The issue of minimum wage is a big deal to Bernie Sanders, and like so many of the things that has got Bernie Sanders worried, it’s a real and fundamental concern for me, too.
I have come to understand minimum wage as being, for many employers, the amount they are forced to pay by the government. They would pay less, if they could do so and not go to jail. (I think Chris Rock famously said this) This one thing is a great example of unchecked capitalism and of governed capitalism. The employer who would pay less if they could do so and not go to jail- that is corporate greed, profit uber allies, and the responsibility to the shareholders, seeking to reduce any and all un-necessary spending to increase the profit margin. The minimum wage is an example of capitalism being held in check by the government- it means that no one can make less than that, and that the greedy can not change it, can not pay less, to suit their profit mongering. The people are protected by the minimum wage.
But what happens when the very government who is supposed to hold the system of checks and balances in place is rife with the same corporate greed? We have battles over what the minimum wage should be- as if it should ever be a question- people deserve to make enough to live- not raising it actually strips someone of their ‘inalienable rights’- how can anyone who works two jobs to raise their families ever experience ‘liberty and the pursuit of happiness’? A person’s rights are not taken away, but their ability to exercise them are, and in my mind that makes it a violation of rights- this is purely my opinion. And this dispute takes place as the Middle Class dwindles. Lets just think of the Middle Class as the land of opportunity- when it shrinks, well, prosperity and opportunity shrink. You get many more people working minimum wage jobs to get by than ever before. The same minimum wage jobs that can not be considered a living wage- people can not live on these jobs, They go for second jobs. Their kids go untended out of necessity. The same kids, I might point out, that are our future. Or- maybe more aptly, the future poor and uneducated masses that will be ruled by the elite children born of the 1%. This is not fiction- this is really happening. A dangerous future is being crafted right now.
This real danger is happening now, right under our noses- there are plenty of distractions in this world to lull people into a stupor so they don’t see it coming. For example- poor people voting for the very party that seeks to deprive them of a living wage. Elderly people on SSI and Medicaid voting for the GOP. People looking for work on unemployment, taking advantage of one of our social services that the Right wants to cut. Mothers on food stamps whose kids are insured by MediCal- who believe the GOP will make their lives better….And any woman voting Republican. All vote against their best interest. Why?
I don’t have the answer to that, but if you think of the middle class as the place of opportunity and prosperity, and you consider there are those who strategically work to eliminate it, then you have to know there is something really ugly going on. I am not getting conspiracy theory here- paint your own picture. But ask yourself, why?
There isn’t long term evidence to support that an increase in the federal minimum wage would cause an economic disaster due to companies and businesses not being able to support that wage. When, in US history, has a spike in wages been the reason for a rise in unemployment? And, if that were to happen- why on earth could the government not SUBSIDIZE said companies and businesses the way they do the multi billion dollar corporations? They do this to the tune of trillions every year! There is a solution. That it isn’t being offered is testament to their commitment to income inequality.
“The fundamental law of capitalism is: When workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers — not rich business people — the true job creators. A thriving middle class isn’t a consequence of growth — which is what the trickle-down advocates would tell you. A thriving middle class is the source of growth and prosperity in capitalist economies.” – Nick Hanauer, Yes Magazine- see footnote 1)
There is, however, some reason to believe that people who are making a living wage become better citizens because they can be more involved in the economy of their community- not just by spending money, but by working less and spending more time raising their kids. They can fix their credit, buy or lease cars, take vacations, pay for their insurance without cringing- NOT, mind you, that suddenly they can live like kings and queens- but their ability to make choices with what to do with their money is greatly expanded, and that expansion benefits the economy. This would inch them (us) up towards the middle class again, slowly but surely. Why would anyone not want that?? Well, again, speculate all you want. Speculation can sound conspiracy theory at times, so I am trying to keep it to a minimum. One thing for sure- Bernie Sanders DOES want everyone to have opportunities, prosperity, chances. Says Bernie Sanders- “It is a national disgrace that millions of full-time workers are living in poverty and millions more are forced to work two or three jobs just to pay their bills,” Sanders said at an outdoor rally near the Capitol. “In the year 2015, a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised to a living wage.” (See footnote 2)
Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is critical to the economic health of our country. Yes, many small business owners will have to adjust, and some may not survive. But can we really sympathize with the businesses over the people? As with any transition, some won’t make it. I am an idealist and would love to see everyone win. I believe there are ways they can alleviate some of the burden during the transition- like tax breaks for example, or giving SUBSIDIES to these businesses. (The government gives trillions in subsidies to companies like Boeing and GM, Shell, Microsoft and Prudential. (see footnote 3)
“The trickle-down explanation for economic growth holds that the richer the rich get, the better our economy does. But it also clearly implies that if the poor get poorer, that must be good for our economy. Nonsense.
Some of the people who benefit most from that explanation are desperate for you to believe this is the only way a capitalist economy can work. At the end of the day, raising the minimum wage to $15 isn’t about just rejecting their version of capitalism. It’s about replacing it with one that works for every American.” (John T Harvey, from Forbes magazine article, see footnote 4)