“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” – FDR
There are many arguments about increasing the Federal minimum wage to an actual living wage. We have all heard them. It is unfair to business owners trying to make a living. Workers are just moochers, asking their employers for more than they deserve. Minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. The last, of course, being the entire core of the issue.
Honestly, all the talking points are invalid when you take the words of the President who actually signed the minimum wage into law back in 1938. “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of a decent living.” With around a third of the population hovering at or below poverty, this does not seem to be the case. The federal minimum wage led to one of the most productive times in our history. It was a time of industry though, and not a service environment like it is today.
Manufacturing jobs are just now starting to return, but not in the numbers of the past. Most people are stuck in service related jobs, such as retail and food service. Some would argue these are only starter jobs, and are meant for teenagers, but the average age of worker in these jobs is around 35. Put on top of this, companies are not hiring full time workers as much as in previous years. This coupled with the fact that most require an open schedule, making working a second job difficult, is only adding to the problem. It also works to skewer the unemployment numbers, which does not include under-employed.
It is really time to start healing our once great nation, by healing its people. Stop demonizing those who only wish to support their families and start putting pressure on the people who can help them do so. By paying a livable wage to all Americans, we can actually lower the welfare state we are in today. There are companies out there like Trader Joe’s, Costco and Aldi’s, who actually do pay their workers a decent living. This in itself sets the precedence that it can be done and still run a successful business. A company does not need to make their workers suffer just to make more profits.
Of course, the biggest issue with actually raising the minimum wage is that businesses will just turn around and raise the cost of living by raising prices to match. This, in itself, is not a real point against raising it, because they already are raising prices while wages remain stagnant. But it does pose an issue of how can one pay workers more without just moving the poverty line up to what they are getting paid. It is an extremely difficult thing to achieve without government controlling prices so they cannot be raised. I am not one for this kind of power being laid in the hands of a government that does not seem to keep the best interest of its people at heart.
So, I guess, the best course of action would not be to raise the minimum wage. Instead we can use our own consumer buying power to shop from companies who pay a living wage, and stay away from those who do not. It will be hard, and for a few years, it may seem to actually hurt the economy and people. Any true change of this magnitude will take time. Unemployment will go up. Major corporations will let people go, and cut hours further. Then again, the businesses who pay those livable wages will have increases in business and jobs should shift to those places. Eventually, the corporations may take the hint and pay workers what they are worth.