Minimum Wage is not and never has been intended to be a “living wage”. Entry level positions that offer minimum wage are just that: entry into the job market or the profession. They are intended to last only as long as is needed to learn the field or the process. Then the worker is intended to move on—either ahead in the field or on to another one, depending on what was learned in the entry level position. In a way, they could be considered apprenticeships.
Workers in entry level positions have always shared living spaces and used inexpensive transportation. Owning a home or a car is not part of this stage in life; it’s something one builds up to over time. Entry level workers have always eaten the cheapest food, worn secondhand clothes, and found creative ways to enjoy their lives for the few years that they were in those positions. Whether they had lots of schooling or virtually none at all, they knew this was a temporary experience on their way to something greater, and they spent some hours dreaming and planning around the future they were creating. (Note, I said “creating”, not “expecting someone to hand them.”)
The fact that people have begun to act as if entry level positions are “careers” is one of the dangerous results of our media and failed educational system.
Human beings are creative and self-developing by nature, not designed to work in repetitive jobs under close supervision. But we have encouraged that in theUSand are now paying a huge price.
More than that our economy cannot afford higher wages at the lowest level, because those are the basis on which all other prices are set. When workers’ pay is increased, all prices go up. As soon as wages go up, then basic costs go up, and soon none of us can afford them. Then everyone wants a higher “living” wage and the cycle continues.
I learned this when I was in grade school When I was 7 years old there was a steel strike and the workers got increased wages. When I was 10, everything was more expensive so the workers went on strike for higher wages… and that’s happened again and again my whole life. So what was plenty for a middle-class family to live on in the 1960s and early ‘70s is well under the poverty level for an individual in the 21st century.
Whether “fast food” is a “basic cost” is another question. For many people it has seemed that not “having time to cook” or “access to groceries” makes buying fast food necessary The fact that others living in the same places and doing the same job are able to find the time and the groceries to cook for themselves means nothing to these people.
The difference is twofold: priorities and creativity. Those who find the time and groceries to cook for themselves have placed a priority on having good, healthy, inexpensive food and have used their creativity to figure out ways to do so. Those who do not have slipped into a “let someone else do it” mindset that may prevent them from achieving their dreams.
Again, I know this from experience. Having raised children on a poverty-level income working more than one job (not entry level but not enough, being a woman, to support a family), I still managed to have fresh, homemade food on the table most nights and mornings, while my neighbors were living on takeout and drive-thrus.
Now, there’s also the question of corporate profits: how much of what is produced by the company should go to the shareholders and how much to the workers?
If that’s the real issue, then the real problem is not how high the minimum wage is but how little of the profits the workers receive. This is why Employee Stock Ownereship Programs (ESOPs) were invented. This is why the publicly traded c-Corp is destroying theUSeconomy. This is why workers who have the energy to fight for a higher wage might want to use that same energy to create businesses where the income is more equitably distributed.—now that’s an answer we can all benefit from!