I’m getting sick and tired of reading bullshit about minimum wage, so this is what I want to do. I’m going list and defend/attack each reason—that I’ve heard for or against the raising of minimum wage to a livable wage. If after reading you have any other reasons please let me know and I will amend the list.
1. “I make about fifteen dollars an hour, and I don’t think McDonalds workers should too!”
I wish I could say this wasn’t something I had actually heard, but I have. (A side note, I’m using McDonalds as the example because that is literally the phrasing I hear most of the time, I don’t know much about McDonalds pay practices, so please don’t take this as an endictment of McDonalds.)
I’m not sure if this is brought about from a place of superiority in a class sense, or the worker who uttered this feels they work harder so I’ll address it from every conceivable angle. First, does someone working at McDonalds not deserve to survive if they work hard and full time? This is essentially the implication here. Secondly, do you think that you work harder? Effort is relatively difficult to quantify, so perhaps this is a poor argument, and if you mean that you work more, well hourly wage should not come into account—unless you’re on salary, but for the most part this issue effects hourly workers.
2. “Those jobs were never meant to employ adults with families.”
Again, there are so many reasons why this is poor thinking (see what I did there). We cannot expect jobs to retain their level of importance/pay/place in our economy as the world constantly shifts. Once upon a time there were milk men, and cobblers, and blacksmiths, and they were needed in every town. The economy changes as technology and everything else changes, it is clear by the fight for coal jobs, that this mentality of learning to adapt is difficult for certain lawmakers to follow, but it is essential. Working in retail, or grocery stores, or fast food are jobs that have remained in our society by necessity, while other jobs have not. So this is the first part of the problem with this argument, the second being why does this mean adults with families don’t deserve to make a living wage? Also it begs the question why are we so ok with paying non-adults without families less than a living wage?
3. “If we raise minimum wage our goods will cost more.”
Economists have argued that this is minimally true. The thought behind the statement is that things will over inflate, but realistically any inflation would be minimal and inline with trends anyway.
So I won’t argue that this isn’t true, what I’ll argue is that it’s disingenuous. This is why, if you are a parent trying to support a family (or half of a family because you have a spouse covering half of the burden) and you’re making an amount of money that is not enough to live off of, where are you making up the slack. Food stamps, welfare, and other programs will help those people because the government isn’t in the ‘letting our citizens die of starvation and neglect business’ (not to say that it doesn’t happen and there aren’t large issues getting people taken care of). Who is paying for those government programs? The tax payers who are whining about a TV at Walmart potentially going up in price, are also the same people who whine about entitlements. Heres the fucking deal when it comes to this particular argument, you can pay people a livable wage, and welfare, and food stamps and other ‘entitlements’ programs can remain for those who will still need them (which will be a greatly reduced amount of people) or you can keep paying for those taxes and shut the fuck up about entitlements. End of that particular argument.
4. “It doesn’t encourage people to work harder.”
I’m not sure if the people making this argument are thinking that raising the minimum wage will mean everyone gets paid the same, but I’ve actually heard this argument. I feel like the problems with this argument are self evident, so I won’t take much time to address it, but obviously minimum wage would not also be maximum wage.
5. “What about small businesses that cannot afford the increased minimum wage?”
This might be the most valid reason against raising it. I do think there are options to deal with this. Perhaps the higher minimum wage applies only to companies over a certain amount of employees (or for a certain period of time)? Many start-ups can’t compensate very well so they offer other perks. Also their is a significant amount of tax write off options for new businesses regarding loss.
Part of the reason why small businesses have a hard time offering higher wages is because they are competing with large (sometimes massive) companies in pricing, and if the large companies raise their prices due to minimum wage, it may help to make small businesses keep competitive pricing. This piece is a bit circular in logic, but that’s because the problem is created by a similar circular logic.
Ultimately, this argument does still miss a fundamental point; paying people isn’t some charity. Of course there will be a higher profit margin if you don’t have to pay you’re employees, but ultimately you have a moral obligation. Is anyone arguing for slavery? Not in the horrific way we’ve known in the past, but certainly there is an attitude of indentured servitude, when it comes to internship abuse, and the mindset of “I can’t make money if I pay people enough.”
6. “Why are they demanding $15? That’s a big jump.”
I’m not sure where the actual living wage is in America, but I know a little bit about negotiations. If I go to buy a car, I’m not telling the sales person my final number, and they’re not telling me there’s off the bat. If I go in saying I want a Corvette and offer MSRP there will likely be no negotiation. When it comes to getting better wages, I’m not sure $15 is the final number, but perhaps a starting point. Bernie Sanders last year said “if you go for a full loaf of bread, you may get half a loaf of bread, but if you go for a half you may get crumbs.” It’s really not too complicated and everyone on both sides of the issue plays this game in some area of life.
Now for some positive reasons:
7. “If you raise the minimum wage it will stimulate the economy.”
The lower classes tend to spend a significant majority of their money. Those at the top are likely not to. If those at the bottom begin making more money (for those making actual minimum wage this could be double depending on the state) they would be spending even more. This will stimulate our economy much better than the richest people making even more money. I’m not against those at the top making money, but if you made 50 million last year and make 100 million this year, do you think your spending is likely to double? Sure it may increase, but certainly no where near the same percentage as someone who made $20,000 last year and makes $40,000 this year. This is an important concept also because of the amount of people who are likely be able to spend double (or a smaller but significant percentage) versus the amount of rich people making more but not necessarily spending more.
As the economy increases due to stimulation this will eventually start to benefit those at the top as well. More people will have money to buy more of your stuff. Think of it like trickle up economics, unlike trickle down it accounts for human behavior and nature.
8. “The average CEO 331 times what the average worker makes.”
This argument is not invalid but isn’t making the point you think. We all agree the person running the company probably deserves to make more than the bottom level employees, the big difference is matter of degree. This statistic and others like it don’t tell the story fully. A better way of illustrating the disparity problem you’re trying to illustrate is to talk spending power. Something like “the average worker at ABC company makes only enough to survive when splitting the rent with five roommates, and still requires financial assistance while ABC’s CEO Richard Head was able to buy the most expensive private jet in the market with his Christmas bonus.” But it’s too wordy and not as catchy because people will have to read. Ultimately the CEO ratio thing just doesn’t have the impact because there isn’t a clear real world example drawn of the impact.
If you have any other reasons for or against raising the minimum wage, let me know and I’ll add it to my list.