The argument for minimum wage increases

minimum-wageAnyone who actually has to live in the real world knows that the minimum wage is a really, really bad joke.  You might even remember when I addressed this exact issue before in my series, “The Poverty Machine“.

Somehow, people are still arguing against a minimum wage, and the most common argument I hear is that if small businesses have to raise the amount that they pay workers, they’ll have to either raise prices or cut jobs or both.

I swear to all gods, both old and new, that if our society doesn’t get a serious dose of common sense sometime soon, I may be forced to take the whole thing over as Empress Queen of Earth to fix it, and nobody wants that.

Yes, when you’re a small business, you might have to make some adjustments to your business model in order to afford to pay your workers a livable wage, which, if you didn’t click on the link above is actually about $16.50 for the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and we’re going to use that as the target number.  You’ll notice that this number is more than twice the current minimum wage.  On the current minimum wage, however, it is literally impossible to actually live, and gods forbid you want fancy luxuries like a family or a phone or a car, because that shit just ain’t happening.

When we do see an increase in the minimum wage, we see a boost to the economy as a whole.  We see that people can actually afford to do things like shop at local markets instead of being forced to deal with only with the big box stores like the Evil Mart of Wal.  That means that the small businesses that have a hard time already paying their employees more end up with more sales and more money with which to honor the minimum wage law.

Because that’s how it works:  When you increase the minimum wage, then the people who make minimum wage can actually spend money on things that aren’t directly related exclusively to bare survival, and the economy improves on the local level.

Also, just in case it wasn’t obvious, if the minimum wage is increased to a livable level, people do not need to have both parents working full-time, often more than one job, just to support a family of four (let alone more).  Both parents working might be a choice instead of a necessity.  Children would benefit enormously from having proper guidance instead of being left to run the streets or come up with their own warped sense of ethics in the absence of parents who are really only merely slowing the rate the starvation instead of actually living.

And that means that even if some jobs do have to get cut, the remaining jobs actually afford reasonable survival instead of creating havoc… and then the economy still improves because of the boost the local markets, and then more jobs are created, and then the non-working parent could get a part-time job if they so desired that still helped the family, and now you can see where this is going.

So, that blows a hole in the slightly more reasonable argument.  It’s not a terribly good argument, but it’s a better argument than the following:

That people who would benefit the most from the rise in minimum wage – fast food workers, menial laborers, etc. – are so unskilled and so poor at their jobs that they don’t deserve to make more.

Let me put that in a different perspective:  The people who use this argument are saying that some people don’t deserve to live.

Think about that for a minute.

And now let me draw a picture for you:

A single mom who has not had the chance to go to college gets a minimum wage job working evenings because that’s the only one she can really get, as her own mother (with whom she lives) is home at night to watch the baby.  She makes barely enough for diapers, maybe a cell phone, and chips in for bills.  She’s also on WIC and food stamps because neither she nor her mother makes enough to really pay for everyone’s needs. Because she can’t really afford to not work, she can’t even think about going to college, and the idea of having to take out enormous amounts of loans for the off-chance of a slightly-better-than-minimum-wage job to go to college is daunting in the slightest.  Her situation is dire, depressing, and hopeless.

And you’re going to judge her as undeserving of living for not being careful about how many pickles are on your triple with cheese?!?

Who’s the jerk, really?

When you don’t pay people enough to justify actually live, you can’t be surprised when they don’t care about the job they do.  If a teenager (the smallest percentage of people making minimum wage) made enough money to do things like save up for a car, make a dent in their college education fund, help out with family finances, fund their passions, or build a little nest egg for when they move out on their own, they are motivated to do good work so that they could keep that job – especially since there will then be real competition for that job.  And then – shock of shocks – you will have the correct number of pickles on your triple with cheese.

Traditionally, the increase in the minimum wage has always been followed by increased prosperity, despite large corporations complaining about it every time.  This time, it absolutely is going to sting more than usual because they’ve had the ears of the policy makers for so long that the cost of living has far outstripped that minimum wage.  It’s all in the math and history.

Back to the teenager example, just for a minute.  Have you ever wondered why the graduating classes have become more and more disillusioned over the years?  I’ll wager that a lot of it has to do with the impossible odds they face upon graduation (if they manage to graduate) to earn a living, regardless of whether or not they take on the even bigger gamble of college (and all the debt that this incurs, again still with a question of whether their degree will make them more employable).

So, think about what the real cost is of having a deplorable minimum wage before you announce loudly about how it shouldn’t be increased.  The only people who benefit from having a minimum wage so low are the people who profit from that Poverty Machine.  When you oppose the minimum wage increase, you’re just making richer billionaires.  (Not more billionaires, just richer billionaires.)

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