Saturday, November 25, 2006

Minimum Rage, Maximum Ignorance

A few days ago, I did something very questionable--I joined the StoryChat forum of the Daily Advertiser. It's become very popular among local readers, and proves to outsiders exactly what I deal with, politically speaking, on a regular basis. So far, so fun!

Today's edition ran a reader's rebuttal of a previous letter that called for the end of the minimum wage. Here's my response to several comments. I doubt it needs much context.

So what are your arguments AGAINST minimum wage? All I've heard so far is a bunch of slippery-slope arguments ("Why don't we just raise the minimum wage to $100,000?") and idiotic cracks ("Her thoughts are on loan from Ted Kennedy.") None of these speak well of the anti-minimum wage stance.

The minimum wage exists in the first place because industry couldn't be counted on to pay low-level workers livable wages. Indeed, at every level, captains of industry have been so benevolent toward their lifeblood (meaning, workers) that the government has had to step in regarding employment benefits, Social Security, what constitutes overtime labor, workplace conditions, classification of employees, labor-management relations and child labor laws. These examples of so-called "big government" are why we have such dastardly concepts as "holidays" and "the weekend." I would presume that those who oppose the minimum wage and advocate totally unfettered commerce would not actually want to work in a factory in 1906 America.

I understand that pay should be based on merit; in fact, that's one of my deepest-held beliefs. But that's nowhere close to our current reality. Sometimes external factors play a role in what person works which job; Lafayette's economy, as my (conservative) friend put it, cannot absorb all of the college graduates it generates. Consequently, you're just as likely to find a college grad working a fast-food job as you are at the executive branch of an oil company.

Ideally, if an employee is worth more, than they will eventually earn more. But everyone, even if they are not cut out for their current job, deserves to be paid wages that will keep them out of poverty. When they are off poverty, they're also off that welfare you hate so much. The minimum wage hasn't been raised since 1997, and only then it was a tiny bump. It's time that everyone who works can keep up with the cost of living.


Phillip said...

Those are all great, cogent points Ian, but you will never accomplish anything in The Advertiser forums, I promise. I got sucked in once and the only responses I'd get were the arbitrary "Bill Clinton" and "Ted Kennedy." Eventually I got so frustrated I swore off the forum feature entirely. Kind of like that hobbit that had to get rid of the ring because it was destroying him. Rick Santorum? Was that his name? I forget. I hated those movies.

Ian McGibboney said...

Yes, I know. I've already seen that for myself. It's almost nothing but personal attacks and tired talking points. I guess it's all they have.

Karen E said...

I think corporations and even small businesses will always adhere to general principles of supply and demand, and will always try to maximize profits and minimize expenditures. It's frankly hard to make money being altruistic, caring and giving to your employees (especially for small businesses in this economy). We can NEVER count on our employers to have our interests in mind. Why would they? So we invented a government to intervene on our behalf and provide safety and equality in our workplaces. That's right, WE, as a people want our government to intervene and help us out. This really isn't a kingdom where bureaucrats do as they please and we have to live with it. YOU, right-wingers have to live with what the majority of people have chosen, just like us liberals have had to live with for 8 years and 12 years and...

But I digress. Here in San Diego, near the Mexican border, there are a lot of hard-working Mexican-American CITIZENS (not illegals, that's another topic) that get taken advantage of by employers because they cannot speak English well, and they have little recourse but to take what they get. They need a living wage! The cost of living is high here and without government intervention, they will NOT be paid what they are worth, despite extremely hard work and initiative and talent. (Don't you think it takes initiative and ambition to leave your home country and work hard to learn a new language and become a citizen?)

You may live in a region where most entry-level positions are populated by teens who aren't trying to live on the wages, but I don't. I've also lived in the south, where African-Americans were in the majority, trying to make a living on minimum wage. Whether the "merit pay" folks want to admit it or not, there are lots of people in this country who have great difficulty improving their lot in life. There are many factors. Bad education leading to inability to thrive in college. Lack of funds for college. Lack of time for college, (due to having several minimum wage jobs, or family concerns). By the way, I've seen the disgusting suggestion, "get your spouse to work" many times in this debate. Two people together each making minimum wage cannot live above the poverty line any better than 2 people seperate. I really don't understand this arguement and I don't know anyone poor who doesn't work. (I know there are a few, but everyone I encounter works, their spouse works, their kids work, they all work hard, but can't get ahead at all.) By the way, I make above the minimum wage, but not much, because I work for a non-profit, and I'm not getting ahead either, and consider myself fairly poor.

Of course there are caucasians that have the some of the same difficulties obtaining education and have to live off minimum wage, there's just history and economic factors that lead to undeniable statistics of racial minorities being the ones who need the living wage the most. I don't know all the reasons why, I just know it's true.