Why Is a Federal Minimum Wage a Problem and a Maximum Income Okay?

For some reason it has become accepted wisdom that raising wages loses jobs. And yet cheering on uncontrolled income is a job-producing fulfillment of the American dream.

Reminds me of my favorite nonsense-rhyme

If an asp in the grass is a snake

Then why is a grasp in the ass a goose?

It occurs to me, and give me hell if I’m wrong, that both statements are equally ignorant of the facts and yet they persist because the wealthy are in charge of the sound system.

Crank up the amplifiers, baby

Repetition is an amplifier, as is an enormous audience and the money to put the Big Band on stage. Let me offer an example:

I remember a time not all that long ago when the accepted wisdom was that if gasoline ever hit $2 a gallon the American economy would lay in ruins.

Wow. In ruins. The economy of the most powerful nation in the world hung on the delicate balance of $2 a gallon at the pump. Chaos would ensue.

Last Memorial Day prices hit $4.03 in California and over three and a half bucks in most other states. The stock markets were hitting records and  American business was doing just fine.

What wasn’t just fine was the income gap

The hum you could hear across the nation like crickets on a summer night was the drumbeat of the rich getting richer and the poor staying poorer—and losing ground in the bargain. You see there are other aspects to poverty that simply a wage.

As a 40-hour week turns to contract-work, as health insurance is no longer a perk and time and a half for overtime becomes just a dim memory, business sliced and diced what it means to be employed. The amplifier easily drowned the voices of discontent because it was the American Way to serve earnings to stockholders ahead of what meat and potatoes remained on workers’ Sunday dinner tables.

So, $2 gas will ruin us and a $15 hourly wage will fuel unemployment

Having already given the lie to $2 at the pump, let’s look at what happened to states, cities and companies paying fifteen bucks:

(Wikipedia) In the state of Washington, two cities have been described as test cases for the $15 minimum wage. Seattle was among the first U.S. cities to adopt a $15-per-hour plan in 2014, with its minimum wage for large employers raised to $15.45 in 2018 and $16 in 2019. Studies of Seattle’s workforce have shown no decline in employment and tangible benefits for workers.

A $15/hour minimum wage at Amazon.com took effect in November, 2018.

Costco said it will raise its starting wages to $15 and $15.50 per hour, from $14 and $14.50 per hour in the United States and Canada. Net income attributable to the company rose to $889 million, or $2.01 per share, from $701 million, or $1.59 per share, a year earlier.

Incoming president Joe Biden, inaugurated today, promises as part of his platform to fight for a $15 national minimum wage.

There is such a thing as being on the right side of history

Joe and Kamala have their hands full with a badly divided nation in the midst of a crippling pandemic and businesses in uncharted waters recovery-wise. No incoming presidency has been handed so heavily stacked a deck.

Yet words have meaning and politics have consequences. We have an honest man at the head of government and an honest woman presiding over the Senate. It’s a start.

It can be no more than that unless we make it so.

 

 


Image Credit: Chris Gorgio/Getty Images Plus

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