Sunday, May 1, 2016

Quibbling






Let's quit quibbling about the dollar figure and remember why we have a minimum wage in the first place.  If it isn't doing what we intended, we've failed. We've failed our friends, our neighbors, our families, and our citizenry.

Workers who make the minimum wage or less are just 2% of the workforce.*

And the fix is easy.

Leaving it at half-mast (doing nothing) however, is like sending your kids to school with only half their lunch money.




So moving on to the question of what happens if we raise it ...

"But doing so means prices go up!"  Yes they will in some market venues.  Each of us will pay our fair share of the price for service.  Businesses will adjust; more self-service, perhaps, and so on.

"But corporate profits will be threatened!"  Perhaps.  (1) Corporate profits are higher today than ever before in U.S. history.  (2) Most corporation do not have a significant percentage of employees at minimum wage, but some do; e.g., Walmart, McDonalds, Burger King, etc.  Others like Costco and Target pay reasonable wages for all employees with development and advancement opportunities.

"But small businesses will fail!"  Perhaps.  If their survival is based on employees living in poverty, then perhaps they need to grow, change, or close.  Rules do not apply to all small businesses.

And laws may need to change.  The intent is a reasonable wage for the health and well-being of the worker.  Should we have a different standard for teens entering the workforce but still living at home?  Do our child labor laws cover it adequately?  Should we have a classification of skilled vs. unskilled labor?  Anything more needed in dealing with dynamic hours and benefits?

"Raising the minimum wage doesn't affect the poverty rate."  It does, and the context is larger than just the individuals.  Raising the minimum wage would move hundreds of thousands off of federal assistance programs.  Walmart alone costs taxpayers $6.2 billion annually in public assistance for low-wage employees.   McDonald's costs us $1.2 billion each year.

Our 10 biggest fast food corporations are responsible for more than half of the funds required in 2012 federal assistance for low-wage workers in that industry. These same 10 companies together declared $7.4 billion in net profits, and they paid $7.7 billion to shareholders.

In other words, the rich get richer off the labor of the poorest who are themselves supported by welfare the bottom 90% pays for.  Funny how that works out.

U.S. poverty numbers have increased since this analysis in 2010.
Poverty and associated inequality numbers are high in the U.S., and have been rising since the 70's.

Approximately 52 million folks in the U.S. were recipients in government assistance programs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (report)  Among employed folks, 18% of part-time workers, and 7% of full-time workers were recipients.  About one-third participate for one year or less, and another half participate for 48 months or less.
*In 2015, 78 million workers age 16 and older were paid at hourly rates.  That is 58% of workers. Among hourly workers, 2,570,000 earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or less. Together, these workers with wages at or below the minimum made up 3% of hourly workers and less than 2% of the total work force.

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