Talk of cutting the minimum wage in America is an ill wind unleashed without thought. In a ham handed attempt at political economics, those who now sputter about the minimum wage know not what they do. The minimum wage is far more than a metric fed into an algorithm or philosophy. The minimum wage is a living, breathing segment of American humanity, existing in exponentially greater numbers at the trailing end of the American dream.
Minimum wage is a social construct of the free market system. Originally meant as a means of protection for workers from unscrupulous capitalists, that age has long passed into memory. Today, minimum wage is a class structure of and by itself. Tens of millions of Americans toil away for minimum wage at jobs that are in no way livelihoods. All belong to the lowest classes of America, most without homes, cars, health care, and the humble necessities for anything more than just existing in the world's greatest free market.
Minimum wage is single moms, minorities, and the young. It is a catch all for the marginal, the challenged, the disabled and the disadvantaged. The underfed, overstressed, unhealthy folks who live every moment just a moment from catastrophe. Minimum wage is an entire human stratum of American society. It is disillusioned, beat down, and increasingly angry.
It may well be that cutting the minimum wage will allow employers the room to provide more minimum wage jobs. But that only helps the economists, who might arrogantly assume the jobless headline rate is falling, and America is recovering. It may well also be that the whole idea is nuts. Which it is. Regardless of any econometric merit, what a cut in minimum wage is more than anything else is a cleaver attack on an entire class of people.
Only the most deliberately delusional would imagine that anybody existing on minimum wage would suffer a cut without rancour. Life and death rancour. If asked, not a single human existing on a handful of dollars an hour - by law - would voluntarily consent to give a portion of that up to help out the classes of people who have always had more than they. Not one member of the minimum wage class of America feels any duty at all to sacrifice himself and his family for an even more evil perpetuation of the same.
Next time you're in Wal Mart, McDonalds, or the mall, ask those whose suffering makes your shopping possible if they would be willing to take a pay cut so you can buy a fancier toaster, another car or a bigger house. Just ask them. For fun, you might also inform them the recession is over.
By simply announcing a policy change that directly affects only one class of Americans, these thoughtless morons have set in motion an idea that there is an "us" and there is a "them." And "them" are expendable. Invisible statistics and nothing more, batted around as so much economic babble, a "solution" to problems they have absolutely nothing to do with, or no knowledge about. In the world of minimum wage, life has sucked for a generation, lying as they are on the economic seabed while prosperity ebbs and flows above them. Recession? It's always a recession at minimum wage.
The only thing a national debate about the slashing of minimum wage will accomplish is the festering resentment of the object of the policy. Tens of millions of people who are already freak out angry at even the thought. Packing burgers, stocking shelves, forcing polite smiles at toy counters and hair salons, the long suffering invisible class will almost certainly, and finally, break. How could they not? They are, after all is said and done, human. And humans demand fairness and justice. And slashing the minimum wage provides neither - regardless of the smiling algorithms that say otherwise.
For too long we have managed human affairs through the inhumane math of numbers, statistics, and economic indicators. We push numbers around boardroom tables and on PowerPoint presentations and feel ourselves civilized. We ignore completely the humans a million miles below. The object is not to force a graph line of employed around a chart; the object is to provide dignity, respect, and security for all the humans of our community. When we fail at this, as we often do, we create growing pools of people who know exactly what their situation is, even if we do not. This just makes us smug, and them angry, and nothing more.
Then, one bright morning when we all least expect it, seemingly out of nowhere, out of the blue, the angry people snap, and become invisible no more. And that is usually what it takes to get our attention, and the surest route to get there is senselessly clobber tens of millions of perfectly innocent people for no good reason at all.
Those who now sputter about the minimum wage know not what they do.
Historian, Economist, Accountant, Writer, and blood sucking CEO.
Born at the wrong end of the Baby Boom Generation - too late to enjoy the ride, too early to have missed it, and stuck in the middle with the mess.