Corporate media headline grabbing “presidential candidate” Donald Trump recently claimed raising the minimum wage would not help the nation stating:
“We can’t have a situation where our labor is so much more expensive than other countries’ that we can no longer win.”
Win what? Does Donald really want American workers to take jobs for less than 80 cents (China) or 28 cents (India) an hour? Besides the obvious this is exactly the type of thinking that contributes to our police state — and the largest prison population on the planet.
An over-simplified but common sense formula we know:
Aggressive policing and a massive prison system as a catch-all for every social ill only exacerbates the problem — creating employment barriers, making public benefits inaccessible, and disrupting communities.
When we take the primary wage-earner from a family and from a community and lock him up, what does that do to his family? His community? The larger nation as a whole?
Let’s look briefly at Germany (not because they are a perfect country) simply because they recently introduced a higher minimum wage and “have not shown signs of suffering any economic blow”.
German workers also receive paid family leave, universal healthcare, and paid vacation. As a comparison, of 38 nations the US is the outlier when it comes to even the most basic civilized consideration of paid parental leave.
Germany is further able to remain competitive while:
1) investing in education (free college)
2) investing their workers in corporate decision-making
And yet even that is not enough. German poverty is at a record high and many say much more in the way of social services are needed.
But any concerns about raising the minimum wage from the dissenters have the face the reality that the majority of evidence from natural experiments point to little if any negative effect of minimum wage increases on employment. For good analysis of why, you can read Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman’s brief article on the matter.
The major point here being that we need to do everything we can to eliminate income inequality. The USA is #1 on way too many lists of socio-economic disrepair. Of the 19 OECD nations, the USA has the highest rate of income disparity and poverty other than Mexico and Turkey. Today, American babies die at almost twice the rate of German babies (we lead the industrialized world in infant death rates).
“On nearly all indicators of mortality, survival and life expectancy, the United States ranks at or near the bottom among high-income countries,” says a report on the nation’s health by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.
Too many Americans today are living and working multiple jobs night and day just to live — the minimum wage as it is now is unlivable. Nearly half of new jobs don’t pay enough to make ends meet.
People who enter the criminal justice system are overwhelmingly poor. Two-thirds detained in jails report annual incomes under $12,000 prior to arrest. And incarceration contributes to further poverty.
So we have poverty feeding the police state and the police state feeding the coffers of an industry built around human suffering. That is unacceptable.
So what can we do? One thing we can do is raise the minimum wage. 75% of Americans support it. And it is certainly affordable by America’s largest employers like Walmart, Yum! Brands, McDonalds, Sam’s Club, Target etc.
Right now, Bernie Sanders has been the most aggressive on this front having introduced a national bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020:
“It is a national disgrace that millions of full-time workers are living in poverty and millions more are forced to work two or three jobs just to pay their bills,” Sanders said at an outdoor rally near the Capitol last month. “In the year 2015, a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised to a living wage.”