Time makes liars of us all. Whether it be a broken promise, a prediction that didn’t come true, or by repeating a fact that later turned out untrue. We’ve all been there we started out with the best of intentions but time weaved its mysterious magic and here we are, our breath taste of falsehood and our pants are smoking.
This is the story of overtime, a rosy-cheeked child led astray by a wicked world.
It started out innocently enough. The forty-hour work week was instituted. If the company wanted its employees to work more it had to fairly compensate them.
Let’s for the purposes of demonstration think of ourselves as two people. As a wage employee and an overtime employee.
The wage employee would work 40 hours a week and his compensation would afford them the necessities plus a small surplus discretionary income.
The overtime employee was a go-getter who was working for an opportunity. A big purchase, saving money, a business venture. They weren’t just surviving, they were living.
Fast forward almost a hundred years. Overtime has become an institution and like all institutions its a tool for the wealthy to exploit the poor.
The creation of overtime was brilliant. Genius if I may say so, but there was one thing the creators of overtime could not foresee. Inflation!
Inflation is a poorly understood phenomenon like a black hole we see its effects but not what causes it or what drives it.
Inflation is a mathematical necessity, not a constant because that implies it doesn’t change. It is in constant flux but its presence will always be there.
That is because money is tied to resources and resources have two values. Perceived value and actual value.
Perceived value is the devil we know from supply and demand. The less there is of a resource the more its worth.
The actual value is the opposite of perceived value. As a resource gets spent the less good it is at doing its job. The less oil we have the fewer cars can run. The actual value is in a state of decline %99.99r of the time. There are slight upticks of course and for those living in those upticks happy day. For the rest of us, we are living in a state if perpetual doom, but it’s a slow doom… So. Yay?
Anyway, inflation is derived from the difference in perceived value and actual value. I don’t have an equation yet because I lack practical data, but it’s there.
So we know the cause of inflation, but what drives it? While there are many factors, including wages, but I find the most dominant factor is the greed of the wealthy. Their desire for perceived value drives prices hire faster than anything.
Now it should be noted I’m not against the wealthy. (It should also be noted that while all wealthy possess some level of greed they are not all ”greedy.’) Their greed is a feature, and I’m speaking of it as more accumulative group greed than an individual trait. Simply put the wealthy are that way because they are very good at collecting and keeping money. Used properly this is a fantastic resource, but I digress.
Back from the aside. What does this have to do with pore innocent overtime? A lot actually. As inflation increases and wages stagnant every day a worker makes a little less money. If current estimations are correct that means almost every worker is getting played half of what they are worth. So when you double a half salary you only get a whole salary. This is the best case scenario most are only making three-quarters of what they are worth at the best of times.
Let’s look back at our two workers. Our wage worker isn’t doing so well. They are in dept and the bills are pilling up. The daily struggle of making ends meet is a losing battle.
The overtime worker is a drowning wretch clinging to a piece of flotsam. They no longer elect to work overtime they do it to survive.
This is because of wage workers aren’t being paid what they are worth for the forty hours they work, and overtime workers are only working part-time most of the time. And nobody is making the extra money that overtime promises.
This is how companies use overtime to keep the workforce small and the compensation low. They have a stock of full-time, underpaid workers, and a stock of part-time fully compensated workers. The fact that they are the same people doesn’t matter to the company. It never pays full price for labor.
This is not to say I’m against overtime if the wage disparity is corrected even moderately it starts to do its job again.
What can be done to fix it? Nothing. Or rather don’t change what you are already doing. It should be sufficient.
The theoretical answer is, of course, break up monopolies to keep inflation low and keep baseline wages in step with inflation. These aren’t liberal solutions they are common sense economics.
It is as I said if you believe in the solution you are already working towards it. If not you are working against it. The math will out. (Common sense will win in the long run, for a time at least.)