The minimum wage in America is definitely too low for people to live off of, but can the government really fix a problem that should be handled by businesses?
The ongoing (and complicated) debate over the minimum wage in America hit a new high this month as good ol’ Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hyped a national $15 minimum wage on the campaign trail. Now other presidential candidates -- from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump -- have thrown in their $7.25 on the issue, even though it’s hard to say if the policy could ever become reality. It’s a debate also held in the business world, where bigtime CEOs say such a move would force them to not hire new employees and offset costs by raising prices. Many small businesses have decried the same thing. Similar claims were made during the Obamacare debacle, when small businesses were forced to give healthcare to their employees and couldn’t do so. All of this is part of a larger debate on economics, the market and what role government should play in them, but at the end of the day, this is really about getting the most money into the hands of the people who are working long hours to get it.
Like many Americans, I worked my first minimum wage jobs during high school and college. I worked in a chicken shack at the Ohio State Fair for $5.75 an hour when I was 16 years old, then at a summer camp for $6 an hour with a $.25 raise every summer I worked there. When I got a $7.50 an hour job in the stockroom at Pottery Barn I was thrilled! But then again, at the time I wasn’t paying for my own rent, food, car or even drugs. If I wasn’t living off my parents’ income, I was living off those sweet, sweet student loans and any other money I made at the job I had at the time. My $7.50 an hour wage was okay because it was the minimum amount of money I was willing to do that job for. But as Sanders and others have pointed out, the national minimum wage is not a living wage, and isn’t a proper salary for someone trying to survive with a house, family, car, etc. in America. Those people really do need quite a bit more.
Should the government always step in and make rules for every business? Of course in capitalism, businesses usually try and spend the least amount of money to pay their employees, so this is why we’ve seen factory jobs go to other countries for decades.
This is where I question if the government raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour would actually help -- or if it would just be better to leave it up to the businesses. Whether it’s a major corporation or a small town mom-and-pop store, businesses really do know what they can provide for their employees better than anyone else, so why not just let them do it? And if they do a bad job, why not let the employees organize and create a fuss in the media to get what they deserve? Should the government always step in and make rules for every business? Of course in capitalism, businesses usually try and spend the least amount of money to pay their employees, so this is why we’ve seen factory jobs go to other countries for decades. Some corporations just can’t beat paying $5 a day to a factory worker in Mexico, in addition to not paying for those employees’ benefits, healthcare, etc. So we’ve seen what happens when businesses are faced with the choice of people over profits -- and profits are always picked over people.
Believe me, it would be nice to just trust businesses to take care of their workers in the same way places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s do, but let’s face it, some businesses just don’t give a shit. This is why on one hand, we can’t just leave paying living wages up to businesses, but on the other hand, having the federal government make a blanket minimum wage for all businesses doesn’t really work either. This is why even Hillary Clinton pointed out that “what you can do in L.A. or New York may not work in other places.” And let’s not forget that one easy way to get more money into people’s hands is to just repeal the income tax entirely, since it’s basically robbery and unconstitutional anyway. But as Jesse Ventura has pointed out, something does need to be done, and perhaps a move like Sanders’ $15 an hour plan is a step in the right direction. For if we as one of the richest nations on Earth cannot take care of our poor and impoverished people who are already working long hours, then we’re all much poorer for it.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.
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