The current wage debate goes something like this. People aren’t making a living wage or the minimum wage needs to be raised because no one can live on that amount of money, painting a picture that most of those who make minimum wage are single parent families, not teenagers on their first job gaining working experience.
Very few Americans are actually working for the federal minimum wage—it’s just 2.9 percent of all workers in the United States. In other words, 97 percent of American workers make more than minimum wage.
The characteristics of the teenagers and young adults who earn the minimum wage or less support the notion that these minimum-wage workers rarely work to support children and their families:
- 79 percent work part-time jobs.
- 62 percent are enrolled in school during non-summer months.
- Their average family income is $65,900 per year.
- Only 22 percent live at or below the poverty line, while 68 percent enjoy family incomes over 150 percent of the poverty line, which is $33,500 for a family of four.
- Most have not finished their education. A third have not yet finished high school, while almost a quarter have only a high school degree. Another two-fifths have taken college courses but have not yet graduated. Many of these are college students working part-time while in school. Only 3 percent have finished college and obtained a degree.
- Fully 60 percent are women.
- Only 5 percent are married.
Minimum-wage earners don’t stay in those jobs forever. It’s easy to get the idea from politicians that “minimum-wage workers” are a permanent class of people. But in fact, two-thirds of minimum-wage workers earn a raise within a year.
As they gain experience and employment skills, they become more productive and can command higher wages. Entry-level, minimum-wage jobs are the first rung on many workers’ career ladders.
Taking it a step further, companies are not in business to serve as a charity. Many people, including President Obama, explain that people who work hard should earn a living wage for a forty-hour work week. The solution is to stay in school and get an education or training to work smarter not harder – it pays better because you are more productive!
High school graduates can no longer walk into a high paying manufacturing job as they once did years ago, because those job opportunities are shrinking and the government can do nothing about it in a free business environment except lower corporate taxes thus lowering operating costs to enhance competition.
Economics 101 shows that a raise, without an increase in productivity is inflationary. The worker must become more productive through automation, working more efficiently, receiving more training to produce more goods in the same amount of time or less – then a raise is forthcoming.
Any increase in operating costs, due to the wage increase without increase in productivity, higher taxes, etc. is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. The consumer is eventually forced to go to his boss and ask for a raise to pay for the higher cost products he wants to purchase. Eventually, everyone winds up in the same relative positions to each other and the cycle begins again.
There is one difference, however, and that is our products have become more expensive than our competitors, be it another company in state, out of state, or out of country and we lose jobs because the manufacturing process shouldn’t cost that much to produce our product, so the other guy gets the job.
It does no good to gripe that you can’t find a job that pays a living wage, when you dropped out of high school – over 80% of new jobs require post-secondary education – or you failed to get any additional training, or do anything that would make you a more valuable worker. American jobs are going begging because of the lack of skilled workers.
Some in this country think that they are entitled to a living wage, when they haven’t done the first thing to earn it. It’s always the wealthy people’s fault, the high paid executive, the 1%, etc.
That limited thinking will keep you anchored in your current position or unemployed. What you must learn is that the economy is not static, there isn’t a fixed amount of money and since the rich have a lot of money, then that takes away from what you can earn.
The economy is dynamic; the amount of money available can grow. The wealthy person didn’t take money from you. They earned it and you can too. New money is created through the development, design, manufacture and sales of new products, service and ideas; it isn’t created by a printing press at the U.S. Federal Reserve creating a faux economy that will give rise to hyperinflation as soon as the printing presses stop.
When the economy grows, we can all benefit as long as we don’t try to hold everyone back to the lowest level of expertise. We can all grow together and your earnings will be limited only by your ambition, abilities, education and time you are willing to contribute to your vision of success. Yes, and those visions of success are different, as it should be.
The incomes earned, however, will not all be at the same level, it’s a free enterprise system, not socialism where the people all share the same misery. Your wages should only be limited by your ambition and your vision of what your future can be.
One thing for sure and you can take it to the bank – the government is not the solution – it is the problem and a minimum wage increase is not going to solve anything – it is a faux solution. The problems in this economy and a decent wage are much more complicated than the politicians would have you believe.