The Minimum Wage Debate in America

This chart shows how pathetic the Federal Min. Wage
This chart shows how pathetic the Federal Min. Wage

Over 16 million Americans earn less than $10 an hour. These people earn the barest of the minimum wage, that is, $8 or $9 an hr. They do work in low end industries that serve those earning so much more-the doctor, the engineer, the bus driver, the nurse, low end managers in retail, CEO's. The people earning this low wage are students or less educated. Many are retired also trying to make ends meet in their "golden years" because during their work years, they failed to invest or plan adequately. They are no all undocumented people working in fast food or the clothing industry.

When you go into Macy's Nordstroms or other high-end fashion retailers, the person assisting you probably makes not more than $10 hr. Most of these retailers pay only $9 hr, yet, sell a pair of jeans for $150, almost two days pay for the work. The cost of jeans probably cost the retailer only $50. When adjusted for inflation, a $10 hr. job today is equivalent to what someone earned in 1968! The hourly rate than was around not more than $2 hr.

The small retailers scream they cannot afford to pay higher wages and would force them out of business. Any retailer will simply raise their prices a little to compensate, just as trucking firms do with fuel costs, when diesel rises higher. The same scream is heard from the retail chains that make billions yearly, pay their CEO, millions, and their managers 50-75K, while those at the bottom barely survive on less than $10 hr.

Even raising the minimum rate to $10 is a joke. Some urban areas have done this, which is much higher than the Federal Min. Wage. Yet, the cost to live in these cities offsets any wage gain. The cities have done this out of shame and having a guilty conscience. Those at the higher end of employment, at one time in their lives, know what it is like to work for such low wages and why those who do need government aid in food stamps or Section 8 subsidized housing, yet, because they have lived the wealthy life for so long, they have grown callous about it, thinking, "Yeah, earning ten bucks an hour sucks, but I did it, and I earn what I get now". These people may give a few bucks to a street musician but if it comes to making a little less in order to allow those at the bottom earn a little more, their attitudes change. They become greedy and refuse to take a minor cut in pay.

What would be a decent minimum wage? Maybe $12 hr. But, the current $8 hr. Federal Min. Wage is just morally wrong in 2014, when just renting a room can cost $500-700, in many large urban areas. If employers do pay more, they will retain their employees longer. This is the #1 reason for job turnover, even at the high wage earner level. But, it is vastly more important at the low end.

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Comments 18 comments

NateB11 profile image

NateB11 2 years ago from California, United States of America

You are absolutely right, it is ridiculous that our minimum wage is so low and that there are those who are fighting against it getting raised. A person cannot survive on it and ends up needing extra assistance to survive on it. And they work horrible jobs just to barely survive. I know this from personal experience and I truly can't stand people who are so callous that they can't see this fact.


HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

The current level of the minimum wage ensures that those who make that wage are living in poverty if they are the primary breadwinner. This wage never rises with inflation and has thus become a cruel joke. A sharp rise in this rate would be absolutely humane but would also be economically smart. These workers would immediately be spending this increase in wages stimulating our economy. Excellent analysis, Perrya.


retief2000 2 years ago

Increases in the minimum wage are financed by those who wither lose their job or lose the opportunity for a job. Less than 3% of all Americans work for minimum wage. Local market forces frequently force wages above that ceiling. Those who work for minimum wage are usually the second income or a teenager in a home with more than one income. The profit margin for businesses that pay the minimum wage is such that to force an increase in wages, the highest single outlay for most businesses, is to cut into that margin.

Profits help the owner expand, offer training, improve conditions, improve equipment and improve future profitability. The 6 million small businesses in America are not run by "the rich" but by people who work every day for many hours merely to continue in business.

From its inception the minimum wage has harmed those who supporters pretend to help. Young, public school educated, urban and minorities are the ones whose employment opportunities are always harmed by a nationally mandated wage.

The idea that government has sufficient information to decide what every business in America should pay for labor is a ridiculous fantasy and a tyrannical over reach.


perrya profile image

perrya 2 years ago Author

There is no argument that supports not raising the wage. It is all just BS


retief2000 2 years ago

Deep .


maxoxam41 profile image

maxoxam41 2 years ago from USA

Interesting. I agree with you.

The people that used to work for a lower income forget that the economy at that time was better, therefore it is incomparable to what a large portion of the population is experiencing. I still don't understand why someone who works for $10 an hour can afford to consume?

It is in the interest of the elite to maintain lower wages after all its market targeted the middle class and the international (Europe and Asia).


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 2 years ago from California, United States of America

This argument that "less than 3% of all Americans work for minimum wage" is fallacious. Since minimum wage has not kept in step with inflation and economic growth, it is far below it's peak (if counting in today's dollar value) in 1968; and 40% of Americans earn below that 1968 minimum wage, which means they are making poverty wages. Using the current minimum wage as a gauge is fallacious. And trying to hand power totally to the rich business people as if they are going to pay fairly is like going back to 1915 when they were paying kids pennies to work 14 hours a day. Or like they do now in places where they can get away with it. Because business is based on profit and part of making profit is cutting costs which means they will pay people as little as possible. This is a fact throughout history. It could be they'd all go out of business if they paid people more, but that just means there's something terribly wrong with the system; if the system only works by paying people poverty wages then we need to dump that system quick. However, raising the minimum wage (needs to be even higher than $10.10 an hour) helps those, a good number of people, who are making barely above the current minimum wage.


retief2000 2 years ago

Is it 1968? Did I miss something?


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 2 years ago from California, United States of America

retief, evidently you did. Minimum wage didn't keep up. People are getting paid less comparatively. It's obvious. Unless you live in a cave or something. Maybe that's why you missed it.


Cassie Smith profile image

Cassie Smith 2 years ago from U.S.

Positions that pay a minimum wage don't require any skills. You can basically hire a chimpanzee to do the job. If you want more than minimum wage, then get skilled at something. Increasing the minimum wage means that more of the jobs become automated; machines will supplant unskilled humans.


Hawaiian Scribe profile image

Hawaiian Scribe 2 years ago from Hawai'i

Thank you for your thoughtful hub. I graduated from high school in 1970 and the fed minimum wage was $1.65/hr. I knew even then that I didnʻt want to make that wage forever. So I went back to school while married with kids and eventually earned a good salary and even had a family business where we employed others. The issue of minimum wage isnʻt just a solitary issue; it is a combination of different issues. For one thing, the dollar doesnʻt buy as much as it used to. Especially in rental housing. In my area of Hawaii, the Sec 8 government subsidized housing has caused the rents to escalate beyond what those not on Sec 8 can afford. A 4 br condo would normally rent for $1400, but the government will pay $2200 so the rents have risen to that. So the government is making the market lopsided.Second, a lot of people just arenʻt willing to do dirty work or physical labor that pays more than minimum. Third, min wage jobs were never meant to be full-time careers. Back in 1970, they were mostly held by high school kids or seniors who were getting social security & wanted a little extra. Here in Hawaii, even with the high cost of living the min wage is $7.25/hr. Which is terrible! I agree we need to do more to raise it, especially in high cost areas. But how high is high enough? If we raise it to $10.10 today, how long will that be good enough? One issue I donʻt see anyone talking about is - what happens to those who are now making between $7.25 and $10.10? If everyone goes to $10.10, then wonʻt the person who now makes $3 over minimum want to still make $3 over minimum? Or $2 over minimum or whatever? That increases the cost to a whole lot more businesses. Iʻd rather see training programs that will help people get out and stay out of minimum wage jobs, and leave the min wage jobs to those high school kids standing on the corner or smoking in the parks.


perrya profile image

perrya 2 years ago Author

Most employers would rather not train today. That is a dirty word to them, even if you have decent crossover skills. The min. wage is not for unskilled workers, it is a place where rich corporations make a ton of money. A person at McD is not unskilled, they actually have to be trained to operate things. If you are a professional, you might think an unskilled worker is not worth more than $10 hr to serve you, take your money, cook for you etc. of course, these jobs are not meant to be lifelong but for many they are or last years. There is simply no excuse not to have a $10 min wage, all the arguments are generally based on greed by the corporations or small business owners.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

The current minimum wage is low and doesn't contribute much to a family household expense. However, I do wonder if raising the minimum wage will cause employers to cut back on staffing, once again.


gregas profile image

gregas 2 years ago from Corona, California.

They will cut back on staffing, raise prices, cut quality and anything else they can do to make up the difference, because we know darn good and well it isn't going to come out of their pocket, and that includes the government side. just my opinion, Greg.


perrya profile image

perrya 2 years ago Author

Maybe so, but still....


gregas profile image

gregas 2 years ago from Corona, California.

It's a vicious circle. if all of these businesses go up on prices because the minimum wage went up then what good did it it do to raise the minimum wage. And the VC continues because the cost of living goes goes up. Just something to think about. Greg


Generation Why profile image

Generation Why 2 years ago from Illinois

I propose to not only reduce the minimum wage, but scrap the concept all together.


perrya profile image

perrya 2 years ago Author

Why?

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