Good For Some, Bad for All - Low Wages

When I turned 14 my first job was in the restaurant industry – I worked in the kitchen as a dishwasher where I earned minimum wage. The next summer when I turned 15, I took a job at Dunkin’ Donuts serving donuts and coffee. I earned minimum wage and occasionally was given tips. I was always grateful to those customers. Although not a breadwinner for my family at the time, I remember earning those few extra dollars an hour meant a lot to me.  It is hard to imagine a family with children in NYC surviving on a minimum wage that hasn't changed much since my time washing dishes and selling donuts.

The minimum wage debate has two sides. One side says that the market should dictate the price – raising wages will mean that companies will hire less people. The other says that wages should reflect a minimum because if not, then capital will tend to exploit workers. And now we see workers not being able to afford rent, heat, healthcare and other basic necessities of life. Let alone retirement. In New York’s 7th Congressional District, the median household income is around $40,000, which is about 20% below that of the national average. When you compare this with NYC’s cost of living, you can see this disparity with glaring clarity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 1.7 million workers earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. (See here.) Bud Meyer writes on Daily Kos:

The best possible thing that could happen to this country would be a significant increase in the minimum wage (probably to something more in the range of $20-25 an hour, not a measly $9-$10).  The increased discretionary income for so many people would create immense demand for products and services, which would bring down unemployment and increase both State and Federal tax revenues --- which would also bring down the deficit while providing funds to pay off the debt.

I believe that minimum wage should be raised. Paying workers more money means that more money will be circulating in the economy. Right now it is clogged at the top and this is bad except for the very few who are at the very top. It is even arguably bad for them. We are all in this together and when members of our society struggle, it reflects on who we are and makes us all worse off.

We understand that the middle class – people who want to work hard and improve their standard of living – has been squeezed repeatedly and that good jobs have disappeared, especially in manufacturing that have been largely shipped overseas. The trend in our country has been towards big business. We must change this and make a new trend truly valuing hard work, entrepreneurship and small business.

With wages, the “good for some, bad for all” is the agenda taken by management of large corporations catering to the short term whims of their masters – the shareholders – as well as their own performance based compensation. To accomplish this goal, what large corporations have been doing is lobbying and paying money to politicians to keep wages low and create tax loopholes and/or work for some other interest of the corporation that is good for them and bad for everyone else. Take, for example, McDonald’s Corporation. In 2012, McDonald’s spent half a million dollars funding federal candidates. (See here for a list of who.) What could Mickey D’s want with this $500,000 investment? They are paying both Republicans and Democrats. So, if it is not low wages, what does McDonald’s hope to gain by paying these politicians?

I love a Big Mac as much as the next person (I have my weaknesses), but on August 29th I am standing with the fast food workers of America in believing that workers across our district and across our country deserve to be paid more.

Please join us at Kurzon for Congress in the fight to get the money out of politics and raise the minimum wage

You can support our effort to truly fight for the best interests of people in New York and America with a donation of $5 or more here. If a financial donation to support our campaign is not in your budget, please share this post on Facebook or Twitter or e-mail it to people you know who live in the district. You can find a map here of New York’s 7th Congressional District.

You can also find my previous “Good for Some, Bad for All” posts on closing the carried interest tax loophole can be found here and on the food we eat here.

Thank you for your support.

-Jeff Kurzon