Minimum wage, living wage, and the moral questions their opponents can’t answer

Image from CSULB College Assistance Migrant Program
Image from CSULB College Assistance Migrant Program

Seems that too few of us stop to realize that people – you know, human beings – who do some of the most essential jobs to life itself – harvesting our food, placing it on shelves in stores, or preparing and serving it to us in restaurants – are some of the lowest paid people in our society.

Even fewer of us seem to care enough to know the facts and to support and vote for progressive politicians who want to force corporations to share more of their earnings through living wage legislation.


How Immoral Are We?

Let’s start with a basic fact. It’s not like any of us can live very long without food. The people who make sure we have it deserve better.

And for those who would disregard or ignore the supply chain of food and, instead, want to make the argument that dining out is a luxury and not a necessity, I would ask them this question. Doesn’t dining out as a luxury mean that the service has great value? After all, every restaurant worker in every job position does a job we don’t have to do, and they do it all so that we can enjoy the “luxury” of one of the things essential to life. Eating.

Why, then, would anyone in a civil society be in support of policies, politicians, ideologies, and legislation that serves only to treat the people who feed us with so little regard and with so little dignity that their wages don’t even “rise” to the level of poverty even when they work at these jobs full-time?

That strikes me as treating them like servants; a class of people who can only exist in an immoral society which values money over people.

We’re the Problem (Well…Some of Us More than Others)

No matter how nice we are to our next waiter or waitress (and I hope we all go out of our way to be friendly and appreciative to these people serving us); no matter how big a tip we may leave (assuming that we’re not eating fast food, of course, because society has deemed them not worthy of a tip); and, so long as any of us support and vote for politicians who oppose raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we need to understand this fact.

Some of us are at the root of the problem that is this stagnate economy and the imbalance in its recovery more than others.

Wall Street has recovered. Main Street has not.

Here’s the problem as I see it.

2/3 of  eligible voters didn’t vote in 2014.  In this writer’s opinion, even greater blame rests with those Americans who allow themselves to be duped by the likes of ALEC and the Republican Party into voting against themselves and their own economic self-interests.

Look at the maps below. See any correlation?



While there are tons of factors at work in an economy as complex as ours, what I see are red states, especially in the Deep South, voting against themselves, their fellow citizens, and against their own economic self-interests.

Some Companies Get It; Others “Get” Something Else

Companies like The Gap, Costco, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s get it. They seem to be doing ok and even quite well despite – and probably because! – they voluntarily pay entry-level workers between $10.00 and $13.29 an hour.

Other companies – the ones with REAL money and influence, and who have duped conservative America into being against federally mandated living wages – get it, too. What they “get” is far different and far more threatening to us and a society that relies on a strong, thriving, and growing middle class.

Make no mistake about it. The largest and richest companies in the world – Walmart, Yum Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC), McDonald’s and others – are the ones who employ the most minimum wage workers. They are going to do everything possible to suppress wages.

You have to be willing to understand and acknowledge that their money-trumps-people business creed means that they are going to use their Big Money to buy politicians who will kowtow to them.

Make no mistake about this fact, either. It is thanks to the Republican-appointed conservative activists on the Supreme Court that our campaign financing and electoral processes are in such shambles that Big Money can now literally take over our system of government.

Liberals did not do that. Conservatives did.

And, dear reader, that is how Big Money has been allowed to play the game and play some of us for fools. It won’t change until we change our attitudes and our behaviors.

The Questions Opponents Can’t Answer

So, the next time you hear a politician – or a friend or family member or social media connection – complain about “big government,” or the burden of a minimum wage, or how we need “less regulation” and more “free markets”, understand this: You are listening to either a spokesperson for Big Money (the politician), or someone who has been duped into believing them.

Perhaps the best way to handle that situation would be to ask them a question or two. Maybe something like….

What does it say about our morals and our ethics as a society when the people who feed us are treated this way?

Does it not diminish their humanity and our own when we vote for politicians who want to pay people – PEOPLE, not workers, PEOPLE – wages that don’t even get them to the level of poverty in America?

They feed us, and still some of us vote against them……and ourselves.

How is that even possible? The answer as I see it is the corruption that is Big Money.

What Can Be Done?

First, educate yourself on the facts.

There’s no excuse in the 21st century not to be able to distinguish between reality and agenda. If you’re still getting your information from the likes of Fox News, The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, Breitbart, The Drudge Report, The Wall Street Journal, AM talk radio (is that even still a thing?), or any other right-wing organization or media outlet, you are nothing more than advertising fodder who is being played for a fool.

By the way, the so-called “liberal media” of TV, radio, and newspapers isn’t much better. Witness the recent fall of Brian Williams. At least NBC is investigating. When can we expect Fox to do the same with Hannity or O’Reilly?

Second, don’t stay silent.

Share your concerns – both economic and ethical – with friends, relatives, acquaintances, and social media connections. I believe that little by little we can have a positive influence on society and make America truly a country in which ideals like fairness, equality, and economic prosperity are within reach for everyone.

Third, give your support.

Support means whatever you can do. Whether it’s your time or your money or both, there are lots of tireless volunteers working their asses off for organizations that deserve our help. They are the ones doing something about getting money out of politics and to making America better for all of us. A few of my favorites are listed below.





You Try Living on Minimum Wage #StrikeFastFood #HomeCare15 #15AndAUnion


I stand with them. All of them. We all should.

Now, I don’t eat fast food, so I honestly don’t care if the price of a Big Mac goes up. I do, however, care about my fellow citizens outside the wealthy 2-percenters.

I also care a great deal about the quality of home care my fellow citizens receive, but let’s talk fast food.

First, it’s an asinine and patently wrong argument (look it up) that higher minimum wages will mean fewer workers. That’s a lie perpetrated by the wealthy who are too greedy to pay workers a living wage.

They also know they can count on Fox to whip the old folks into a lather so that they’ll go forth into the world repeating this lie as if they cared one whit for the working poor. They don’t.

As for the business and economics of this, stop and think about it.

It’s been a long time for me, but when was the last time you were in a fast food restaurant or drive-through and thought to yourself, “You know, this place is so fast and so over-staffed they could get rid of half of these workers and it would still be fast, fast, fast!!”

Companies and franchise owners aren’t stupid. They know the main reason people buy their food is convenience.

They also know that if they aren’t willing to take a little less profit; if they jack up the prices too high AND cut staff; they know you’re not going to be very happy. You’ll probably come in less frequently.

They’re also smart enough to know that, sooner or later, enough Americans are going to catch on to the fact that we’re subsidizing their profits  with our tax dollars to pay for social safety net programs that their workers need just to survive.

No one – NO ONE!!! – can live on 15-grand a year. You people out there railing against a minimum wage turning into a living wage should try making your ends meet at 7 or 8 or 9 bucks an hour. Oh, and try to get a job and those wages where you’re “lucky” enough to get 40 HOURS PER WEEK FOR 52 WEEKS A YEAR!!!

Don’t even get me started on home care workers. Do we really want to live in a society where the people coming into our homes or our parents’ homes or the homes of our friends and family and neighbors to care for us are among the LOWEST paid workers in America?

It’s math, people. All we need to do is to do the math.

One other thing: stop voting for Republicans. All Republicans, everywhere.

They are a party whose ideology is anti-worker, anti-middle class, and anti-minimum/living wage.

It’s time for centrists, liberals, progressives, AND right-minded and intelligent conservatives to punish the GOP for their extremists ideology in the only way that matters – by voting against them.

Trickle-down economics is a lie. The Invisible Hand is a myth. Tax cuts for the wealthy never created a single job.

This country had its Golden Age when unions were strong, when the middle class was thriving and growing, and when the rich and the corporations paid more – much more – in taxes.

Tax cuts for the rich and deregulation is what killed this economy. It sure as hell wasn’t the poor and middle class who did all that damage. Any sane, rational, and intelligent person can see that.

So, if you’re not among the richest 2 percent in this country and you’re still voting for any Republican anywhere, you’re actually the problem. You’re not only voting against your own economic self-interest, you’re voting against all the rest of us outside that 2%.

How about you come to your senses and stop doing that?


Celebrate Labor on Labor Day – YouTube

Published on Aug 29, 2013

Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and the subject of the upcoming documentary “Inequality for All,” shares a Labor Day message about how we can do better by workers. In the video, he announces a petition campaign to pressure McDonald’s’ and Walmart’s CEOs to pay their workers a fair wage of $15/hour.


Celebrate labor on Labor Day and everyday. It’s time more of us stood up for labor and stopped allowing the lie of trickle down economics to go unchallenged.


It was labor and the middle class who made this country great. It was not capital, it was not Wall Street and it was not and never will be the wealthy. They are nothing without the rest of us.

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

A Debate About Minimum Wage: Who Are We Kidding?

News flash: The Republicans are still doing everything they can to self-destruct and to take the middle class, the working poor, and the poor with them.

Oh, and they’re taking those Americans who have been completely duped by their message and their ideology with them, too.

Democrats Assail G.O.P. After Filibuster of Proposal to Raise Minimum Wage

Senator Charles E. Schumer, center, with Senator Harry Reid, second from left, spoke Wednesday about the minimum wage bill. Credit Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times
Senator Charles E. Schumer, center, with Senator Harry Reid, second from left, spoke Wednesday about the minimum wage bill. Credit Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times


Let’s review the facts and the math.

  • The official poverty line for a family of 4 is $23,850.00
  • There are 2080 working hours in a 40hour/week year
  • If you can even find a 40-hour/week job paying $23,850 a year, your POVERTY hourly pay rate is $11.47/hour.


Not struggling-to-get-by. Not skipping-the-beach-this-year or eating-out-less scrimping and saving. Not we’ll-have-to-sell-the-vacation-home or skip-putting-the-pool-in-this-year. Not even the ol’ hamburger-instead-of-steak kind of “poor.”

We’re talking about real poverty at an hourly rate ABOVE what the GOP is already blocking.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“In 2012, 75.3 million workers in the United States age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates, representing 59.0 percent of all wage and salary workers. Among those paid by the hour, 1.6 million earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. About 2.0 million had wages below the federal minimum. Together, these 3.6 million workers with wages at or below the federal minimum made up 4.7 percent of all hourly paid workers.”

The GOP is blocking a pay increase for what amounts to about 5% of the hourly paid workers in America.

BTW, 49.4% of them are age 25 or older, so it’s not the conservative meme (lie) of just kids working part-time flipping burgers.

What are we to conclude? What does this bit of GOP obstructionism tell us? One of two things.

Either the 3.6million workers – only 4.7% of all hourly workers, after all – is such a small number of workers put at risk of losing their jobs due to an hourly minimum increase that it can’t possibly be worth doing because of the harm it could do to business
– or –
these people just don’t deserve to be paid more than $7.25/hour regardless of the job they have because “the market” has determined their worth, not to mention that business owners deserve to keep almost everything because, after all, employees like these are just raw materials to be used and replaced at the absolute lowest cost possible.

Both are extreme arguments, of course. Or are they?

Increasing the minimum wage will not cause all 3.6million workers to lose their jobs. I also don’t believe for one second that all business owners and every Republican are inhuman ogres who see people as raw materials.

What we should be is very clear about the facts, and we should not be afraid to talk about them as adults.

Raising the minimum wage does not kill jobs. Republicans repeat this over and over as a means for keeping their constituents – especially those they can manipulate more easily and who are outside the top 2% – misinformed, scared, and voting for them, of course.

Their strategy relies almost entirely on perpetuating the lie that is trickle-down economics.

So, there are 2 things I think we all need to be talking more openly and honestly about.

1. Not All Businesses Are a Business

If your business can’t afford to pay your workers a wage that is ABOVE the poverty line, you don’t have a business. Well, you might have a business technically, but your business plan sucks and you’re not really operating a business. You have either a hobby or fiefdom.

What you are NOT is a job creator. Paying someone so little that they remain poor and at least partially dependent on public assistance is not a job.

If the profit you generate from your business doesn’t allow you to pay your workers a true living wage after you’ve taken your wage out, then your business model needs serious reexamination. It might be a hobby.

If, on the other hand, you’re making millions and even billions like the Waltons, and you still refuse to pay a living wage, not only are you a “taker” for forcing the rest of us to subsidize your workers AND your profits, you are also an uncaring, unfeeling, and incredibly greedy and abusive human being. You need to reexamine your morals, your ethics, and your humanity. You’re just a greedy SOB, and you’re still NOT a job creator.

These things need to be said. There’s nothing admirable or respectable about the Walton family or people like them. They are the Robber Barons of the New Gilded Age.

2. What’s Wrong With Voters?

If you’re not in the top 2% of income earners making $250K or more per year regardless of what you do for a living and you’re still voting for Republicans, you’re only hurting yourself and your fellow middle class, working poor, and impoverished Americans.

There’s no other way to put it.

You are voting against your own economic self-interests and the economic self-interest of everyone but the very wealthy. It’s obvious. The GOP is the party of trickle-down economics, and trickle-down economics is undeniably one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated on the world. If you refuse to see the facts and reality of the last 30+ years, then you’re just being stubborn or obtuse.

And, we haven’t even gotten to tipped workers yet.

So, as of today, H.R. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, has 196 cosponsors. They are all Democrats.

Where’s the debate?

We can punish Republicans in November, or we can keep punishing ourselves.

It’s a choice each of us gets to make come election time.


.@ChangeWalmart’s #SummerForRespect

Making Change at Walmart has created a summer program for students to do something about economic injustices, what Robert Reich calls, “the civil rights struggle of our time.”

Sign up is at

Here’s what Reich posted about it to his Facebook page today

DEPARTMENT OF ACTIVISM. Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1964, students from around America traveled to Mississippi to participate in Mississippi Freedom Summer. Working hand-in-hand with civil rights organizations and African American residents of Mississippi, these students helped shine a spotlight on the deep injustices of Jim Crow. At the same time, they came to see the world with “Mississippi eyes,” deepening their own commitment to racial and economic justice in ways that would last a lifetime.

To mark the anniversary of Freedom Summer, students from around the country, working hand-in-hand with Walmart worker-leaders, will participate in an intensive summer of organizing Walmart workers. Economic injustice is as insidious as racial injustice, and giving low-wage workers bargaining power and a living wage is the civil rights struggle of our time. (Students will be paid a stipend for their participation as well as travel expenses. If you’re a student, or you know one who might be interested, please email with a CV and a short letter explaining your interest, with the subject line “Summer for Respect.” Letters of interest are due no later than May 2nd.