Minimum Wage Increase: With Profits At All-Time Highs, Yes, Corporations Can Afford It

Minimum wage is a wedge issue. But it’s not the usual wedge issue that pits left vs. right, liberals vs. conservatives. Just about everyone on the left is on board with increasing the minimum wage. The wedge is between working-class Republicans and wealthy corporate elitist Republicans.

Increasing the minimum wage polls very high. Obviously, as with any poll, it depends on how you ask the question, but back in March (2013), Gallup asked, “Suppose that on Election Day you could vote on key issues as well as candidates. Would you vote for or against a law that would raise the federal minimum wage to nine dollars an hours?” 71% responded “For.” Even Republicans responded “For,” 50% to 48%.

A Hart Research Associates poll from July (2013) found that 8 out of 10 would like to see the minimum wage raised to $10.10 per hour. And even among Republicans it wasn’t close (62% to 38%).

But if you write about raising the minimum wage, as I am now, you are likely to receive vitriolic and contemptuous feedback from a fringe group of disgruntled conservatives, oddly not among the wealthy corporate elite, who are hell-bent on telling you how stupid an idea this is, and how you don’t know how the economy works, or other intellectual retorts like:

So you think that working the fast food counter and flipping burgers is a lifelong career rather than an entry level job?

I really feel for the person who thinks this is the proper path to the promised land of logical and reasoned arguments. Does it matter if I think “flipping burgers” is a career? Of course not. Does it matter if someone is working a fast food job on their way to something else, or if they work that job for life? Of course not. — Either way they should expect to be paid a fair wage. And $7.25 per hour is NOT a fair wage. That’s $15K a year if working full-time, and minimum wage jobs rarely come with benefits, so how is someone supposed to feed and shelter themselves? And forget about health care insurance — or a family.

The only argument you hear that seems like it’s plausible, as usual, if you don’t think about it much, is the idea that an increase in the minimum wage will lead to job losses. They say companies will choose to let some people go, not pay them more. First, I reject the idea of being held hostage to corporate demands. And second, this argument might be convincing if corporate profits were not at all-time highs, and if nearly all gains in the current economy had not gone to the top 1%.

But I’m feeling generous. Try again.

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