Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Arrogance of the Minimum-Wage Opponent

If you want to make the argument that raising the minimum wage leads to an increase in unemployment, please go right ahead. Increased unemployment is a legitimate concern. The nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research has conducted a number of studies that show there’s no connection, but again, if it’s something you feel strongly about in spite of the facts, make your case.

Similarly, if you want to argue that raising the minimum wage leads to inflation, argue away. Inflation is another legitimate concern. Economist and author Jeannette Wicks-Lim can show you the error of your thinking here, among other places. But by all means, if you want to hang your hat on the inflation idea, have at it.


If I see one more argument implying that fast-food workers do not deserve a living wage because, after all, they’re only flipping burgers, I’m going to scream. But first I’m going to write this.

The arrogance and condescension in this argument is appalling. When you hear someone say “Fast-food workers don’t deserve more than $7.25 an hour,” what they’re really saying is this: “I can make a living by working 40 hours a week. Those people should have to spend 60 or 80 or more.”

The end goal is the same: Food. Shelter. Something for a rainy day. Survival. But the person who thinks fast-food workers should be grateful for their low wages either doesn’t know what it’s like to try to survive on them, or doesn’t care. He’s got his, and that’s all that matters to him.

Even McDonalds, in their hilariously ill-fated video purporting to show minimum-wage workers how to budget their income efficiently, acknowledged that survival was impossible without a second job. In the example cited in their Practical Money Skills Journal, McDonalds is assuming that their employees are making $1,100 a month at one job and $950 at another (and paying the utterly fantastic sum of 20 clams a month for health insurance). For a person making minimum wage, these figures represent a 72-hour work week.

This is perfectly acceptable for our minimum-wage opponent, who considers his leisure time more valuable than that of the people he disparages, but it creates a hardship on families. It reinforces the lie that your worth as a human being is tied to the amount of money you make.

I’m not buying the line that some people deserve to have harder lives because they allegedly lack ambition and skills. A job is a job. One job should equal one living. And thus I conclude this essay with this little playlet:

“I sell hamburgers. I need you to flip them. You will not be able, however, to make a living flipping my hamburgers.”

“But you’ll be able to make a living if I flip your hamburgers?”


“Then flip your own goddamn burgers.”

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