Are "Frogs Jumping Out Of Hot Pots" These Days?

Here is an anecdote that I hear. If you put a frog in a pot of cold water, put the pot on a stove, and turn the heat on low, the frog will sit and sit and not jump out of the pot until it is parboiled. But if you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out immediately. I am not sure if this is true or not, and I am not going to try it to find out-I do not need any bad karma, the frog-kind or any other. It’s an interesting story. Just hold the thought for a bit, and I will get back to the frog in the pot.

My husband was in Manhattan yesterday and the marchers for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage were out in force at Columbus Circle then marching down Eighth Avenue. Yesterday being April 15, I was at the tax preparer to do my income tax (I normally do not procrastinate, and I will explain later why I waited until the last day). While I was getting my taxes done my tax preparer struck up a conversation about how tax season had gone this year, and a couple of things she mentioned were quite interesting. The first is that not nearly as many working folks have come in to do their taxes this year as in years past. She attributes this to the fact that there is a penalty imposed for people who did not sign up for Obama-care. The second thing of note that she mentioned is that many more W-2’s than in the past have come from part-time jobs. She also attributes this in large part to Obama-care.

I realize that my tax person is only one individual out of millions, and that her empirical evidence and cause and effect conclusions certainly are not based on any sort of scientific research. However, she has been doing tax preparation for several years in the most densely populated State in the country (New Jersey). I am reminded also of the story of the Wall Street big-wig in 1929 who got out of the market just before the crash because his secretary was buying on margin. He thought that when everyday people figured out what’s going on in the country it was time to move on. So maybe my tax person has a point.

Which gets me back to the frog in the pot. Little by little, degree by degree the heat has been turning up on American workers. Over the past few years we have seen employee benefits being reduced again and again for people in all areas of work. Health benefits, retirement plans and other benefits are a fraction of what they were 10, 15 and 20 years ago, and in the past year they have become non-existent for many employees. This is because the full-time job is becoming a thing of the past for many people. Retail employers in particular have gone the part-time route solely to get out of paying any kind of benefits. And now we have the start of what may be the first major labor movement this country has seen in many years. At the core of the movement at this point is this proposition: If the corporations are not going to pay any benefits or employ people full-time, they can at least pay a decent wage.

Just as my tax preparer has noted, more and more employees are part-time with no benefits, and Obama-care has only made matters worse. Americans are not frogs, and I am skeptical that even frogs will sit in hot water till they are served as frog legs. Will Americans and frogs will jump out of the pot if the heat gets too high. Little by little the heat has been turned up on America’s workers. I think we are seeing the beginning of a whole lot of American workers jumping out of the pot before they get boiled. Or on this issue and other serious issues, do we sit in tepid water not realizing the unfortunate ending until it is too late. Oh, I almost forgot…I don’t have time right now to explain why I did my taxes on the last dayJ.

Dr. Carolyn Koos