Minimum Wage

pexels-photo-104884Minimum wage is a conundrum to me. Do I think anyone can LIVE off of minimum wage?

No.

That’s not even an opinion. That’s fact.

The other morning I spent time talking with my conservative friend (who voted for Trump, and yes we’re still friends) about the world. I was feeling conflicted about minimum wage.

While my friend and I agree on a lot of things (we need to take care of the earth and women need equal pay for equal work, and these things need to happen ASAP), we do not agree on everything. He is honestly rather apolitical, but he does have thoughts, good and interesting thoughts, on our country. (As an aside, we’d probably get a lot further if everything wasn’t politicized – can I get an” Amen!”?)

My friend agrees that people cannot live off of minimum wage, but he doesn’t want to raise minimum wage because he feels like it will be a constant ripple effect that will just raise the price of everything and in the end we’ll be back to wear we started – people still won’t be able to live off of “minimum wage”. I worry about this, too.

I pointed out that because people living on minimum wage have to rely on the government for health care and other subsidies, we as tax payers are helping them live instead of the wealthy business owner who is choosing to not pay them a living wage.

But here’s the thing. Not every business owner is wealthy. I come from a family of small business owners. I know that owning your own business does not equal wealth.

And for those business owners and CEOs who are wealthy – what’s their incentive for bringing home less money? None. And that’s what my conservative friend pointed out, there is no incentive, so they will just find a way to keep their profits up and therefore raise prices more.

Neither of us had a solution for the circular problem.

He said that minimum wage jobs weren’t meant to be long term career paths, they were meant to be stepping stones. This is true, but I asked him how are people supposed to step up? Where are they to step up to?

In a culture where more and more unskilled jobs are being done by machines, in a culture where companies are demanding degrees for jobs that don’t need degrees, and under paying those with degrees to do those jobs, where does the madness end?

Not everyone can go to college. Not everyone should go to college.

But I digress. My real question is what to do about minimum wage, because whether we like it or not many, many people are trying to get by on minimum wage and it’s not working. These are not stupid, lazy people. These are hard working people who need help.

And here’s the other thing – the fight to raise minimum wage, is just to raise a minimum wage. It’s not even a fight to force a living wage. But does that mean we shouldn’t fight for it? No.

We must strive for progress even without perfection.

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