Friday, October 10, 2014

Minimum Wage Day 2014

Why not raise the minimum wage to $10.10? After all, as some political pundits have said, "the federal minimum wage hasn't kept up with the cost of basic goods...," "it will allow everyone to achieve economic independence...," and "nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty..." in fact, many folks on Tweeter cited more reasons, but most of those seemed tertiary to these three main premises.

Little doubt exists that, actually, the federal minimum wage has not kept up with the costs of basic goods (look online to find associated charts and graphs). However, arguably, what counts as "basic goods" and the amounts of money required to buy them, differ from person to person and family to family. Additionally, families that consist of more than one person and that have one breadwinner who earns the minimum wage, will likely qualify for and receive public assistance. What will happen to their public assistance when their wages go up? Either way, this premise appears to represent the most comprehensive amount of truth of the three listed.

I seriously question the second premise, though; that making $10.10 per hour will provide financial independence for most people -- if anyone. Sure, it would prove better than making $8 or $9 per hour (with all other things equal, e.g., public assistance, taxes, etc.). However, I have a friend who earns about $12 per hour, who lives by himself (with no governmental assistance), and who has no costly vices. He barely makes ends meet. Additionally, little doubt exists that collectively, business owners will not absorb any more of the associated increases of labor costs, than absolutely necessary. Therefore, if labor increases by about 30% and that 30% increase equals half of what would otherwise go to profits, the answer would include an increase in retail prices of about 15% -- across the board... OR a reduction in the number of hours and full-time positions for minimum-wage workers. Regarding the second possible outcome, I've personally witnessed huge companies lay people off, year after year, in order to maintain their annual, projected profit margins, as required by their shareholders. As morally reprehensible as some might consider the concept of conducting layoffs and firings to increase or maintain profits; the evidence suggests that, like it or not, this will happen.

Of course, some business owners (and others) have also addressed the issue of paying teenagers and other trainees, while they learn to work. Arguably, if they do the work that others do, I would argue that they should receive the same wages as anyone else. However, even if people could actually achieve financial independence by working for $10.10 per hour, does it really make sense to force businesses to pay the full amount of minimum hourly wage to young people who might not have the capacity to provide the full, hourly amount of work?

Finally, I couldn't agree more with the third premise. Indeed, no one who works 40 hours per week should be living in poverty. However, I'll go one step further and posit that no one who works 40 hours per week should settle for only earning the minimum wage; regardless of whether the amount of that minimum wage equals $7 per hour or $10 per hour. Substantial proof exists that, on average, people who obtain increased education reap increased financial rewards. Additionally, all levels of government in the United States provide various opportunities for people who lack education and skills to obtain that education and in many cases, those skills. Certainly, it won't prove easy to acquire these. However, having at one time lived in poverty, I can truthfully testify that, in my case, the results beat whining about the unfairness of it all.

Oh, I know, many people, including the well educated, have argued and will continue to argue that the requirements of time and effort price the acquisition of education and skills far beyond the reach of most people in poverty. Some of these people whisper words like these, back-and-forth, in private conversations: "They can't do it..." "they shouldn't have to do it..." "we, the haves, must take responsibility for the have-nots because we would act unfairly if we chose to require subsequent extra efforts of them, rather than simply ministering to their needs, for the rest of their lives." Even if many of the working poor argued in favor of a lifestyle of receiving public assistance, on ongoing bases; what many in poverty really need includes having opportunities to make friends with people who have "made it," to show them the steps whereby they can also "make it" -- and not necessarily having anything to do with any Federal programs.

Answers to some other specific comments:

@brainwashedur said: Thanks to @ScottWalker the Koch Bros. enjoy record profits while Wisconsinites lose more money working #Minimumwage jobs

My answer: what keeps any "Wisconsinites" from quitting their minimum-wage jobs and starting their own companies, just like the Koch family did at some point in their genealogical history?

Senator Ben Cardin ‏ (@SenatorCardin) asked and answered this question: "In how many states can a full time #MinimumWage worker afford a 2 bedroom at Fair Market Rent? Answer: 0.

My answer: how many 16 or 17-year-old children, living with their parents, and attending high school need to rent a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent prices?

Education Votes ‏ (@edvotes) stated: American families struggle on as Wall Street lives it up. First step to making it right: Raise the Minimum Wage.

My answer: I don't see how forcing everyone in the middle-class pay 15% to 30% more for basic consumer goods (a probable result of increasing the minimum wage by more than 30%) represents a "right" first step. If people in poverty become jealous of employees on Wall Street who "live it up," permission granted for them to go to the library, study, take the series 6 and series 7 exams, go to work for a brokerage, and work their way to Wall Street.

NWLC ‏(@nwlc) said and asked: Raising the minimum wage to $10.10/hr could boost millions of workers' earnings by $5,700. What could that buy?

My answer: quite a lot -- until prices go up to offset the increased costs of labor.

Kirsten Gillibrand ‏(@SenGillibrand) said: 2/3 low wage workers are women. With $10.10, we can pass fair Minimum Wage & help millions of Women Succeed.

My answer: since when have we, as Americans, ever accepted accomplishing the bare minimum as an adequate measure of success? Certainly, I want men and women who work for hourly wages and who perform equal tasks, to receive equal pay. However, rather than focusing any of our efforts on raising the minimum wage to $10.10, for these women, why don't we focus on training them to do jobs with minimum wages at the $20.20 or $30.30 threshold. After all, ours does not represent a zero sum economy.

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