This is the classical mistake where people like you assume that labor is a resource like steel, or oil. Humans are not a resource, for they are unpredictable, and stochastic. Meaning if I drop steel I have certain physical properties. Where as if I drop a person I will have a multitude of reactions.
"For example, in the classic case of the original Luddites, when it became cheaper to make clothing due to technological advance, people had more money to spend elsewhere, and that elsewhere is where the new jobs go, and you invariably see more jobs created than had existed before that "job costing" technology was invented. It happens every single time, without fail"
Silicon Valley; In fact jobs have left and have not been created. Sure there are success stories, but the influence of Silicon Valley as a job creator has waned. Take for example Apple, or Oracle, who have jobs there, but have created a huge number of jobs outside of that region. Facebook is a bit of the old culture of creating jobs in silicon valley. New jobs have not replaced the old jobs. I can bring in many other examples of where more jobs are not created.
"As for minimum wage...If your wage was below what you're willing to work for, then you'd simply not take the job. This is a fact. Most people do in fact work at above minimum wage. Minimum wage has the following effect: For the low end workers who really aren't worth a shit (there are many out there - this nobody can deny) they simply have no job at all. Whereas they could have at least had SOMETHING, they now have nothing. This has two effects: Increased unemployment, and higher prices. Because prices now go up to match that minimum wage increase, your purchasing power hasn't really gone anywhere. Most people tend to equate money with wealth, and that relationship isn't one to one."
Wrong, another example, Germany. Germany has no minimum wage and in fact there is this concept of hunger wages. This means a person is working full time, and does not even come close to making enough money to support their family. I am talking wages of about 1 euro per hour. The government kicks in social help to make ends meet. Germany has shown that to survive you will take work below your pay because you need to do something.
"A classic example I look at is this: Back in 2001, I paid $3800 for a 50" tv. The thing was pretty massive not just in diagonal length, but it was pretty fat too - it was rear projection. A really big and obnoxious TV by today's standard. Last year I "upgraded" my whole living room: Bought a new leather couch, ($1,200) built a 5.1 surround system from the ground up (none of the HTIB crap, a truly good sound system, $1,000ish with 8 channel lossless audio) and a new samsung 50" tv that has a MUCH better picture quality than the one from 11 years ago, consumes a lot less power and is light enough for one person to carry. Total spent was $3,200. Basically by spending less I have more "wealth" than I did 10 years ago - and that's even ignoring inflation."
Oh yes just because I can pay for cheaper consumer crap things are ok. I am going to ask how old are you? For life also includes health care, education, etc. These costs have become prohibitive for the poor. Sure they are given loans and then get jobs where they can barely pay back these things. But hey as long as I can get get cheap consumer crap all is ok, right?
"When somebody tells you that the poor are poorer and the wealthy are wealthier because - adjusted for inflation - the poor are making fewer dollars today than they were in the 90's, they have no idea what they are talking about. "
Again you don't know what you are talking about. Cheaper consumer crap yes. Cheaper food? NO, but I guess you don't buy food do you? Again the question of age. The poor are poorer than the average poor of say 40 years ago. When economists measure poverty and such they don't measure it in absolute values like how much currency you have. The measure it in terms of what you can afford for the monies you make. Again, great I can get 50 Mbit Internet, so long as I don't want to visit a doctor, or get a diploma.
"By the way, even the most liberal of liberal economists will tell you the same thing. The champion economist of the democratic party nearly all of the left politicians model their ideals after (including Obama,) Paul Krugman himself believes that sweat shop labor is better than no labor, and minimum wage causes more problems than it solves, and ultimately makes things worse."
Ah yes armchair snapshot economist. Yes Krugman did say this a long time ago. But did you happen to dig a bit deeper? He also called for wealth redistribution! I am sure having no minimum wage, but wealth redistribution is much better, no? Cynically put what Krugman was talking about could be referencing to something like Germany has. No minimum wage, but wealth redistribution. Which do you prefer? I happen to prefer a living minimum wage thank-you.
"The reason tariffs are a very bad thing is because they completely ignore a concept economists refer to as comparative advantage. "
And here you basically lost your argument. I am not calling for tariffs, but here is why you fail. Take the situation where one country disregards worker safety, disregards environmental laws, and pays workers low wages. This is a "comparative" advantage that other countries cannot exploit unless they do the exact same thing. You can't automate because even then you still go to the other country because those that can run the automation will be cheaper yet. This is the race to the bottom that occurs. To assume that China is more efficient and better is ignoring what China is doing. Do you want to live in a Chinese city? Have you seen the smog? Have you seen the pollution? China has made progress, and I applaud them for that, but to say that we can't compete with them because we are not trying is really not seeing the reality. BTW China is now considered an expensive place to produce and companies have been shifting their work to other places to get them even cheaper.
When I read your post I read a post of somebody who has yet to undergo hardship. I am not one to call for tariffs, or socialist policy. I am more a Warren Buffet kind of guy who believes that you need Free and FAIR trade. Read up some of his work and you will see it is very pragmatic.