That'll be a large #4 with a side of exploitation
At this point in your life I would have hoped by now that you have heard of everyone's favorite economist/philosopher Karl Marx. Mr. Marx, of whom I will provide a brief breakdown in a subsequent paragraph, had a concept regarding exploitation. According to Marx you are exploited to do more work then gets reattributed to you to produce goods and services. Now, this concept appears to be alive more then ever in our present society, especially for those of us with low maintenance "college jobs," performing relatively lower skilled tasks for piss-poor wages. So whom is to blame? Is it the fat cat corporations not paying the worker bees enough dough? What about the silly employees not coming together as a team but standing in line to acquire any job forth coming based on what little experience they have?
Well for those of you not really aware of Marx, he is the guy responsible for Marxism which gave birth to Communism and Socialism. What is Marxism you ask? Well Marx wanted to simplify the roles of our economy into two parts the bourgeoisie (the ruling class) and the proletariat (the laboring class). He foresaw that all set ups of economy would consistently fail until we set up some system of sharing. Among his basis for believing that the capitalist and what-not economies would eventually fail was essentially in his concept of exploitation. As great in theory as this all was when applied and eventually skewed by many governments it ran into a lot of commotion. Regardless, Marxism remains, in George Orwell's phrase, unique in its ability to "let economic cats out of ideological bags."
Regarding the concept of exploitation Marx is in effect saying that a typical worker doing, let's say, an eight hour work day, spends four hours earning their wage and then gives the other four to the capitalist for free. This is possible because unlike any other commodity, labor power can generate value in excess of its own exchange rate and this surplus value ends of being received by the exploiter. The reason it must be emphasized that this occurs is because of the worker's weak bartering position in the whole scheme of things.
Now I (the writer) work in a place which will remain relatively nameless where COMPuters are sold to the United States of America (Yeah unfortunately THIS isn't my day job). In this retail establishment I repair computers and am paid a relatively well wage for my services compared to employees in my similar working situation. However each technician has a goal of $45 per HOUR that they are expected to make for the company by keeping up a consistent level of computer fixing productivity. This amount is FOUR to FIVE TIMES the amount of what an individual employee gets paid per hour to work in this tech shop. In Quarter 4 of Fiscal Year 2002 my productivity alone produced $18,369.95 and what did I make in this three month period before taxes $5,850.66. So the company ends up exploiting my labor TRIPLE of what I am getting reimbursed. Now try and keep in mind that I am one of the highest paid employees working in my specific environment.
So where in the HELL could all this money be going? Well if you've worked in retail for as long as I have (shudder... five years) you will start to realize that money is not in fact made on the sales of the product initially intended for trading in these establishments. The major bucks are made in compliment (side-kick) products and services. For instance a necessary audio cable purchased at a previous retail employer of mine would cost the average buyer twenty to sixty bucks. The actual cost of damn near all of these cables would be, oh anywhere from five cents to two bucks. These items like accessories, extended warranties, and services are essentially areas of mass margin for our retail friends.
Well why in the HELL do I care where the bastards on top make their money? Why can't I still earn at least half of what I am expected to produce for my damn bosses? Well this is definitely a valid concern, but basically the reason you can't is because the companies you work for wish to eventually expand. They also would like to be able to pay the highest dollar to attract intelligent men and women on top that will cause the company to in turn make more money. Some companies have heard the cry of the little people and kicked back commission to technicians and sales associates then charged more for the product; however those companies generally end up failing or being bought out (R.I.P. Computer City).
Can't we revolt, start a union, and demand better pay for being the poor unfortunates on the front line of these money making corporations? Well in my situation a lot of kids are generally entering the work force being more computer savvy then generations passed. So if I and my fellow technician brethren wish to stir up a ruckus they could in theory can the lot of us and bring in a gang of 16 year olds ready to do for minimum wage what we demanded top dollar for. Even though this new wave of youngsters will be under skilled the loss in profits due to having a legion of idiots employed is countered by the money saved by paying the morons their chicken feed.
Well I don't have any answers as to how we should fix the economy I am no Adam Smith nor do I presume to be a young Crazy Karl. Yet one of my ideas on how to "solve" this problem results more in finding a real job that pays you to do what you normally perform but for higher wages; not in the same market like retail, but elsewhere such as the county or casinos. Another solution is in a wonderful working gift based economy partially employing some of Marxism and just using a sprinkle of hippie kinship. Most of us are on the right track of avoiding exploitation by obtaining our degree yet none of us can foresee the future and maybe we are the ones that will go on exploiting others in a just or unjust fashion. If you fall into that role just try and remember when you were that puppy dogged faced kid standing behind some counter recommending something to someone you knew that they would never need. When you take this jaunt down memory lane please end up put it to good use... for the children.