Matt Levine’s newsletter Money Stuff is always excellent and usually funny. (And the poor man knows I think so.) However, this passage from the August 12th dispatch soberly explains one of the main ways the United States’ political system enforces capitalism:
“Loosely speaking, there are two main kinds of income: income from labor, like salaries, and income from capital, like dividends and capital gains. In the U.S., the former is taxed more heavily than the latter, with a top marginal rate of 39.6 percent on ordinary income, versus 20 percent on capital gains and dividends. There are a number of efficiency and fairness arguments in favor of a lower tax rate on capital gains, but there are also those who suspect that an important reason for the difference is that (1) rich people tend to get more of their income from capital than poor people do, (2) rich people tend to prefer to pay lower taxes, and (3) rich people tend to get their preferred policies enacted.”
I wrote a short essay responding to the whorephobic Marshall Project interview that I called out last week, and they published it. Please read my argument for decriminalizing sex work, because it’s very important to me personally and many stigmatized laborers globally.
“Most sex workers do it for the reason that anyone does any job: they need money to live or to support their family. Punishing consenting participants in an exchange of money and pleasure does nothing but limit the economic options of someone who likely had few to begin with.”
Mostly this is a positive incident — I’m glad that I contacted TMP and I’m glad that editor-in-chief Bill Keller solicited a more developed version of my opinion. But it was an emotionally draining process. Getting worked up in the first place was scary and triggering and felt horrible. It wrenched to put my reasoning into words — I kept trying to intellectually shy away from the process. Debating whether to go ahead and be “out” entirely was painful. You get the idea.
I mostly avoid media pertaining to sex work or feminism, because the general experience is so upsetting. I resent having to write about these issues over and over again, having to rehash the same thoughts and memories. The world should go ahead and improve now.
I haven’t written at all during the past two days. I’ve been working on Christmas presents; I’ve been doing social things; I’ve been depressed. Whatever — there are always excuses. I don’t need to beat myself up about it, but I do feel disappointed. For the most part I’m not doing paid work right now, making my own projects even more of a priority. Still, it’s hard to maintain the go-go-go pace, you know?
Last night and this morning I comforted my crushed career hopes — being able to support myself as a writer — by reading a bunch of articles about unpaid internships. Basically, unpaid interns are free labor for the companies that “employ” them. Such programs are invariably exploitative. Usually, they are also illegal. And yet the Craigslist ads keep popping up. To see a couple of recent examples, click here and here.
Journalist Sarah Kendzior was interviewed on this topic in 2013. She said, “The American Dream dies hard, because it was not a dream. We saw it work for previous generations. And now we witness its erosion.” Yup. I feel like I’ve been duped! (Hat tip to Miri Mogilevsky, another eloquent critic of unpaid internships.)
First on Twitter and then on her blog, Kendzior outlined the steps of building a “prestige economy”, her term for the system that only rewards people who have the privilege to accrue credentials without being paid. Here are the first points:
“1) Make higher education worthless by redefining ‘skill’ as a specific corporate contribution. Tell young people they have no skills.
2) With ‘skill’ irrelevant, require experience. Make internship sole path to experience. Make internships unpaid, locking out all but rich.”
I’m one of the lucky few who can afford to work for free, because my parents support me. It’s still exasperating. I don’t want to be supported by my parents forever. Neither do I want to work a drudgerous full-time job. The world isn’t organized how I wish it was. Ugh. End rant.