Minimum wage asks “should I stay or should I go?”.

In between telling us that Obama is a Muslim (false), the democrats are bumbling idiots (mostly true) and that the only way to stimulate the economy is to give rich people tax cuts (I’m sure there are other ways), an apparent republican talking point is that we need to abolish the small-business-killing minimum wage.  I know this because I’ve heard it about five times from various sources since the weekend, and I don’t get out much.  Or enough, even.  I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts on this and decide what I really think.

Whenever I think about the minimum wage the first thing that comes to mind is Chris Rock.  I’m paraphrasing here: the minimum wage is the ultimate “fuck you!” from your boss.  It’s his way of saying “If I could pay you less I would, but I can’t.” That’s one way to look at it.  I remember starting out at my first real job at K-Mart, making $3.50 an hour, which was 15 cents about the then MW.  It felt good to know I was making some scratch above the absolute minimum, and that extra dime and nickle every hour would add up to a few gallons of gas every paycheck, which is important when you’re 17.  I don’t know how it rates against inflation, but obviously the MW is much higher now, although it’s still not a living wage.  No way you could survive on that alone.

A co-worker (liberal, I might add) brought up that it is tough for a small business to pay the minimum wage, and I understand that.  Paying somebody $8 an hour means they need to produce at least $16 an hour for you, and unless you’re a fast-food joint that’s not easy to pull off.  I get that.  I just wonder what would happen if the MW was abolished.  Well, the first thing is that I’d buy stock in the aforementioned FF joints; that shit would go off the hook!  They’d cut a significant portion of their overhead right away.

I imagine it would also mean even more turnover.  But what would it do for small businesses and employment in general?  The purpose of the MW seems to be to establish a baseline for pay for entry-level jobs; jobs that teenagers usually pull off.  Those aren’t meant to be life-sustaining jobs, they’re meant to be supplemental income.  Would abolishing the MW lead to small businesses being able to hire more people?  Probably, but would those people stay on long with an incredibly small salary?  Would that be enough to offset for the dire economy?  I just don’t think so.  Yes, the MW is prohibitive, but what is even more prohibitive is the economy, and getting rid of the MW won’t change that.  It doesn’t matter how much or little you’re paying your workers if there is no work.  It seems to me to be sticking a bandage on a wound that needs a tourniquet .  MW wasn’t so much of a problem when the economy was in good shape.  Perhaps a compromise could be reached in lowering it to $7 or %6.50.  But even just doing that would probably only benefit the chain stores and not the small businesses.  So what’s the answer?  I don’t know.  As with almost everything else, it’s tangled up in many other things.

This also leads me on a tangent…usually, the people who talk about small businesses being the foundation of our economy and needing help, are the same people who say we need to give tax breaks to the rich so they can hire more people.  Anybody see where I’m going with this?  Big businesses kill small businesses.  That’s what they do.  Wal-Mart rolls into town and demolished the ma-and-pa hardware store and the quirky grocery stand.  They do it because they can keep prices at levels so ridiculously low that the locals can’t compete and are closed down.  So that’s who we’re supposed to give tax breaks to?  Won’t that lead to more small businesses being shut out?  How are those two lines of though compatible together?

As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.

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