The federal minimum wage was enacted during the Great Depression. Recently, there have been voracious calls to raise it to $15 and California and New York have already pledged to raise their state standard to that number. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the first minimum wage was $0.25 per hour (equivalent to about $4 today) and about 4.7% of the work force or 3.5 million people were paid the minimum wage or lower.
The question is what should a worker be paid? Most would agree that a worker should be paid what he or she is worth. In other words, a worker should be paid a wage corresponding with the skills required to do the job. In a truly free-market economy the labor market would set the rate of pay depending on what the employer needed. But that is not what we have; we have government telling the employer what to pay. It is all done to provide a “living wage”, whatever that is.
Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00 would affect all those wage earners below $15 and most making a few dollars over that amount because of upward wage pressure. If the government increases the cost of doing business, prices would rise as businesses attempt to maintain some profit. If they cannot make some profit they will just go out of business. Those that want to stay in business will have some choices. It could cause a loss of jobs if the business tries to reduce expenses instead of increasing prices. It would certainly lead to an increase in automation, many of the fast food chains are looking at kiosks for order taking and paying for food, McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s are already starting to test and deploy these and other machines. Starbucks has an automated barista that makes a perfect cup of whatever you want every time and never takes a day off or demands a raise. Think about all those kids that got a start at those fast food places.
It’s true that raising the minimum wage would result in more money for those who would still have a job, but because increased amount is so low, it would have very little stimulating effect on the U.S. economy. Considering the job losses and the increase in automation there will be little left for increase in overall spending. Therefore, I think this is more political than anything else. It makes headlines about providing a “Living Wage” to those at the bottom and the hell with the unintended consequences.
Despite political efforts to derail the America Dream we are still a land of opportunity for those who will get dirty and work hard to learn the responsibility of showing up on time and maybe leaving a little later. Those who put in the time to obtain the necessary skills for a higher paying position will always receive more than the minimum wage. A minimum wage job is not a lifetime position. It is just the beginning for most. Unfortunately, we are developing a class of people who are satisfied with a welfare check, but who are fully capable of working and the government should focus on getting people off of entitlements and back to work. Something our new President seems to be working on.
Will the voters start to figure out that the political game being played by the one party is not intended to boost the economy, but rather to garner votes? If I get it for free why should I vote for the other party when they want me to work for it? We are developing so many people who get it for free we are losing the American Spirit. Interesting how Donald Trump was so rich but he put all his kids to work and look how they turned out. Is there a lesson to be learned?