It feels like I’ve been here before.
Actually, I know I’ve been here before.
In fact, I am getting tired of having to make the argument that public policy should be used to regulate a market that is cruel when it comes to the value of much of the labor supply.
The minimum wage was proposed 80 years ago to lift a family of three with one full-time worker out of poverty; it succeeded for the better part of 50 years.
However, for the past 30 years, the minimum wage has failed to achieve its intended goal.
What does it say about the market when more than one in four homeless adults in the Lehigh Valley enter our homeless shelters employed?
Why should someone who has a job have to stand in line at a local food pantry seeking help from their neighbors because their job doesn’t feed the family?
The facts prove that the minimum wage is good for Americans. Nevertheless, we will have the same, old, tired debate.
But it really is simple: how can the folks who make toasters, build cars and construct homes make any money when people can’t afford to buy those toasters, cars or homes? How can the utility company make electricity if people can’t pay their bills? How can the landlord make improvements to his property if his tenants can’t pay the rent? How can a school district educate our children if people can’t pay their taxes?
Still, here we are, begging the people who make the decisions to decide that regular Americans should get paid not even a decent wage but just a minimum wage.
Working people aren’t asking for much; they just want to be able to pay their bills.
They want an occasional break from having to dodge phone calls from bill collectors.
They wish they didn’t have to worry that their old car might break down or they might get sick and miss a day of work and the $50 they would have earned.
They would love to go to the grocery store and not have to worry that their neighbors might see them paying for their groceries with SNAP benefits.
They don’t want to have to explain to their kids why they can’t have more to eat.
We are Americans. More and more of us are alarmed by economic disparities in our nation. An increase in the minimum wage is the least we can do to alleviate a small fraction of that disparity.