Not perfect yet

The Artdog Images of Interest

In a perfect world, everyone would work at jobs they love, reach their full potential, and have a good life. If that sounds like socialist pie-in-the-sky to you, double-check your Kool-Aide. I’m paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

Unfortunately, we’re not perfect yet. We weren’t in 2001 when Mike Konopacki drew the cartoon above, and we’re not perfect now, either. We still have people who work hard at one or more jobs (if they can find them), yet still have no choice but to rely on public assistance to make ends meet. In my opinion, raising the minimum wage is a social justice issue.

I know the arguments against raising the minimum wage. We hear them each time the question gets raised. The Cato Institute lists the four most common ones, which I have listed below. I’ve also listed the Department of Labor’s answers to these objections, which are called myths on its “Minimum Wage Mythbusters” page.


1. It would result in job loss, because employers would cut back on employees. Not true, says the DOL page. Research shows “increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”


2. It would hurt low-wage employees, because because employers would cut back on employees. Not true, says the DOL page: “Minimum wage increases have little to no negative effect on employment as shown in independent studies from economists across the country.”


3. It would have little effect on reducing poverty, either because employers would cut back on employees, or because most poor people don’t make the minimum wage. Not true, says the DOL page, citing a survey of small business owners who say an increase “would immediately put more money in the pocket of low-wage workers who will then spend the money on things like housing, food, and gas. This boost in demand for goods and services will help stimulate the economy and help create opportunities.”

4. It might result in higher prices for consumers, because some prices have gone up in the past. While some prices might indeed go up, the DOL page categorically states that it would not be bad for the economy: “Since 1938, the federal minimum wage has been increased 22 times. For more than 75 years, real GDP per capita has steadily increased, even when the minimum wage has been raised.” In other words, prices go up all the time, whether the minimum wage does or not. 


Side question: if raising the minimum wage is a bad idea, isn’t the recent upward trajectory in CEOs’ compensation also a bad idea? Just asking.


As someone who has taught in a high-poverty school, I’ve seen what happens to families when there is not enough money to make ends meet. Students’ health, ability to learn, and many other areas of need aren’t met, either. There is often hunger, and there can be homelessness.

These kids’ parents weren’t lazy. It amazes me, how often rich people think the poor are lazy. I suspect they’re mistaking resentful for lazy. Most of the poor folks I’ve known worked several jobs, postponed their own health care to take care of their kids’, went hungry so their kids could eat, and worried a lot.

It’s not exactly the picture Thomas Jefferson painted, is it?

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Workplace Justice Project, for the Mike Konopacki “Poverty” cartoon, to The Times of San Diego, for the photo of workers marching for higher wages, and to We Party Patriots, for the Rick Flores cartoon about wages. 

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jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

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