I keep hearing this, for several years now, and since we are in full-blown election season it is a constant. Usually, it is Bernie Sanders as it was his mantra last election season, but what does it mean? The dollar value is always $15.00 an hour, but why is that the magic number? Why does that never get explained? I have a few issues with this position, I am not against paying people fairly, or equal pay for everybody, on the contrary. I just want to understand the statement, why that is the number and how they get to that?
When we start making the statement everybody should make a living wage and it must be $15.00 an hour, there must be some line of demarcation. For example, people working in McDonald’s are typically retired people, moms who just want a part-time job, and students. These jobs were not meant to pay $15.00 an hour or become jobs to support families or yourself. People with college degrees may start at 15.00 or slightly more, just out of school. I’m not implying some of the folks that hold these jobs need to make more, but I am implying that this is probably not the place for that dollar value. If you can’t take a simple order without a mistake or can’t make the change for a dollar, can’t speak coherently or you can’t present yourself in a proper fashion, is that worth $15.00 an hour?
If we pay everybody $15.00 an hour from the start do we think that there will be no economic impact? For instance, if a restaurant attracts people making at least $15.00 an hour and next month we double the number of people making $15.00 an hour, that restaurant just acquired more customers. That is great except they now have to cook more, spend more on supplies, work more, etc… everything changes, and so does the cost of the meals. Maybe now people making 15.00 can’t afford to eat there. It is something that can’t be ignored. Possibly over time some equilibrium sets in and it all balances out, but just a jump in salary is not as magical was we are led to believe.
What happens to all the people that started making $8.00 or $10.00 an hour and worked their way up to $15.00 an hour, isn’t that unfair to them? They worked to increase their salary, now in an instant, it is just handed out to everybody. Shouldn’t they get an increase proportionally?
We live in a capitalistic society, it is a great system, but it can be a harsh system, and one could argue it is unfair. However, the system was not built to be fair it was built to give everybody based on the effort the chance to improve and have an opportunity. Yes, some people have it easier than others, but there is still an opportunity and that is always available to everybody. I have had certain opportunities over my life to improve my lot, some have had more difficult struggles than me but were more successful than me. Some started out equal to me or better and did not do as well. It is all about opportunity, ability and how hard we work and even then, there is no guarantee.
It is quite possible, the minimum wage is to low and should go up. I’m not sure what it should be, but it should not be tied the the “living wage” statement. I’m not a big supporter of unions, and I never worked for one. They have done some great things, in fairness to workers, that have helped both the worker and the company. I don’t know if the answer is unions to find the correct equilibrium for salary but we can’t forget, a company is allowed to make a profit and run a business that not only provides a benefit to the worker but the shareholders.
There is an old saying, any government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take everything away. Let the system find the balance, do not let the government dictate it.