At A Minimum: A Living Wage

The first minimum wage law was written in the 60’s and was $2 dollars and hour. If one adjusted this minimum wage for inflation today it would be close to $15 dollars and hour yet for years it has been pinned at less than $8 dollars and hour. Meanwhile the cost of living in America has risen tenfold since the 60’s.

Contrary to what many naysayers and conservative try to say about the minimum wage, a large majority of those receiving the minimum wage are two household earners supporting children and families. This issue is not about some high school or college kids making a little extra money like the right tries to claim –it’s about families that depend on it to raise their kids and themselves.

The irony is, the companies that minimum wage workers are working for are profiteering billions and trillions in some cases off these low wage workers. They could easily afford to pay them an inflation adjusted wage while keeping prices for their products and services just at where they are today without change. Of course the corporate interests want to fear monger the public about raising the minimum wage in order to slide more profits in their pockets and make more untold billions for themselves.

It may be true that many small businesses that are starting out are crimped for cash and may not be making the billions like Wal-Mart and McDonalds but providing a living wage should still be considered a cost of doing business, not a liability on profits. If business people cannot provide their workers with a living wage maybe they should not be in business at all.

A $15 dollars and hour living minimum wage would only just barely cover expenses for people whether they are individuals or especially with families. Not only that, but some states in the US already have a wage pegged at that price point or close and prices have not skyrocketed like the right wing attempts to claim they will. The reason there needs to be a living wage is because the free market will not support a living wage on its own but rather seek to drive wages as far down as they can for profit. It is these Darwin economics that the free market without government intervention will only support.

Darwinian economics never works in the long run because when consumers who are trying to live on minimum wages that are not living wages can only consume little thereby not being able to sustain or grow an economy in America. The American economy has always thrived and survived on consumer spending –not trillion dollar profits made by business exploiting low wage labor. As Henry Ford said once about the Model T Ford –if his workers could not make enough money to buy his product then his business would eventually be dead and that is why workers were paid well. That is how a true free market works, not like the contorted so called free market today.

If workers are paid at least the minimum to survive in the current economy at least the current economy can sustain itself and there is at least an opportunity to rise up into the ranks of a better economic standing. However, when wages are stagnant like now in America and there is widening inequality, the economy as a whole suffers for everybody including the wealthy.

No one can live on the current minimum wage even in a two person working household. It is a travesty that companies like Wal-Mart and McDonalds are making billions and spending millions on everything but their workers. It is a travesty that the US government is in many ways is subsidizing big business and even small businesses with Medicaid and Food Stamps because these businesses fail to take care of their workers and pay them an inflation adjusted minimum wage that at least workers can survive on and who can consume to support the American economy at some level beneficial to everyone.

No one suggest minimum wage should be inflated beyond the inflation rate itself but rather at least on the same level. True, many minimum wage workers do menial jobs but they are jobs no less that provide corporate interests untold millions or more in profit just the same –why not share some of that wealth with the folks that make it happen in the first place? Without these workers, these companies could never achieve what they do in profits and income. Some business folks bristle at the idea of having to pay their workers more money for the sometimes menial jobs they do but they fail to accept that their own profits would be nothing if not for these workers.

Paying a living wage and still being competitive in a business climate is not at odds with one another especially given the huge profits many companies make at the behest of low wage labor. Maybe these companies can stop paying their CEO’s huge ridiculous bonuses and wages and stop pandering to profiteering investors so much and start thinking in terms on what is best for everyone in the equation. Of course this is unlikely to happen without government intervention and today the populist is so brainwashed about the importance of government in situations like these –even when it’s to their own detriment.

America had a golden era between 1945-1980 and that was because of strong government regulation of the economy and because America was not bleeding its economic strength overseas. It was not until the Reagan revolution in the 1980’s that we saw the continuous rise of economic inequality fueled by deregulation and the global economy without international labor standards.

The irony is that the conservative right is always so gung hoe about constitutional rights such as gun ownership. Yet then conservatives feel like the American economy should be governed by scientific principles meant for nature (Darwinism) verses those governed by and striving towards economic equality for all and economic opportunity for all.

It is ironic that conservatives today talk opportunity for all but do not want those in the ranks of the poor to rise to the middle class and for the middle class can rise into the ranks of the wealthy because of political and economic fears. It is ironic that conservatives do not want all to pay their fair share for the public and economic good of all.

It is as if the neo-conservatives today want to take it all for themselves at anybody else’s expense and obstruct efforts to revive the golden era of America where most folks had good jobs, good economic security and a means to contribute to society on a larger more inclusive scale. Today’s conservative movement has tried to steal the golden nest eggs for itself through nefarious political policy and political posturing and outright propaganda spent on those who fail to think twice about their own buyer’s remorse.

© 2013 Ted Manolatos