Hello and welcome back to liberal propaganda rag Bitches Get Riches, where we strive to contradict aging conservative 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 talk 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 without 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.”
It hasn’t aged well
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 being $5.15 in Georgia and Wyoming. (I can tell you from personal experience that in both states you can get a six-pack of beer for like, a wooden nickel and a story ’bout your grandpappy. At a drive-through liquor store.)
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.
And yet the minimum wage, for all its good intentions, has not kept up with inflation. If it had, minimum wage workers would be earning about $24 an hour across the board.
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. Walmart, for example, paid its CEO $25.6 million in 2016. And Walmart generously raised its minimum wage in 2017 to… $9 an hour.
Meanwhile, last year Walmart 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 who 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? Lemme summarize some of the most common arguments against raising the minimum wage to at least keep up with inflation.
“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 be able to afford to live.
“The only people who work for minimum wage are teenagers.”
This hasn’t been true for thirty-five years. But welcome back to the future, 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!”
Controversial opinion: 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 effect, 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?
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 wondering 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.
- We could use that tax revenue 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.
29 thoughts to “Raising the Minimum Wage Would Make All Our Lives Better”
DC resident (and self-proclaimed fairly frugal person) here to testify that $12.50 an hour won’t get you much of a life in this city. I’m glad we’re on track for a $15/hour minimum wage but even that’s a band-aid on a larger problem (and inflation will have further eroded that $15 by the time DC implements it). There’s so much more that needs to happen to make life affordable for the people at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.
Also fuck the haters, flipping burgers and keeping orders straight (and dealing with rude ass people) definitely requires more brainpower day-to-day than my current job. And I’m sitting in a comfy chair all day not using my brain, instead of on my feet for hours at a time. I’ve been in food service before and it’s stressful. So to anyone who thinks those people don’t deserve a living wage, COME AT ME, BRO.
Controversial, Heinleinian idea: working in the service industry for at least a year should be required for citizenship.
I love this idea… and maybe 3 years and/or 3 different services before you’re allowed to be a “director” or “chief executive anything”.
Great points on all of this. The wage gap between CEO’s and workers of large companies is insane.
And equity is a huge differentiator, too. So many companies only give stock options and shit to director-level or higher employees, when it’s often the folks earning minimum wage or a bit more that are doing the work of actually keeping the lights on.
Exactly. When debating between rewarding stock owners and rewarding employees, answer’s easy: make employees stock owners and you please both.
“The free market straight up kills people, motherfucker. ”
Yeah, the way most Americans treat the free market as some sort of judicious arbiter of all things financial is kind of crazy. The free market is definitely the best system we have, but it’s fucking cruel, man. It’s Darwin’s wet dream made real in economic terms.
And we need to throw a chain on that fucker to keep it from wrecking shit.
WELL SAID. I especially get frustrated when people talk about leaving HEALTHCARE and health insurance up to the free market. Like… why do we want people to die for being poor?
I know I am nitpicking a little here…
SOCIAL Darwinism is a weak co-opting of Darwin’s theories by a group of greedy people who didn’t want to share their crayons (or anything else). It is cruel and heartless and fucking sick.
Darwin was a brilliant, exacting scientist who changed our understanding of the world. Please don’t throw him in with those Ayn Rand groupies.
But, I totally agree with your point. The free market gave us slavery, child labor, families being thrown out of their home after dad died in the unsafe mine, people locked in sweatshops burning to death, and many more horrors.
No no, I think this is an important distinction to make! Darwin= yay science! Social Darwinism= the Shirtwaist Triangle Factory Fire and Ayn Rand, two great stains upon humanity.
I am particularly frustrated with this new talking point that cutting corporate taxes will raise the average household income $4000. Corporations care about profit. Lowering taxes increases profits. Good! Raising wages lowers profit. Bad! The only increases will go to top 5%, which may actually average out to $4000/household, but what a con.
Straight outta the Trickle Down Economics playbook.
My Republican pants father in law said that there would be no motivation for anyone to improve themselves or go to college if the minimum wage was 15 dollars an hour…….cause you know, 15 dollars will get your such a fabulous lifestyle; private jets, designer hand bags, yachts, avocados…..
Bahahahhaha! Yes, because poverty and starvation are so fucking motivational.
The only response is to ask why he bothered to go to college or improve himself.
Here in Alberta the government has a plan to have a $15 minimum wage by October of next. They’re raising it incrementally; when the plan was first introduced minimum wage was at $10.20 and it is currently sitting at $13.60.
I’m in full agreement that it is the right move, but there has definitely been a big blowback of negativity. A lot of what you mentioned; employment will go down, small businesses will go out of business, prices will go up, etc. Well, we’re more than halfway through that increase and not a lot has changed (shocking!) I don’t know of one business that has shut down because of higher wages and haven’t noticed a substantial increase in prices above normal inflation.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we rest our case.
So glad this is happening in Alberta. The more empirical evidence we can get of a stable and non-destructive $15 minimum, the better.
An additional benefit to raising the minimum wage. It would do wonders for the Social Security Trust Fund. See here https://www.yourmoneypage.com/ofinterest.php
I didn’t even think of that. You’re right!
Here’s the thing about the free market though-it works in raising the minimum wage, too.
The university I work for is raising its minimum wage to $15. It was already a sought after place to work, but now even more so. The big pharmaceutical company in town raise their wages to compete with the university to attract the qualified workers. The public library, seeing that they were losing out on great workers because of the lower wages, began raising their hourly wages as well. Employers all over town are raising wages to attract better employees. All it took was the largest employer in the state to decide to start valuing the work that its employees do, and others followed suit.
Who wins? Everyone. Everyone wins in this instance. The employers attracted the highest qualified candidates (even for entry level jobs.) A good portion of my town’s residences see an increase in their take home pay. The town’s businesses and restaurants see more money spent in them. The town sees more money in its coffers from more taxes. And, this is anecdotal, but I haven’t seen an increase in prices for the burgers I buy (and I buy more of them now with my raise!)
You… are brilliant. And so, so right.
I wrote that bit about the free market because it’s literally one of the dumb arguments I’ve heard against raising the minimum wage. Usually it’s in the context of “The free market means the minimum wage is impeding business owners from running their businesses how they see fit/employees can choose to not take those minimum wage jobs.” But your anecdote actually perfectly shuts those arguments down while providing evidence that the minimum wage actually works perfectly within the free market philosophy.
In short, I adore you.
I saw that you had linked something for corporate consolidation and I literally said out loud ‘please let it be John Oliver’. The fact that our pop culture references align so well is one of the main reasons I love this blog (oh, and the stellar, funny, profanity-laden, excellently researched and always so very interesting articles you guys write might have something to do with it as well)!
That limey bastard just GETS it!
And thank you, dear. 😀
Thank you for posting this! And for including all those links, too.
I’m really struggling with this, so I’m trying to read and absorb as much as I can from both sides of the argument. Personally, I’m already seeing the negative effects – my main grocery store and many of the small businesses I frequent have already raised their prices because of this. (I’m in Ontario.)
However, it wasn’t too long ago (i.e: just over a year) that I was making minimum wage myself (after being laid off). If it weren’t for my now-husband, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE for me to survive. So I want to see wages go up. I want it be a positive thing. Hopefully it will be 🙂
Chicago is also on the road to $15/hour. I don’t know if I’ve seen a big leap in prices but I tend to shop either super cheap or super high end. I have yet to figure out moderation.
The only way raising the minimum wage will be truly beneficial is if it happens at the federal level. When it happens at the state level sometimes jobs are lost due to companies simply moving their factories to a state with a lower minimum wage
Cosigned. It’s got to be federal.
Loved the article but lizzard people is an antisemitic dog whistle
Ugh, really??? Gotta change that, then.
I’m reading this in 2022. You just reposted it on Twitter. And $24/hour is about what we need to live decently in my city.
But instead of cutting the top tier’s pay, they’re going to justify $18/hour (on which most employees are struggling) by saying it’s better than the $16 they were paying before.
No. Do better. Either you can afford to do this job as a single woman or pay equity needs more work.
Damn that sucks. You’re absolutely right.
We’ll need to update the article now that years have passed and the problem persists.