Recently, Seattle passed a law making their city's minimum wage $15 an hour. On an annual basis, that matches the starting pay of a North Carolina school teacher. The Seattle city council voted unanimously for the wage legislation that will be phased in over a period of three to seven years, depending on the employer's size. The rate is also pegged to inflation, with automatic adjustments. "With inaction at the state and national levels, it's time for cities to demonstrate bold and necessary leadership to address income inequality," commented one of Seattle’s councilmen.
The federal minimum wage was born during the Great Depression as a wage floor with the rate set at 25 cents an hour or roughly $4 an hour in today's money. The push now is to transform the minimum wage to a standard or “living” wage that will, in theory, achieve “income equality.”
The shift in terminology from minimum wage to “living wage” is ingenious. How could anyone deny someone a living wage? That's like denying them life itself, isn't it? Who wants minimum, it's an inferior thing. Greece's $5 an hour or Mexico's $5 a day are for folks who don't know what living is.
Politically, it's near impossible to question the legitimacy of the minimum wage. Even the former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has endorsed raising the federal rate to $10 an hour, saying, “Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.” Sounds like Mitt was channeling President Herbert Hoover who was famous for the campaign promise of, "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."
Calls for equality can sound convincing, especially on an emotional level. Trying to force wages up is only the front end of the argument. The companion portion of the pitch is that the only reason the bottom rung of workers in this country aren't already making $15 an hour is because of the greedy businessman. He's got the money, but he doesn't want to share. I'm not sure what he plans to do with the dough, maybe just look at, but he definitely doesn't want anyone else touching it.
It must be amusing to our local merchants to find out that the only thing keeping them from doubling the wages of their workers is an ordinance. I bet they didn't realize that, especially those business people who have trouble paying themselves.
It's an oddity that those who are self-employed are excluded as individuals in the minimum wage equation. There are no federal, state, or local guarantees of any amount of income for a business person. Obviously, with a reported four out of five new businesses failing – there isn't any guarantee of success either. Where's the law for “business equality?”
The government takes a dim view of price fixing unless of course, it's behind the plan, as it is with the minimum wage. Regardless of government manipulation, market forces keep chugging along. I'm not aware of prosperity by degree ever working, but if it does, there will be good income opportunities for literature majors making lattes in the Pacific Northwest.