I am an advocate of Bernie Sanders plan for setting the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. And I will admit this is a tricky conversation because there are some valid concerns about the impact of such an action.
First I want to discuss the fundamental principle behind a raised minimum wage. Right now at the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) a person can work forty hours a week, receive benefits, and they cannot effectively afford to support themselves or their children according to current United States poverty standards. Many minimum wage workers qualify for welfare assistance and cost the tax payers money in order to subsidize their inability to support themselves fully.
Let’s identify who these minimum wage (and those near it) workers are:
Note the Food and Grocery store industry are the leaders in paying our citizens not enough to live on. Many states only pay waitresses and waiters a paltry few dollars an hour and force them to rely on inconsistent tips. While the overwhelming majority of these people work for large chain corporations and fast food restaurants who are indifferent to their workers’ ability to provide for their families. Many more are employed by giants like Wal-Mart whose employment practices marginalizes their own employees for the sake of monstrous profits. The Wal-Mart (Walton) family has as much wealth as the bottom 40% of our country. (See my earlier topic about Corporate Welfare)
Companies are threatening to switch to less employees and utilizing more automated systems as a response. These same companies will do this anyway if they can save money. This is an empty threat because huge corporations with tremendous profits will always look to marginalize their labor expense in the favor of profits. We as consumers can reject their actions and refuse to do automated business where we don’t agree with the practice. I personally refuse to utilize self-checkout as a rule and will not subsidize corporate profits with my own labor in a transaction.
Any time I see this I refuse to either shop there or I ask for a manger and make them complete my transaction and express my displeasure at this business practice.
The issue as I see it:
Should we as a nation pay our workers that work forty hours a week enough money that they can support themselves in their lives without being dependent on welfare or other state subsidies in order to survive?
Absolutely. This should be a ethical and moral imperative of our country. And sometimes when you make a decision like this it comes at a cost.
The reality is that there are small businesses out there that will be hurt by raising the minimum wage. Frequently the argument becomes that raising the minimum wage will hurt these businesses and their ability to survive.
If a business cannot make enough to support itself and sustain a living wage for its employees should the government be responsible for subsidizing that business at the tax-payer expense?
Absolutely not. Republicans tout capitalism and certainly don’t want to be on the hook for welfare. And small/medium sized business and corporate welfare as a whole should be repugnant for these same individuals to swallow. Some small businesses will be forced to adapt and change their practices in order to accomofate this change.
But let’s not get it twisted. The majority of the employers that employ the working poor are companies like Wal-Mart nd McDonalds who brought in billions of dollars in profits last year. Profits that are subsidized by the tax payer in the form of corporate welfare. Small and medium sized businesses are not the majority share holders in the living wage debate.
I would like to raise another concern. In a conversation with my father we discussed the impact of raising the minimum wage. He expressed concern about the cost of goods increasing and being that my retired parents are on a fixed social security income they would struggle as a result.
This is definitely a valid concern. Senator Sanders seeks also to address and raise the social security benefits in lockstep with minimum wage earnings. He would place the increased tax burden on the astronomically rich who are outpacing and marginalizing the wealth and earning potential of the lower and middle classes.
I would also argue to cap the distribution of social security so that the recipients of the benefit are not those who after retirement earn over $200,000 dollars a year. Their social security money should go back into the pool to help assist those who are truly in need of it. We owe our seniors whose hard work and labor has propped up our government and fought for our freedoms no less by giving them a social safety net beyond reproach.
I also point you to Bernie’s own statement on Social Security where he has been a champion for a long time:
The poor are suffering in our country. Their voices and political power is waning and the rich are profiting of their labor to a new greedy extreme that is unprecedented in our national history. The wealth income gap is widening at an alarming rate and we are at a precipice in our national identity.
We as a nation must rise up and begin a political revolution to take back our ability to live without government dependency. This begins with ending the staggering influence of the rich through rulings like Citizens United. It also includes making sure every American worker has the ability to pull themselves up and to provide for their families through a living wage.
I hope you will join me and Bernie Sanders in supporting a living wage for all Americans.