for yourself, disrupting work flow, and/or not learning from your mistakes and making changes to ensure they don’t happen again are the real fuck-ups.

When I came into work and found out the situation, I accepted responsibility right away. I didn’t try to argue, I didn’t blame someone else, I didn’t make an excuse as to why it happened. I made note of the issue and the immediate solution (running to Staples for more paper) and recognized that the best thing I could do was to make sure that I didn’t cause anymore disruption to the workflow, and to make sure that things continued as smoothly as possible despite my fuck-up. I did my best to make myself as available and helpful as possible to ease any frustration my fuck-up caused. I made sure the morning PAs knew how to print the Table Draft scripts properly, I printed the shooting draft scripts, prepped the paper as best I could for the morning print, and went home. The next day, I left any mopey, sorry-for-myself feelings at home, and came in to work with a bright attitude. I made sure I had a solution to prevent making the same fuck-up twice, and I did my best to be on-top of things and as helpful as possible.

And you know what? It was a good day.

Fuck-ups happen. Deal with it, learn from it, and move on.

Here’s to hoping that it never, ever happens again, though.

-tlc

 

 

Finding A Place In LA And Making It A Home

After nine months of living in temporary housing in LA, my roommates and I have finally moved into our own apartment with a year-long lease. It’s both terrifying and exciting to think about making that long of a commitment to such a come-and-go place that has such temporary feel to it. I came out here to test the waters, see if I could make a go of it, if I really liked it out here and if things felt right. In that time I’ve learned so much about who I am and what my choices mean for me and my future. I’ve shed that strange bubble we build for ourselves in school, and that strange feeling you get coming to the end of college–as if you are nearing the final stretch of your life, and only have one possible path to live out, instead of the beginning of your life and the many paths you have to choose from for the rest of it.

I’m not saying I’m committed to LA for the rest of my life, or even for the year’s time of my lease; I’m simply choosing to take the next step in building my career here in LA. And let me tell you, it feels so good to finally feel somewhat settled. I’m still not LA’s biggest fan, but I also don’t feel so foreign here anymore. I’m starting to appreciate things about this city, its people, and what it has to offer.  It’s both beautiful and ugly at the same time.

I saw all this knowing that this city can chew you up and spit you out. I write this at a time when many of the friends I’ve made since moving here have given up on the shiny fake hopes that Hollywood radiates and are seeking refuge and peace in other places. I am both happy for their bravery and peace with departure, and saddened by the heartache and distress this place has caused them.

In high school, I was always the quirky, loud girl who didn’t quite fit in with any of the crowds I hung around. A lot of this was because I never felt like I truly had a place among the other students and my friends. The other part was that I didn’t know how to make life-long friends yet. I ran from drama like it was the plague, but gossiped because I didn’t know the difference between gossip and conversation. It’s funny now because LA is the physical, geographical embodiment of everything that defined my inability to fit in in high school: It is both dreamy and harsh, friendly and lonesome.

I never had any desire to move to LA, until I realized that I might just be crazy enough to try and pursue the dreams that never seemed like a possibility, even in college. Kansas is a very practical place (well, other than Brownback, who is completely delusional–but that’s another post altogether) but I am an impractical dreamer. And though I’m not a NYC writer, or a Londoner like I once fantasized, I’m somewhere, doing something I never thought possible. And I love it.

So, for all this rambling, maybe the only point I have for this post is this: Go somewhere and do something you want to do; something you think you’ll love.  And find a place and make it home.

-tlc

Learning To Be An Adult In The Not-So-Great-Ways

I’m a perfectionist. It’s a quality that comes with both good and bad aspects. On the one hand, I do my job and I do it well, no matter what. On the other hand, anytime I fall behind for reasons out of my control, I beat myself up for it. I can be moody, on the inside of course–because being anything other than personable to everyone is unacceptable–and being moody on the inside sucks. Because as much as you hate people who shove their emotions and bad attitudes on you (otherwise known as “bitchy” people), let’s face it: if you don’t get those feelings out, they don’t go away, they just make you crazy.

So being a perfectionist makes me a little crazy, and the worse part is that the only way to deal with being a little less crazy is by becoming more of a perfectionist and figuring out ways to solve whatever issue is making you crazy. Double-edged sword, Hamster Wheel, Bottomless Pit of Hell–whatever you want to call it, being a perfectionist makes for a rough life.

So now that you know this about me, I’m sure you can understand how crazy it makes me that I can’t seem to hear what people are saying when they call me on my phone at work. It’s starting to make me doubt my hearing. Should I go to a doctor? Is it my phone? Is it a little bit of both? If yes to the first question and last question, then where should I go for an appointment? A Primary Care Doc? An Audiologist? I don’t even have a doctor out here in LA yet. Where should I go for that?  And if it’s not me, how do I fix my phone? Or, how do I make sure to get people’s names right without asking them a thousand times, or spending five minutes having them spell their name for me? Guys, I just want to be a writer. Can’t we all go home now, and I’ll e-mail you later?

There’s a lot of great and exciting things that come with being an adult out of college. You finally get your own apartment (probably with roommates, but hey, at least you can buy alcohol and have friends over now).  You get a paycheck that (hopefully!) amounts to more than covering the cost of a weekend of Taco Bell dinners. You get to call more of the shots on what you do with your life, and when you do it. It’s amazing.

But then your body starts getting old, even though you’re only in your 20’s and you start wondering what the hell is wrong? And pretty soon you have to find a dentist, and a doctor, and you’re paying a monthly gym membership fee because you realize that pizza and wine for dinner every night of the week probably has something to do with why you feel like crap all the time and you have to buy bigger pairs of jeans. You guys, adulthood is not fun. Adulthood is a freaking nightmare.

Adulthood is forcing yourself to do all of those things you avoided as a kid, like calling strangers, doing the dishes, going to the doctor, doing your laundry, planning trips, and making your bed, because it’s something that has to be done, and no one else is going to do it. Adulthood is being bored and being too tired to do anything about it. Adulthood is knowing there are all these problems in the world, and knowing how small you are because you’ll never be able to fix all of them.

Maybe the reason we call it “Adulthood” is because being an adult is almost as tough as living in the “hood”–metaphorically speaking. Or maybe that’s way too much of a stretch. I don’t know, but either way, all I want to do is take a nap.

-tlc