2020-21 Award Winner
I think you are right that there is a gap in between entry level and highly skilled jobs, call it moderately skilled, but even getting more skilled workers leave the large part of the problem still on the table.Many of my clients are already going to partially automated. So far no one has been let go, but there aren't new hires either. At $15 in some of these states, a lot of people will lose jobs as automation becomes more economical. If as an employer, I have certain jobs I could create, but the cost to operate is too high to make a profit, I don't make those jobs, so you have to be careful with the tradeoffs. Other countries that have raised minimum wage are already seeing an acceleration to automation. It is a fact.
It is also a fact that minimum wage was created to keep women and minorities out of the job force (Chinese railroad workers were a big "problem" for white men wanting jobs after the great depression. Now it can keep less qualified people out of the workforce, and accelerate the automation movement. If an employer is willing to hire someone and give them experience, but can really only afford $10 per hour to make the position net positive or even neutral for the employer, he won't be creating jobs at $15/hour. Additionally, minimum wage workers can often only afford to shop at places that have minimum wage employees (cheap fast food, clothing stores, etc.). There is a direct correlation to retail pricing increases with businesses that tend to have minimum/lower wage workforces (and a similar but attenuated impact for other businesses).
A minimum wage is simply a band-aid for our failure as a society to put the large majority of our citizens on a path to achieving skills for good paying jobs that has had a disparate impact on minorities. We need to put better programs to give all people that need it a better opportunity to get into colleges and many of the trades, in which the availability of skills workers is declining. Keep in mind that over 50% of American households pay ZERO federal tax (this is a long-term trend). Clearly we have a problem.
Raising minimum wage to a degree is a necessity to deal with inflation, but it masks the true issues.
Another idea is since we have crumbling roads, etc. Don't just give money. Have programs that will help people improve our aging infrastructure. Give jobs where people can learn skills and continue to thrive.
Tldr: Minimum wage is a band aid. Let's stop temporary stop-gaps, and stop throwing aimless money at the problem. Let's give everyone an opportunity to get skills to earn a living wage. Let's protect those that truly cannot, and stop sympathizing for those that simply choose not to do anything to better themselves.
I have heard this a lot from various people, that if people want to make more money they need to go school and get a degree, or whatnot. The problem with some of this, the part about getting people on track for higher paying jobs, is that one reason those jobs are higher paying is there are fewer of them. If we somehow got every single person a degree in computer science, we would still need people slinging boxes in warehouses and running basic manufacturing equipment. It isn't like the "entry-level" jobs are just there because people don't have any other skills. Frankly it is the lifeblood of our economy. Amazon employs over 100k people, what percentage do you imagine are programmers and what percentage are basic warehouse workers? Like a 10 to 1 at least for the warehouse workers. Have all of amazon's programmers miss a week of work, then have all of their warehouse workers miss a week, and which would be more disruptive (barring act of god like stuff of course)?
We don't take into account in these conversations that we need the people on the front lines doing front line work. It is a necessity for our economy. It is really the engine that drives it. And as such shouldn't we value that enough that they can make enough to live on? Not necessarily with the newest iPhone all the time, but basic needs met and not feeling like they always have their backs against the wall at the very least.
Not sure what the best way is to do that, but I can tell you that even at $15 per hour that is a tall order. I know people say there can be 2 bread-winners, but what about single-parent households? So mom just goes out and gets 2 jobs, maybe 3, to make up for it since, you know, we expect there to be someone helping, so she needs to help herself? That is the pattern we have been in for a long time now. We need to address this to allow people at all levels to enjoy the fruits of our advanced economy and luxuries of our improved standard of living. Sure it is improved across the board, but frankly even the richest of the rich would be nowhere if their front-line workers decided to call it quits. The value of their work needs to be reflected in the proportion of the value of the companies they are part of that filters down to them. Frankly a CEO that makes millions in salary and bonuses and stock, while the front-line folks don't get their 2.5% raise that doesn't match inflation, is a travesty of the highest order. We saw it in a lot of companies last year that used COVID as an immediate excuse to cut hourly worker raises and bonuses while plenty still paid out bonuses to the highest-level folks. It is a joke.
And the argument that we don't need to pay a high school kid a "living wage" is frankly pathetic. They are such a small proportion of the workers in the groups being discussed here it is almost not worth mentioning.
I do think we need some way to help small business with these things. I don't know maybe a stipend per worker and a scale that helps them pay the minimum wage, so maybe if you are under 50 workers and under $1mill in revenue then you can pay your workers $10 per hour, and the goverment subsidizes to get them up to the $15. And the scale slides from there, or something.
But we need to do something. Not only is this an issue for day-to-day living, but we then face the issue that we are doing nothing as a society to help provide for these people in retirement. It is well-known that SS is in free-fall. With the pyramid scheme nature of it self-cannibalizing as the pyramid turns upside-down as the boomers all move into retirement, we will be hard-pressed to care for a large proportion of the population as they enter retirement age after that point. The push away from pensions and toward 401ks has been great for business and bad for the ordinary worker. Worse than bad as many simply cannot afford to contribute, so they will have nothing come retirement.
But we have to start somewhere. At least raising the minimum wage to $15 is a bandaid on the gaping wound, whereas what many people would have us do is let it bleed while we argue about how to put a bandaid on it.