I am a liberal Indy.
A) I think you have to define poverty clearly to get a good answer. I think if by poverty you mean "poor", no. If by poverty you mean in danger of dying, I think yes. A government's responsibility is to protect it's people, be it by military means or by structuring its society to allow it's people to survive.
What we have in America is not free enterprise where people are driven by desire/greed, we have prettied up indentured servitude where people have to work or they will die.
That is a basic constant of nature, but it isn't anything to be proud of.
I think we should remove all payments to the poor and instead offer people the bare minimums in terms of housing, clothing, medicine, food, and education for "free". (In the plan I am envisioning, they would still have to give the government 8 hours a week of work.)
I am talking a TINY efficiency with heat and water, private showers and toilets and communal free laundry, but no power outlets for housing.
Three white t-shirts, five pairs of underwear and socks, one pair of plain shoes, and two pairs of pants a year for clothing.
Free medical care for any illness or life threatening disease.
Cabbage, corn, rice, and a day of meat delivered to their door every week.
Free public education at schools for anyone from 4 up to 18 including 3 square meals for anyone who attends. Loans on very favorable terms to any US citizen who is seeking a college or trade education.
I think almost any of us would find these living conditions substandard, but we would be able to survive. My goal would be to keep the poor healthy, ingrain in them a deeper desire to acheive that immigrants have but 2nd, 3rd, and later generation Americans seem to lack, and give all Americans a well known and easily started pathway to succeed through education.
We have been loud (and perhaps arrogant) proponents of free enterprise, but really until we make work a choice rather than a neccessity, we really don't know whether free enterprise is what we think it is.
1) I think with a fallback position like I have laid out it, there are even fewer arguements against free markets dictating wages although I am still against unlimited salaries in corporations. Corporations are the government covering the asses of the businessman. They remove most of a business's responsibilities to the public and allow poorly run businesses to hang on for far too long. There should be pronounced limits on what employees of corporations should make. I would cap them at a multiple of what the lowest paid employee makes with some deviation for the size (# of US employees) the corporation has. I realize that this would dramatically affect international corporations, but lets be honest --- they need our markets and will quickly comply rather than be barred from them.
In execution, lets say Wal-Mart in a year pays it's lowest paid employee $10 an hour or $20,000K annually. As a large corporation, maybe I'd cap their top employee at 300X that or $6 Million annually. I'd tie their executives max earnings to paying their employees a reasonable wage.
Smaller corporations like an individual McDonald's store might be set at 200X or 100X. I would remove a lot of the business protections that incorporating provides and instead offer govt. backed business insurance for low risk buisnesses like retail and resturants. I would make it financially cheap and easy for a business to unincorporate.
I would try to get most businesses that have a structural choice back to being sole proprietorships or partnerships.
Taking this into the political for a second, I think large corporations use small "mom & pop" corporations for political cover.
ie. When a politician mentions attacking corporations, the large international corporations state is an attack on business in general and not on large international corporations.
Getting companies that really don't NEED to be incorporated ---- if minimal protections were provided to them cheaply ---- to unincorporate would unmask the growing problems large international corporations are creating in America.
2) You are fishing for a specific answer by not providing appropriate context. In total theoretic terms, you could have total employment by not having a minimum wage. In reality though you would destabilize the country. The poor would not be able to afford any health care and our poor would become disease incubators making everyone much, much sicker. America is filled will losely controlled guns. If people make more through theft than they do through work, crime will run rampant. As the police move to control that, your government expenses (police and prisons) increase. Your poor would look at the police as a suppressing force and start to revolt attacking the government and the rich.
The minimum wage may be distateful to many Americans as it is counter to their views of Free Entrprise as a Panacea for all economic troubles (a concept that is drilled into American school children daily to the point where American adults treat the concept as some sort of deeply held relgious belief) but the minimum wage is a control mechanism to keep the poor from revolting and destabilizing the country. If free enterprise were a sports car, the minimum wage would be the seat belt or the steering wheel.
3) This is a very fuzzy question. I personally think that teens should not be allowed to work, freeing all of those jobs for the semi-retired. It would be a happy day to see a McDonalds filled with old folks working part time jobs. I personally see teen employment as a big part of the problems we have today. We give too much money to people who are too immature to spend it --- but I do fully get that some teens need money for legit reasons --- their kids or families --- and you shouldn't think of stopping kids from working if no counter plans existed to address the needs of these folks.
To follow this a little further... if Kids have no money they won't be driving drunk, they won't be buying "adultish" clothes which would likely decrease the amount of sex they are having, they won't be buying drugs, they won't be eating out at fast food places every day and getting on a life plan that will make them unhealthy. Frankly probably 50?t least of fast foods places would go away over time. The hole in the wall resturants will survive and possibly prosper with reduced competition as generally parents prefer those.
The Semi-retired would probably be a lot more willing to work in McDonalds and the like if they worked in those places with their peers. That income would really help the shortfalls we are having with medicare and social security.
I'd prefer a fairly radical change in the way we execute free enterprise in our society. As Alan Greenspan noted in his latest book, free enterprise is a hugely destructive creative force in spurring an economy forward. I think we do far too much to shackle the destructive side of it with corporations and that will have us falling behind countries like India and China in short order.
Answered By: politicoswizzlestick - 5/17/2008