What if I told you that in the socialist paradise of Venezuela, everyone’s a millionaire? The Bolivarian Revolution has raised the minimum wage over 50 times throughout the past 20 years. As of May 2020, it’s been set at 400,000 bolivars, plus a 400,000 socialist food ticket bonus, bringing it to an astounding total of 800,000 bolivars per month. Millions of people rely only on minimum wage incomes. The government keeps the number of people on minimum wage in the country largely under wraps, although everyone that works in the public sector is pretty much subject to minimum wage (salaries in the dwindling private sector are usually better-ish). The elderly under pension (4.5 million citizens as of a year ago) are also subject to it. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s a pretty looking number — then you realize that those amount to approximately $4-5 USD per month, and the reality kicks in. Hyperinflation, price controls, and barely symbolic minimum wage raises: these three elements have caused incalculable headaches to the citizens of Venezuela over the past decade, to the point that they’ve become borderline elements of our folklore amidst the ongoing collapse of socialist Venezuela. It’s a repeat of the never-ending cycle that we’ve been entrapped for so many years now, except now it comes with a twist: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted everyone’s lives and has greatly exacerbated those three heads of the socialist hydra. The added novelty, if it can be called that, is that the mandatory masks visually cover your astonishment (or lack thereof) when something you bought last week is suddenly twice as expensive. What can you buy with this brand new minimum wage of 800,000 bolivars per month? Not much, really. Even though the bolivar received a facelift and a new currency scale in August 2018, we’re already at a point where spending millions on the most basic things shouldn’t be cause for concern. I carried out my weekly supermarket grocery run on May 4 and I asked for 250 grams (a little more than half a pound) of the cheapest ham and cheese they had available, this is how much they went for: That’s 633,356 bolivars right there. The cheapest loaf of sandwich bread that I could find went for 259,700 bolivars, bringing these three items to a whopping 893,056 bolivars – roughly $5 depending on the day’s exchange rate. So, realistically, the minimum wage is so absurdly low that it’s not sufficient to make enough sandwiches for a month. Sure, you could find cheaper alternatives, but it’d still devour most of it. These minimum wage raises used to be a matter of praise and celebration for the Bolivarian Revolution and its grotesque media machine – the below poster, for example, from dictator Nicolás Maduro’s state television propaganda outlet boasts of 47 minimum wage increases in the history of the socialist regime in Venezuela that began in 1999, as of January 2019. Two years ago, it was very common to have them occur almost every two months, which was akin to putting out a fire by spraying gasoline at it. Now that the damage is done, they come at a more sparse rate and are announced as discreetly as possible without any of the fanfare — yet the regime retains the sheer audacity of claiming that Venezuela is “the only country that has raised wages amidst the pandemic,” heralding $4 per month was some utopian socialist achievement. While minimum wages have progressively grown, they never have amounted to much. It’s a cat (hyperinflation) and mouse (wages) game where the mouse is already dead from the get-go. Around mid-September 2019, I purchased the same type of bread as in the above photo, except that the price at the time was 38,800 bolivars, not 259,700 bolivars. If we go by an average exchange rate at the time it was produced, it gives you roughly $1.75. The minimum wage at the time was 40,000 — or $1.80. If we do the same conversion to the loaf of bread that I bought this week (259,700.00 with an exchange rate of 178,502.21) it gives you $1.45. It would seem like the bread itself has gotten cheaper. Then again, in October 2019, the minimum wage was increased from 40,000 to 300,000 bolivars (150,000 bolivars plus a 150,000 “socialist basket ticket” food bonus). Going by an average exchange rate at the time it was introduced, the minimum wage translated to $14 per month. All of these minimum wage increases have not only amounted to nothing, but whatever meager gains they have created are rapidly devoured by hyperinflation. Like I said, a game of cat and mouse where the mouse is already dead from the start.
THIS is the failures of socialism. THIS is what Bernie, AOC, and the rest of their ilk want America to be like. A big thanks to Christian K. Caruzo for that eye-opening account of life in Venezuela. Christian is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter. For more, click on the text above.