On raising the minimum wage

If other people are getting less screwed over than they had been, it should be a cause for celebration, not disdain.

minimum_wage_1018The junior senator from my state of New York, Kirsten Gillibrand (D) noted that she will co-sponsor a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That’s something I support, for a lot of reasons; Robert Reich delineates some of them.

More better, as they say, is Jaquandor’s Keeping Ahead of the Smiths: Random Thoughts on the Minimum Wage from late July 2015, which he describes as a “collection of thoughts.”

It’s Labor Day weekend, so I feel no need to work too hard on this post. Yet there are a few points in Jaquandor’s piece I want to emphasize:

“Gee, I’ve never made fifteen bucks an hour.” The latter is often coupled with a description of the jobs one has done, obviously intended to make clear that my work should pay more than theirs. And these sentiments aren’t brand new, either, born of shock that burgerflippers (said with appropriate voice filled with disdain) are going to make that kind of money…

So why, then, so much resentment toward a group of workers who banded together and through various means of legal redress seem to have won a kind of victory for themselves? Why are so many people so eager to see in this another screwing of themselves by the system, instead of an example of what might be done elsewhere? If you’re so convinced that your line of work is deserving of better pay, than why not band together and do your own self-advocation?

In other words, if other people are getting less screwed over than they had been, it should be a cause for celebration, not disdain.

But THIS is the heart of the argument, for me:

After nearly forty years of unending tax-cutting and deregulating… all we have to show for it is wages that are stuck in neutral and money flowing ever, ever, ever upward in a pattern that can only be described as redistributive (albeit in the exact opposite way that that term is usually deployed by libertarian-types). The biggest problem most Americans face, economically, is not what the government is taking out of our paychecks. It is what our employers are not putting into them in the first place.

The recovery after the Great Recession has been tepid, NOT because employers are paying too much, but because they are paying too little. The minimum wage, if tied to inflation, should be over $20 an hour. Instead, US workers’ pay plummeted 4% over the past 5 years.

$15/hour is NOT too much.
A History of Labor Day.

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