ChrisWeigant.com

It's High Time For A $15 Minimum Wage Bill

[ Posted Thursday, March 7th, 2019 – 17:26 UTC ]

Even though they haven't gotten nearly enough credit in the mainstream media so far, House Democrats are doing a pretty good job of "walking and chewing gum at the same time." They are investigating Donald Trump and everyone around him, as they were elected to do; but they are also producing some pretty impressive and forward-thinking legislative efforts as well. Their problem, though, is achieving much success in getting this message out in the media. What with Donald Trump's incessant tweeting and the presidential race beginning to take shape, the political media -- not the Democrats -- are the ones who seemingly can't manage to masticate and perambulate simultaneously.

Democrats in the House are moving legislation forward on several fronts. So far, they've passed a universal background check bill -- the first gun safety measure in almost a generation. They are scheduled to vote tomorrow on one of the most sweeping voting rights and governmental ethics reform efforts since the post-Watergate backlash (the "H. R. 1" bill). They've also separately moved forward on reinvigorating the Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court. They've held hearings on the problem of tackling the high cost of prescription drugs, as well as many other important subjects, with legislation soon to follow. All of these efforts have taken place within a few months of regaining control of the House, even though the first month was entirely consumed by Trump's government shutdown tantrum over his lack of border wall funding. So, all in all, House Democrats are doing precisely what they promised they'd do while campaigning -- pushing an ambitious Democratic agenda that is staking out the party's position in advance of the 2020 presidential contest, while also simultaneously holding Trump's feet to the fire of proper congressional oversight (for the first time since he took office).

But what has so far been missing in this flurry of legislative action is any one bill that cuts directly to the problem of income inequality. They are reportedly now considering a big boost (and a revamping of the method of disbursement) in the child tax credit, which is a welcome step in the right direction, but still falls short of being the sort of universal action that might just break through the media's indifference. Which is why I think it is now high time to move forward on a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage.

The "fight for $15" has been going on a long time now, precisely because the minimum wage has stayed exactly the same for so long now. Meanwhile, advocates of higher minimum wages have been winning political battles across the country at the state and local level, sometimes achieving the goal of $15-an-hour, and sometimes having to settle for less. But the key point is that the idea remains wildly popular with the voting public, which is why ballot measures to hike the minimum wage have passed in some incredibly red states (like Nebraska, for example). It's a popular issue even in states that vote reliably Republican, which proves how universal the appeal of paying people more for the hard work they do has now become.

Throughout all of this, there has been complete inaction at the federal level. The Republican Party, enthralled by big business, has fought hard against the idea for decades, of course. Even though it is actually popular with its own voters. That's a key point, because it represents a golden opportunity for Democrats to drive a wedge between the Republican Party and Republican voters.

Some Democrats in the recent past have been far too timid about the goal of $15-an-hour as well. They need to get over this reluctance. As with any minimum wage increase, it can be gradually introduced to reduce the effects on businesses, and if the entire country moves to the same exact wage level then it will create a level playing field for all -- companies will not be able to move to lower-wage states to save on their costs, because there won't be any such states to move to.

The most important part of a minimum wage increase this time around, though, isn't so much the $15-an-hour part as it is adding a COLA, or an annual cost-of-living adjustment. This will effectively end the gigantic political headache of raising the federal minimum wage forever. That's a crucial concept, but so far is one that has gotten nowhere near the attention it deserves. If the minimum wage is pegged to some economic indicator and will thus slowly rise over time, then it will never stagnate for decades on end ever again.

Raising the minimum wage is the practical way of enacting John F. Kennedy's ideal of "a rising tide lifting all boats." It will provide wage pressure from the bottom up. Supervisors and managers of minimum-wage workers will want to be paid better than the people they are supervising, and their managers will want more money as well. This effect will ripple up the corporate ladder and finally provide a counterweight to the C.E.O.s who regularly see their own pay boosted by obscene amounts. If a corporation is faced with higher labor costs across the board, it will think twice about how magnanimous it can be when boosting executive pay.

In short, boosting the minimum wage is the most direct way to tackle the growing problem of income inequality. It also has an added political benefit -- it is very easy to understand. This is why it is already wildly popular with the voting public. More money in weekly paychecks isn't rocket science. It doesn't take advanced degrees in economics to comprehend. Which is why it is tailor-made for the House Democrats at this particular point in time.

Realistically, most of the bills House Democrats have passed or are in the process of passing will not become law any time soon. They are aspirational political chess moves. Taken together, they are going to constitute the political platform that Democrats are going to run on in 2020. The message will be simple: "Give us control of the Senate and the White House, and these are the beneficial things we will do for you." It will stand in stark contrast to the complete and utter inaction from Republicans on all sorts of issues. Democrats will be the party of ideas, while the Republicans are left with literally nothing to run on (but more fearmongering, of course). Republicans spent a long time in control of Congress and they refused to act on any of these issues, except when they passed laws to make average people's lives worse (as when they tried to kill Obamacare, to give just the most obvious example). Drawing such a contrast will be pretty easy for Democratic candidates to do.

But one of the centerpieces of this platform should be the push for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. It is concrete, it will affect millions of hardworking American families, and it's pathetically easy to understand. It is already supported by plenty of Republican voters, who will be left wondering why GOP politicians are fighting so hard against raising their pay.

Most crucially of all, though, it has the potential to break through the media silence on the Democrats passing their agenda in the House. A minimum wage bill would be big news. So big, in fact, that the mainstream media simply could not ignore it.

Which is precisely what the Democrats need, right now. Which is why I say the time has come for a big push for a $15 minimum wage bill to get a vote on the House floor. Such an effort even has the possibility of creating so much political pressure that the Senate might actually be forced to address it -- which is more than can be said about most of the other bills Democrats are busy enacting. In fact, nothing would draw a more dramatic political contrast between the parties right now than a minimum wage bill being voted out of the House. So what are Democrats waiting for?

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

27 Comments on “It's High Time For A $15 Minimum Wage Bill”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    Couldn't agree more.

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: As with any minimum wage increase, it can be gradually introduced to reduce the effects on businesses, and if the entire country moves to the same exact wage level then it will create a level playing field for all -- companies will not be able to move to lower-wage states to save on their costs, because there won't be any such states to move to.

    Exactly right that there won't be any such lower-wage states to move to. Thank goodness that there are no countries overseas that would welcome these companies with open arms and a near unending supply of low-wage workers... oh, wait!

    I'm not trying to be a jackass... okay, maybe I am... but just FYI for people living happily in states not located in the South and other parts of the country similarly situated where the cost of living is vastly different, you should know that a $15 per hour minimum wage could literally decimate a multitude of small businesses and make quite a large dent in some medium and large ones as well. If anything of the sort is going to be enacted nationwide, it must be a phase in (as CW said), and would it be out of the question if it could be coupled with penalties and/or incentives for companies that endeavored to move overseas? Please. :)

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    Oh my goodness, checking my calendar reveals that tomorrow is another Friday, and the Ides of March does rapidly approach. :)

  4. [4] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Why not 20 dollars an hour immediately?

    It's not going to become law because the Senate will kill it anyway and Trump would veto it even if it got past the Senate.

    Even if the Dems took over in 2020 and brought it up again when it would pass (there's a first time for everything) it is just treating one symptom of income inequality- not the cause.

    A rising tide may lift all boats, but if you don't have a job then you don't have a boat and a rising tide doesn't help you if you are standing on your tippytoes up to your neck in the water- and there just won't be enough jobs for everyone.

    This is more than just a smokescreen to position the Dems for 2020, it is a smokescreen to keep the cause of the problem obscured by talking aboot putting bandaids on the symptoms.

    Cut the shit and get down to brass tacks.

    The cause of income inequality is that our political process is controlled by the Big Money interests.

    Stop wasting time bullshitting aboot the distractions and the false promises for the future and start informing citizens aboot the solution that can be implemented right now by citizens without having to wait for the politicians to live up to promises they have no intention of keeping.

    It's time to break out of your bubble and join the real world.

  5. [5] 
    Don Harris wrote:
  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the reason for income inequality is that investment capital creates wealth without much effort on the part of the investor, and the wealthy can afford to invest more in securities than housing.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2014/11/18/heres-why-the-rich-do-get-richer.html

  7. [7] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Yeah, I hate to say so, but for once I agree with Don. Why not $20 per hour? Truth is, that accounting for inflation, that's closer to what the minimum should be. Maybe $22.

    $15 falls a bit short, but is a lot closer than nothing.

  8. [8] 
    John M wrote:

    [4] Don Harris

    "A rising tide may lift all boats, but if you don't have a job then you don't have a boat and a rising tide doesn't help you if you are standing on your tippytoes up to your neck in the water- and there just won't be enough jobs for everyone."

    Republicans are always fond of saying how many jobs they create without a minimum wage. But the caveat to that is always that those 8 dollar an hour jobs don't do anyone any good except for the illegal immigrants, since they are the only ones who can afford to live on and actually improve their situation from where they come from, at that level of income.

  9. [9] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Not so sure that the people making more than the lower wage workers will get increases working their way up from the bottom.

    When NJ raised the minimum wage, in the industry I was working in I had been working as a regular worker getting paid less than the lead worker/supervisors. (I worked in different places with different people each day, thus the supervisorS).

    After the minimum wage went up my pay remained constant, many of the lead workers were eliminated or had their pay and perks cut and were replaced by people making less than me and it became my job to do the lead worker duties at what I was getting paid.

    This may be anecdotal, but it may apply more than just where I was working.

  10. [10] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I realize it will sail right oveY the heads of damn near everybody (Gawdam that "smugness" right?), but why does nobody ever raise the subject of a legislated MAXIMUM WAGE???

    If 7 ft-tall guys who have the talent to toss a basketball thru a hoop from mid-court could only be allowed to earn $70,000/annum instead of $70 million, the price of basketball game tickets would likely decline to $.75.. If doctors could only earn $100K, the price of appendectomies would drop by 90%.

    Something to think about!

  11. [11] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I realize it will sail right oveY the heads of damn near everybody (Gawdam that "smugness" right?), but why does nobody ever raise the subject of a legislated MAXIMUM WAGE???

    If 7 ft-tall guys who have the talent to toss a basketball thru a hoop from mid-court could only be allowed to earn $70,000/annum instead of $70 million, the price of basketball game tickets would likely decline to $.75.. If doctors could only earn $100K, the price of appendectomies would drop by 90%.

    Something to think about!

  12. [12] 
    TheStig wrote:

    The minimum wage ought to be different in different regions of the country - even different within individual states or counties. Fifteen dollars probably isn't going to cut it in pricier communities. This, of course, sets up fine grained political nightmare.

    If we are going to go down this road, let's decide on basic standards of living, and set the local living wage accordingly. Housing, education, medial care being the big three as I see it. Do we increase wages, or do we pay for the basics with taxes making up for shortfalls in minimum wages?

  13. [13] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    It's beyond the comprehension of a great many people, but there are certain laws of Economics that are comparable to many of the laws of physics, meaning they fall under the heading of being immune to revocation, legislative or otherwise.

    One of those is the law that monetary compensations (wages) are of necesssity, a function of productivity. If we pass legislation in violation of that particular law (as in mandating that a job which produces "X" amount of actual goods or services has to bear a wage that is in excess of "X", meaning that the person (entrepreneur) who creates the job is legally mandated to lose money for having created it, that job simply automatically ceases to exist.

    Reality can be a bitch to live with, but it's still always reality!

  14. [14] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Minimum wage laws do not mandate paying a job that produces X bear a wage in excess of X.

    It establishes a basic minimum standard of compensation for any work performed. This is work the person (entrepreneur) cannot do himself in order to do what he/she needs to do to provide the goods or services to the customer.

    If the basic minimum compensation exceeds the production of the work provided that is a flaw in the business plan of the entrepreneur that his product or service costs more to produce or deliver than customers are willing or able to pay for it.

    In this case, the outcome according to economic "laws" is not that the entrepreneur should be able to pay the workers less than the basic minimum in order to stay in business and make a profit.

    If the entrepreneur has designed a business model that doesn't work they should go out of business.

  15. [15] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Don Q

    Re "Min wage laws do not . ." We need to HOPE they do not, because they certainly can.

    Theoretical example, perhaps the burger flipper at a local fast food joint. Maybe not so in NYC, but where I live, jack (the owner) will quickly discover that he cannot pay his flipper $15/hr and still stay in business without raising the prices of his 'Bigjacks'. Trouble is, if he raises his prices, his customers will all switch to the pizza place next door.

    Result, Jack either gets a robot to flip his burgers, or goes out of business. Either way, the flipper becomes unemployed, and NOT because of a "flaw in the business plan"!

    The only way Min Wage laws can be quaranteed not to kill any jobs is when set so low that they are below the local labor mkt, meaning don' really do any good except make politicians feel good.

  16. [16] 
    John M wrote:

    C. R. Stucki

    "Result, Jack either gets a robot to flip his burgers, or goes out of business. Either way, the flipper becomes unemployed, and NOT because of a "flaw in the business plan"!"

    The flip side of that reality, which you fail to mention, is that if that burger flipping job does get eliminated, it's likely that worker will find employment at some other 15 dollar an hour job, such as being a coffee barista at Starbucks, where people will pay 5 dollars for a cup of coffee, and that worker will end up making more money because they now hold a 15 an hour job that didn't exist before, since it may have paid only 9 dollars an hour previously.

  17. [17] 
    John M wrote:

    A self-made billionaire is a myth. The wealthy do not mostly succeed because of their own genius, hard work and perseverance.

    According to a new paper put out by the Centre for Economic Policy research written by Sandra Black, an economics professor at the University of Texas Austin, and 3 co-authors, plus a raft of research, wealthy people are mostly wealthy because their parents are wealthy and has little to do with their actual inherent abilities.

    They examined parents of adopted children in Sweden, where such data is extensive. They then looked at the wealth of the children in their mid 40's. The parents' wealth was a better predictor of their child's wealth than any other factor.

    Wealthy parents have the ability to invest in their children to a type and a degree that other parents simply do not have access to, in terms of education, physical safety (an affluent neighborhood), extracurricular activities, and connections to other wealthy people who can act as investors and provide business contacts and loans that simply aren't obtainable to ordinary people. Wealthy parents also provide their children with a fabulous safety net that allows the children to gamble on risks they could not otherwise make. If you are growing up in a poor neighborhood and just scraping by instead, it becomes that much more harder to capitalize on and utilize any talents that you might actually have.

    Kylie Jenner for example, while at least being intelligent about marketing and promotion, became a young billionaire, not because she invented some great new lipstick that never existed before, but because of the value the celebrity of her family brings her.

  18. [18] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    The owner of the pizza parlor will benefit from running a business model that works even while paying 15 dollars an hour by getting the additional customers from the defunct burger joint.

    This influx of customers may require some new workers providing jobs for the unemployed workers, perhaps even the former owner of the burger joint who could then see how to run a successful business model that pays 15 dollars an hour that can be applied to a future endeavor by the former burger joint owner.

    Maybe the pizza parlor would even need an expanded or additional location in the empty burger joint.

  19. [19] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M

    I'll see your Kylie Jenner, and raise you a Steve Jobes, a Sam Walton, a Bill Gates, a Jeff Bezos, a Paul Allen, a Steve Wozniac, a Michael Dell, a Mark Cuban, a Warren Buffet, the Google guys, and a couple dozen more 'self-made' gazillionaires whose names escape me at the moment.

    But please don't raise ME with Obama's thing about how all those guys "drove on the public roads", etc. All the poor people and their kids also drove on the public roads, right?

  20. [20] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Don H

    Your [18] argument is eaually true (or equally specious), with a Min wage of $40/hr, so why are you being so niggardly with your pay raises???

  21. [21] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CRS-13

    None of your cracker barrel micro economic analyses of macroeconomic problems seem to include the concept of externalities, the costs or benefits incurred by third parties affected by an economic activity who have no say in the matter. This is the economic equivalent of military collateral damage....or the Gerrymander. Choose your economic boundaries to get the prediction that best supports your preferred outcome. It's sort of a free lunch, which supposedly doesn't/can't exist.

  22. [22] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Stig [21]

    OK, do you actually intend that mumbo jumbo to be some sort of refutation of the simple fact I enunciated in my [13], or is it on the principle of "If you can't wow them with wisdom, baffle them with bullshit"??

  23. [23] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    If the entrepreneur has designed a business model that doesn't work they should go out of business.

    y'think?

    like if i suggested people vote based on pie and after a decade or more of trying nobody did, i should find some other way to try to convince people to vote?

  24. [24] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CRS-22

    What you present as a simple fact, is, in fact, your simplistic assertion. You don't present any real data, and you aren't specific about the model you are using, although
    I would assume it is some form of the venerable supply demand curves intersect at price. There isn't just one plot, there are plots for every market. This is a massively multivariate problem. Napkins are notoriously 2-D, unless you are gifted in perspective drawing, in which case I'll grant you 3. Some low end workers lose jobs, but extinction is not a given and remaining workers can be expected to raise demand in other sectors, which may or may not increase the employment rate. Experts disagree.

    Just because you can fit a model to data doesn't mean the model makes useful predictions. At the economic level of politics it is a macro, not a micro problem. As I noted earlier, simple supply demand models don't address externalities. Maybe not important to the factory owner, but very important to the public, who vote.

    Garbage in, garbage out. So who is spouting mumbo-jumbo?

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:

    DH
    14

    If the entrepreneur has designed a business model that doesn't work they should go out of business.

    Thank you so much for this gift. I shall treasure it dearly. *laughs* :)

  26. [26] 
    John M wrote:

    [19] C. R. Stucki

    "I'll see your Kylie Jenner, and raise you a Steve Jobes, a Sam Walton, a Bill Gates, a Jeff Bezos, a Paul Allen, a Steve Wozniac, a Michael Dell, a Mark Cuban, a Warren Buffet, the Google guys, and a couple dozen more 'self-made' gazillionaires whose names escape me at the moment."

    Billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates both came from wealthy families just off the top of my head too. Not to mention the rest of Sam Walton's family other than Sam Walton himself.

    Thank you once again for making my point for me.

  27. [27] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M

    "Making my point for me"??? What the hell does that mean?

    Sam Walton's dad was a farmer, Bill Gates' dad was a lawyer, and Zuckerberg's dad was a dentist.

    "Wealthy" is a broad and imprecise definition, and farmers, dentists and lawyers are not normally poor, but they also hardly qualify as being in the same financial league as "self-made" gazillionaire entrepreneurs.

    And if "the rest of Sam Walton's family" means his kids (I don't know anything about his siblings), it's asinine to say he got rich on his kid's wealth. Rational people would assume the kids got rich on Sam's wealth, right?

    If that constitutes 'Making your point' for you in your mind, maybe you and I need to refrain from engaging.

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