Friday, April 04, 2014

Give Us This Day . . .

Those words are known to all of us raised as Christians who comprise the majority of Americans.  Yet our elected representatives, who claim divine guidance for many questionable actions, continue to block efforts to ensure that millions of American workers are paid enough to feed their families.

Congress has failed to act on proposals to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10. Here in Michigan, and in other states, legislatures also are refusing to raise minimums that qualify full-time workers in many occupations for food stamps. They need the food stamps, paid for by taxpayers like me, to feed their families. Thus, we taxpayers are subsidizing businesses that refuse to pay their workers a living wage.

Many owners of those businesses argue that they will be forced to eliminate workers if they are required to pay decent wages. There is a body of research in this area. Most of the better designed studies find few if any jobs would be lost.  

Political philosophies aside, it is a fact that the federal minimum wage adjusted for inflation is one third lower than it was in 1968. It simply is not fair pay for those who serve our meals, clean our buildings, and care for our sick and elderly.

Two members of a discussion group I coordinate are among those circulating petitions designed to force an improvement in Michigan. The change would be far from drastic. Over three years, the state's minimum wage would be increased from $7.40 per hour to $10.10. The minimum for those who depend on tips, which currently is below $3.00 per hour, also would be raised. To keep the playing field level, the minimum wage would be tied to inflation in the future.

I had to think for as long as it took to find a pen before signing. 

We should be ashamed that Americans working full-time at the bottom of the economic scale cannot afford to buy their daily bread. They should not have to depend on welfare for the most basic of human needs. We need to change this situation.


PiedType said...

I don't know where the $10.10 figure originated or how it was calculated, but it certainly doesn't sound like an impossible number, given the rising costs that all consumers know so well. Minimum wage should be tied to inflation. It should have been from Day One.

Alan G said...

Obviously when Federal minimum wage is not tied to something within the economic hierarchy wage earners will suffer. Given the fact that Federal minimum wage hasn’t moved since 2009 and then someone decides it needs to be increased in an effort to level the economic playing field, well of course it is going to look like a large increase to some. On the other hand, if we had simply increased minimum wages 57 cents per hour each year for the past five years we would already be at $10.10, the new suggested level.

You did get that number I hope. That’s a little more than half a dollar per hour per employee. Got ten employees, that’s $5 dollars an hour; $50 dollars a day, $350 dollars a week. But do nothing for five years and then play catch up – that’ll cost you $1750 a week for those 10 employees. Ouch huh? Well whose fault is that… and the employee is still not really getting any bang for the buck.

Banjo Steve said...

I find it astonishing - and all too predictably hypocritical - that conservatives rail against the dependency of welfare recipients, yet also position themselves against giving the working class a living wage. I really feel that there is a concerted effort toward re-establishing a feudal system of lords and serfs, with no influential middle class of substance. Arghhhh!

Dick Klade said...

Good points, Alan. One thing I like about the Michigan initiative is it spreads the pain over three years, which improves its chances of being adopted. Unfortunately, it also spreads the gain. But the tie to increases in the cost of living will be a very good thing.

Anonymous said...

We have a similar situation here in the UK although it is difficult to compare 'the cost of living' here and in the USA.
We do not have 'food stamps' although there are a number of tax funded benefits on offer.
Despite this, free food is being handed out at 'food banks' all over the country.

Dick Klade said...

John, we also have many food banks in our area. All say their services are in great demand. I find this perplexing given all the government assistance available through food stamps, subsidized school lunches and breakfasts, and income tax exemptions for low-income workers.

It gets pretty complicated--one recent study showed the federal government would cut food stamp costs by $4.6 billion by adopting a $10.10 per hour minimum wage. Another found going to that minimum would lift 900,000 above the poverty level, but could cut total employment by about 0.3 percent, equivalent to some 500,000 jobs.

Anonymous said...

I'm torn on the minimum wage argument. Most of the affected jobs are "starter" for teens, part-time workers, or second jobs. To me the better thing to do is spend money on training and education. I held a string of minimum wage jobs for years. Three at one time when I was in college.

Meanwhile, I went to school and improved my skills. When I got the job offer to work for Congress, I was working a minimum wage job in a retail store. I will never forget receiving the call for the interview while serving a customer.

Dick Klade said...

I also worked several minimum wage or less jobs as a teen, and was grateful for them. However, times have changed and minimum wage jobs no longer are nearly entirely the province of youths seeking experience in first-time positions.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, “87.9 percent of those affected nationally by increasing the federal minimum wage are 20 years of age and older. The share of those affected who are 20 or older varies by state, from a low of 77.1 percent in Massachusetts to a high of 92.4 percent in Florida (and 93.9 percent in the District of Columbia).” Also, “more than a third (35.8 percent) are married, and over a quarter (28.0 percent) are parents.”

Notably, 49 percent of people making the minimum wage are adult women.

I think it is naive to believe business owners are so benevolent they are employing all these people, but really don't need them. Thus, it is illogical to think the business people will eliminate a great many jobs just because they are required to raise pay to decent levels.

Kay said...

$3 an hour? Really? I had no idea!

I'm all for raising the minimum wage. I have two nephews who need it desperately right now.

Dick Klade said...

Kay, the exact amount is $2.75 per hour for those who depend primarily on tips. If a server hit a slow day for their shift, he or she could wind up earning very little indeed. Sad.