Hello and welcome back to liberal propaganda rag Bitches Get Riches, where we strive to contradict aging Republican lawmakers at every turn!
Today’s topic is curated especially to bring various political dog whistles spewing from the mouth of Your Dad! Things like “job creators” and “small businesses are the backbone of our country.”
Yes of course: it’s time we talked about raising the minimum wage.
What even is the minimum wage?
As the great philosopher Chris Rock once said, “You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? ‘Hey if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.’”
The minimum wage exists to protect workers from, well… wage slavery. What else do you call laboring every day and not being paid?
It came about via FDR’s Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, in which he put forth various revolutionary and scandalous laws like curbing oppressive child labor, setting the maximum work week at forty-four hours, and setting the minimum wage at $0.25 an hour. A whole quarter! Imagine!
At the time, certain parties wailed and moaned about how disastrous it would be to force employers not to pay their employees below a certain amount. So, my fellow Americans, not much has changed!
But in the words of Roosevelt himself: “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day tell you that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”
Since the time of the original bill, the federal minimum wage has increased twenty-two times to keep up with inflation. In 2009, it rose to $7.25 an hour. And states have set their own minimum wages aligned with their costs of living, with the highest being Washington D.C.’s $12.50 an hour and the lowest $5.15 in Georgia and Wyoming (where you can get a six-pack of beer for like, a wooden nickel and a story ’bout your grandpappy).
There are various arguments for how the minimum wage, despite all intentions, has hurt rather than helped the American worker. We’ll get to those in a bit. But what you need to understand at this point is that it was intended to protect the youngest and poorest of the labor force from employers who would seek to take advantage of their poverty and powerlessness.
The desperate might accept work at any level of compensation (and in fact they do). They can’t therefore be expected to decline such unfairly compensated work for the principle of the matter. Just as their miserable bosses can’t be trusted to do the right thing. And that’s where the law is designed to step in with the minimum wage. It provides a system of protection for the powerless and oversight for the powerful.
What would happen if we raised it?
Ever hear the term “the working poor”? This is a term used to describe people who are working one or more minimum wage jobs, and are still so poor that many of them have to rely on government assistance to get by. This government assistance comes in the form of welfare, which our taxes fund.
A lot of the working poor work for companies whose CEOs and upper management make thousands of times what their minimum wage employees make. Wal-Mart, for example, paid its CEO $25.6 million last year. And Wal-Mart generously raised its minimum wage this year to… $9 an hour.
Meanwhile, last year Wal-Mart reported annual profits of $482 billion. That’s BILLION. With a motherfucking B.
Here’s where it gets controversial. If deliriously profitable companies like Wally World doubled their minimum wage employees’ pay–say, from $7.50 in some states to $15 an hour–those employees might no longer have to rely on welfare to survive. So fewer of our tax dollars would go to supporting the working poor, because they wouldn’t be so poor.
The more people are paid a living wage, the fewer people need to rely on tax-funded government assistance. So those tax dollars could get spent on other useful shit, like improving our failing public schools and repairing our crumbling infrastructure.
And if the whole give-people-a-means-to-support-themselves/free-up-some-tax-money angle isn’t enough for you, keep in mind that repairing infrastructure and improving schools and any number of other tax-funded Make America Bearable Again initiatives would create jobs.
Dumb arguments against raising the minimum wage
So why the hell is this such a divisive political debate?
“Raising the minimum wage will Ruin the Economy™!”
Do I need to pull a George Bailey here? People don’t just stack their money in a vault and occasionally go in to dust it off. Only obscenely wealthy non-human shapeshifting illuminati damage our economy by doing exactly that!
Real people use their money. They exchange it for goods and services or invest it in real estate and the stock market. They spend it on necessities and yes, even stupid shit that makes them feel more human.
The economy relies upon the regular exchange of currency. Remember that employees are also customers. So the more companies pay their employees, the more money those customers have to spend, which can only be good for the economy.
“Flipping burgers isn’t worth $15 an hour!”
I guarantee anyone who has ever said this has never worked in the service industry. But let’s set aside for a moment the fact that “flipping burgers” is a shitty fucking job and a lot harder than it sounds. Because that is so not the point.
It’s not about paying people a dollar amount commensurate with how difficult their job tasks are. If that were the case, real estate tycoons would get paid considerably less than the construction workers who build their ivory towers and the maids who clean them.
When you trade your finite hours for money, that money should be enough to keep you fed, housed, and healthy. If you are working, you should not be destitute. You should be able to easily afford a place to live, nutritious food, regular medical care, and transportation. And so should your children.
It’s called “making a living” because if you’re working you should afford to live.
“The only people who work for minimum wage are teenagers.”
This hasn’t been true for thirty years, but welcome to 2017, Marty McFly.
Minimum wage jobs might have the reputation of being “starter jobs” for teenagers who are just trying to supplement their allowance with gas money. But in truth over a million Americans working for minimum wage are over the age of twenty-four. Presumably, these workers have more financial responsibilities than the average teenager living at home.
In fact, an estimated 2.8 million minimum wage earners are single parents, of whom 80% are women. So if you want to be “pro-family,” “pro-women,” or “pro-life,” raising the minimum wage is a good place to start.
“Companies will go out of business!”
Frankly, if you can’t afford to pay your employees enough money to eat, then I question whether you should be in business. And before you rush down to the comments to call me a heartless murderer of small businesses, remember that that distinction belongs to corporate consolidation, not me.
But to be fair, hurting small businesses is a legitimate concern. Raising the minimum wage increases their employee costs in wages, payroll taxes, and benefits like 401(k) matching. The aforementioned giant corporations with billionaire executives can afford these costs. It’s harder for the local mom and pop shop. Raising prices or cutting costs are two ways to alleviate the potential affect, but so is laying off employees. Which leads us to…
“People will lose their jobs!”
Minimum wage goes up, employment goes down. This theory has been the rallying cry of those against raising the minimum wage since it was invented. Except that the minimum wage has been raised twenty-two times over seventy-eight years and… unemployment… hasn’t?
Yep, that’s right. The theory that raising the minimum wage will cause widespread job loss just doesn’t hold water when held up against the historical evidence. In fact, employment actually increased 68% of the time when the minimum wage has been increased.
In 2014, over six hundred economists wrote a letter to the president and congress that stated, “the weight of evidence now show[s] that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”
“Prices will skyrocket!”
Only if your definition of “skyrocket” is “no noticeable change.” The city of Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15. They predicted that prices would rise in accordance. Yet there’s been no evidence of widespread price hikes since the increased employee compensation.
Seattle isn’t alone. In fact, a report from the National Employment Law Project reveals that seven decades of historical data finds no correlation between increasing the minimum wage and national employment levels.
Side note: I love how this argument sees raising prices as the only way to cope with paying employees more. Again, we are but a humble feminzai libtard propaganda rag, but I can’t help but wonder why we never talk about lowering the salaries and bonuses of executives to compensate. Is that not on the table?
“Something something the free market!”
The free market straight up kills people, motherfucker. There’s a time and a place for it, and it’s definitely not when people’s lives are at stake. Like, for example, when we’re arguing about paying people a living wage.
All of these arguments—and the metric fuckton of op-eds supporting them—make me question the narrative behind the apocalypse resulting from a higher minimum wage. Who are the stakeholders against raising the minimum wage? Why are they pushing disaster scenarios about job loss, inflation, price increases, dying small businesses, and another recession? And what do they have to lose?
The real American welfare queens
- The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation and the cost of living.
- Big corporations pay their employees jack shit despite making billions in revenue.
- The government uses our taxes to help those low-paid employees survive through welfare.
- If companies would give their employees raises, those employees would rely less on government assistance.
- That tax revenue could be used elsewhere to improve our country.
So when people refer to the “welfare state” and “lazy people living off our tax dollars,” who do you think that really means? Is it the working poor? Or is it their fucking employers who pay them so little that we need to subsidize their shitty paychecks with welfare?
Because that is exactly what currently happens. Every corporate CEO whose employees rely upon government assistance to survive is the true definition of a “welfare queen.”
We the Bitches are in favor of raising the minimum wage because we’re tired of picking up the slack for greedy corporate overlords. There’s nothing shameful about relying on the social safety net to get back on your feet. But if you’re explaining why you can’t afford to pay your employees a living wage from your gold-plated hover yacht, you’ve got plenty to be ashamed of.