What’s Wrong with Increasing the Minimum Wage?

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Each time any mention is made of raising the minimum wage, politicians and pundits on the political Right—servants of corporate America—warn of the alleged danger that this presents to the economy.

Economists do not agree, which is one of the reasons that the minimum wage was introduced during the Great Depression.  If people do not have the funds to buy anything, then the economy grinds to a halt.  It is actually that simple.

The minimum wage, more than anything else, serves as a base-line to prevent employers from forcing workers to compete for their jobs by continuously lowering their living standards.  In fact, in the absence of a minimum wage, workers could find themselves selling themselves into indentured servitude.

The minimum wage says that there is a certain point that society will not accept dropping beneath.  In reality, the minimum wage is much below what it should be for an individual, not to mention a family.  It is for this reason that many unions and their community-based allies have pushed for “living wage ordinances” around the country as a way of raising the base pay of workers.

Unions support the increase in the minimum wage not because it leads to any automatic increase in the wages of their own members, but so that workers are not looking over their shoulders at every moment fearing that workers, more desperate than themselves, will be prepared to step in for a fraction of the salary/wages that they are receiving.

A society without a minimum wage is, as a result, not a society; or at least it is not a civilized society.  But when you consider the economic proposals of much of the Republican Party and their allies in other parts of corporate America, “civilized” would not come anywhere near describing the future that they have in store for workers in the USA.