Economic issues make some people's eyes glaze over, so we'll put this plainly: Today's minimum wage is epic in its injustice and Dickensian in its cruelty. It's a shame that Dickens himself isn't here to write about it.
Oh, and we almost forgot: Keeping it this low isn't very smart, either.
A new report provides a good opportunity to revisit the subject, which leads to an inescapable conclusion: Raising the minimum wage isn't just the right thing to do. It's also economic common sense.
Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller have a new minimum-wage proposal that's worth fighting for. Here's why:
Most low-wage workers work for large corporations, not Mom-and-Pop businesses.
Many people assume that most minimum-wage employees work for small, family-owned businesses. But a new Data Brief from the National Employment Law Project finds that 66 percent of low-wage employees work for companies with more than 100 employees. That includes a handful of very large corporations which collectively employ nearly 8 million low-wage employees.
The largest of those mega-corporations is, unsurprisingly, Wal-Mart, with 1,400,000 employees. The next-largest is Yum! Foods, which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC. After Yum! Foods comes McDonald's.
(And after that, one assumes, comes Alka-Seltzer.)
Also on the list is Staples, Inc., the corporation where Mitt Romney boasts that he "created jobs" before his retroactive resignation from Bain Capital. (Can he retroactively give out some raises, too?)
These employers are "job takers," not "job creators."
Staples, like Wal-Mart and most other corporations on the low-wage list, doesn't really "create" jobs. Smaller enterprises of all kinds are crowded out by the unchecked growth of mega-corporations, which often use their volume to undercut the locals on price until they're driven out of business.
Then they raise them again.
In other words, Staples and the other giant corporations are taking those jobs from other businesses -- those entrepreneurial Mom and Pop shops which will soon vanish into American folklore unless we do something.
They're "marking everything down" -- especially people.
As Dave Johnson explains, corporations like Staples are masters at "marking down" the value of their employees. "Average Staples salaries for job postings nationwide are 51% lower than average salaries for all job postings," he writes.