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Hi Anna,
I think you are spot on. This issue will continue to be the growing social issue of our time. Innovation in education may be the key. I also agree, raising the "living wage" or providing more public assistance will not solve the problem in the long run.

I recently engaged in a debate with two individuals that are from my generation (early-mid 20's) that are in favor of the $15/hour wage for fast food workers. There are a lot of issues I see in this logic. If a fast food worker is given a 100% increase, the costs of the goods and services that they are producing will inevitably increase dramatically. For the person that was already making $15.00/hour, things just got a lot more expensive. Their employer would need to offer them a large increase to be able to maintain the same standard of living. That company's goods and services would then become more expenses. This cycle goes around and around. Now, with everything having inflated in cost, that $15/hour no longer carries the same spending power. This brings us back to square one.

They were obviously in one of these jobs. I suggested that they attend a local university or trade school to earn a degree or certificate, but primarily to focus on gaining a specialized skill or knowledge that not everyone has. It's simply a matter of supply and demand. When your most valuable skill is held by all but the most severely handicapped, you're (unfortunately) fairly replaceable.

I worked a retail job to pay for my education. Success is all about hard work, desire, and hustle. IMHO, the mentalities of "Everyone gets a trophy!" and "Life is fair." are unfortunate ideals that have coddled many of the younger generation.

Trevor and David,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. This is a tough topic with no easy answers, but I thought that the technology/innovation angle might provide additional and helpful context for consideration.

The intent of the post isn't to simply knock down one proposed solution - the minimum wage hike - but to help us understand the complexity of the challenge. As Isaac Newton taught us - and as most of us in rewards have learned the hard way - every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The world in which income inequality is happening is a complex one, and any single intervention will likely have both positive and potentially negative consequences, short-term effects and longer-term ones. Those who insist otherwise are being disingenuous and/or trying to sell us something.

Thank you so much Ann for your calmly presented and unbiased post. Agree there are no right answers now and if anyone thinks there is s/he doesn't understand the complexity of this issue.

I would suggest a book for reading: "The End of Work" by Jeremy Rifkin. When it was written in 1995 I thought the author was smoking funny cigarettes. I re-read it recently and was blown away at how accurate his predictions were.

In addition he has/had some very "odd" recommendations on how to deal with the issue of job loss to technology. I have read similar recommendations made in the past couple of years so he/they may be on to something.

I'm one of "those" that think that continued strides in technology to not going to be great enough to employee all the people that will be out of jobs.

I would also encourage you to read articles by Michael Spence who has written quite a bit about the impact of globalization on all jobs in the U.S. not just manufacturing ---- in addition the impact of global demographics on consumption.

Enough ---- this one is a definite keeper Ann.

Ironically it was tech firms that first promoted the concept of equity compensation, ostensibly as a way to help involve everyone more equally in their contribution to the growth of a company. 20 years ago large amounts of overhang and flatter equity sharing meant less billionaires and more millionaires.

Today the first 20 get the lions share. If the company does well they often get the hyena's share, the jackal's share, the vulture's share and gnaw on the bones. Very few are part of that food chain.

There are so many factors that play into this: Greed; short-sightedness on the part of founders, investors and markets; narcissism, overvalue of self-worth and undervalue of team dynamics, a general misunderstanding of the reason equity compensation was created as a board-based tool and many other things.

Technology is the great equalizer when utilized and distributed broadly, it is the great differentiator when taken advantage of.


You are the second person to recommend Jeremy Rifkin's book to me - I will have to check it out ... thanks.

I'm familiar with Michael Spence's work - one of his core points being, as I understand it, that the world is increasingly becoming a single market, so if a worker in China (or other developing country) can do the same work as an American, then the market will work to equalize their wages. Good news for the Chinese worker (and for market efficiency); not so much for the American.

Interestingly, Brynjolfsson and McAfee challenge Spence's conclusions and claim that data do not bear out his predictions about globalization. They claim that automation will ultimately impact developing countries more than the developed world. B & A state:

"In the long run, the biggest effect of automation is likely to be on workers not in America and other developed nations, but rather in developing nations that currently rely on low-cost labor for their competitive advantage."

As Spence's conclusions had always seemed logical to me, am still trying to get my head around the above.

Interesting, is it not?

Appreciate your comments!


Very interesting perspective on the history and changes in equity - and the role it has and is playing in this development.

So many levers, so many variables.

Thanks for weighing in.

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