A conservative friend of mine recently complained that New York’s raising of the minimum wage would wreak havoc on all small businesses in our home town. She said government should not be involved; let the market determine wages.
This is a somewhat simplistic outlook, to say the least.
Now, this is someone I love, but I can’t help thinking...when we were 14 she had two parents, a loving home, a lake house for the summer, a future that meant college was attainable and for which her parents had planned and by whom she was encouraged.
She shared her friendship, her summer home, her family with me, nice. She went to college, was smart, moved up in county government, has a great pension and healthcare for life.
I was on a very much rockier road in high school, never anticipated going to college, did not have two parents and we were, I guess, poor.
I managed to attain a two year degree that took me 10 years to pay off, some of those years wondering what I was going to eat; hey, popcorn again tonight! And I made more than minimum wage at that time.
I'm pretty sure my old friend never lived like that.
We realistically can no longer rely on the so-called free “market.” The market is completely controlled by corporate America, big pharma, and the insurance industries, primarily health insurance, and we basically live in an oligarchy, like Russia, but without the free healthcare.
The idea that anyone can live on minimum wage, no matter how many minimum wage jobs one has, is untenable. Just think, $7.25 per hour at 40 hours per week grosses $290 per week, $1160 per month. There is no way out of this sort of poverty. This is less than “living paycheck to paycheck;” this is abject poverty, period.
Okay, so you qualify for SNAP, Medicaid, help with rent, and pretty much every tax paying American hates you for it. Coupled with a system of public education that is grossly unequal, to say the least, for these people, these families, this will never get any better. So they will remain slave labor for the oligarchs of America, which have become synonymous with the GOP, and people like my friend, and rightly so.
But what if that minimum wage was $15 per hour, or $2400 per month? What if there was universal healthcare? Maybe they would not need SNAP; maybe they would, but certainly not Medicaid. My friend is wrong. We cannot keep sweeping the poor under the rug, because people like my friend believe capitalism is the only way. Because they believe the poor can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
Those days are gone. Because of conservatism over the past 40 years and people like her, it simply cannot be done.
But increasing the minimum wage and providing universal healthcare could go a long way to help EVERYONE in America. Okay, most people don’t want to pay higher taxes, even though they can afford it, I get it.
But the “let them eat cake” attitude is morally and civilly wrong and will no longer work.
Viva la revolution...
Joan Sloane is a retired communications professional who lives in Dover, DE.