Teen Vogue leaves out all relevant factors to push wage argument

September 23, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Teen Vogue tells us that the ability to pay the disabled – sorry, the differently abled – less than minimum wage is both an outrage and exploitation of those with those different abilities. Teen Vogue also wildly misunderstands what this is all about in a piece headlined, “The Subminimum Wage for Workers With Disabilities Is a Disgrace.”

The argument made is that everyone has some worth, that’s what the minimum wage is, everyone should be paid that minimum wage. Which is to entirely ignore why there is this opt out for those with disabilities. Because if they had to be paid the full minimum wage they would have no job at all.

We are not talking about people who, with a bit of training, would go further. We are not talking of those untrained who should be. This is about those who truly drew the short straw in life and need to be taken care of by the rest of us, collectively. As we do of course.

It’s necessary to have a specific licence from the Federal govt to be able to pay this less than minimum wage to the disabled. It near entirely applies to those with intellectual problems that mean they’re just never going to be independent. They will be in sheltered housing at least, institutional settings quite probably. Significant personal care help is going to be given simply because it must be. Which is fine, we should and do care for those unable to care for themselves.

The aim of employment here is not to feed off their labor. It would be vastly easier for them not to be employed at all. The employment is to aid in their self-worth, not to make money. Everyone involved is going to be taken care of by society at large for their entire lifetimes, that’s just the population we are talking about. But if they work, for whatever small amount, then they are able to say that this is mine. Mine, I get to spend it as I wish. I have worked for it, it is, again, mine.

No, it doesn’t cover housing, or food, or medical care. We are, again, talking of a population who will never achieve that. Anyone who can achieve that graduates up out of such programs very rapidly indeed. We are all going to be responsible for that for each one of these people for decades to come and that is good. But so also is it good that those reliant upon others gain that sense of personal ownership and reward. This is simply how us humans work.

Perhaps it is simple work. It’s always most definitely work done of little value. Except that value that the individuals involved gain something that is absolutely theirs, to dispose of as they wish. An ice cream at the mall, a Barbie doll, a donation to a charity, they have – however we’ve constructed this situation so that they gain this, they do gain this – earned their own money which they then spend as they wish.

If the full minimum wage had to be paid then the work would not be there, the jobs and independence, however created and illusory it is, would not be there. We are talking of those who get paid less than minimum wage or those who have no financial independence at all.

Teen Vogue gains some 5.4 million visits a month and that audience is, as we would expect, largely among the young and female. The site claims at least that its aim and mission is “to educate the influencers of the future” and that’s a noble goal which we share. We just disagree with how Teen Vogue is going about that.

The subminimum wage for the disabled is not perfect, of course it isn’t. We’d all vastly prefer that there were no such disabled that required this special treatment. The point and aim of that subminimum is to provide – to those disabled, there is no other reason for it at all in this modern world – the pleasure of having earned their own money by the application of the sweat of their brow and their hands. It is, of course, entirely a lie. We don’t need them to work, we could just send them money. But it’s a good lie. It’s a deliberately constructed good lie which makes the lives of those disabled better – by providing that sense of, however illusory, independence and of having their own resources that they have worked for. Which, of course, they get to spend as they wish on whatever they desire because it belongs to them, they worked for it. Despite the rest of us, righteously, taking care of the housing, the food, the medical care and all that.

Now, telling the young of today that would be educational. Pity Teen Vogue didn’t take that opportunity.


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