California is possibly about to raise their minimum wage to $10, making it the highest in the country. I currently live in Ohio, where the minimum wage is $7.85. I used to live in Oregon where it is $8.95. Oregon's northern neighbor, Washington State, has the highest current minimum wage, $9.19. (see chart to compare states)
There is a movement afoot to make sure that the minimum wage is a living wage. The proposal is to do it at the Federal level (like that is ever going to get past the Republican-controlled House).
How that would work isn't clear. It seems it'd have to be tied to local economies. The cost of living in NYC, according to Kiplinger, is 125% of the national average vs. Harlingen, Texas, the city which Kiplinger declares has the lowest cost of living in the US, only 86.1% of the national average.
So, a living wage in Harlingen might for example be $13.50/hr vs $20.00/hr in NYC (figures totally pulled out of the air).
If we are seeing that the current minimum wage is forcing many families to live either in poverty or forced to multiple incomes, with the devastation on family life that is clearly causing, is it the right thing to do?
Bear in mind, it will surely increase the cost of living, setting up a an upward-trending feedback loop driving salaries and prices up. That, in turn, will drive businesses to cut cost and increase efficiencies, which will increase unemployment. Full-time jobs will become part-time. (Should we legally eliminate the full-/part-time distinction?)
Is there a way of raising the minimum wage that doesn't make some things worse?
Increasing minimum wage can also have benefits for the economy. This is due to the fact that when poorer people get a wage increase that money usually goes directly back into the economy. While when the rich get a wage increase it usually has a minimal effect on their spending habits.
Let me play the conservative.
Oh yeah? How? Like when they go to Target and buy clothes made in India or to the grocery store and buy strawberries picked in Mexico? The rich person may use his extra income to start a business, or he may put it in a bank where it becomes available as mortgage loans.
The rich person is far more likely to spend the money importing strawberries from Mexico, somehow encountering a tax credit of some sort for doing so.
To the main question, I do not feel that there should be one minimum wage set as a living wage. Until you are 18 (or perhaps have declared emancipation from your parents/guardians earlier) I think employers should be able to hire you for less than a living wage - giving young people an advantage in gaining work experience.
Furthermore, should a living wage assume you pay for a household of two adults and two children? I see no reason why unskilled, transient workers should be so averse to spending some time single, with roommates, until their skills develop a bit and they settle into more of a career.
A living wage should pay for one adult and one child, with welfare picking up the tab on any other children if need be. This would allow families to easily get on their feet and become established, make more money, and pay more taxes.
I can think of two ways, and they are both extreme by House Standards.
1, We put a price cap on the essentials of life, such as food, utilities, etc. This is a bandaid. It will work for a while, but the bubble will burst, and screw the whole world up.
2, We take our commons back from the private sector and put them back in the public sector.
If our roads were paved and maintained by public employees, we would only be paying for materials, equipment, and worker wages. As it stands we pay for materials, equipment, and worker wages, AND Corporate profit, all to maintain something that is literally something that we can't function without. This also goes for electricity, water, gas (natural gas, not gasoline) Telecommunications, and most importantly, Education. Private colleges don't actually offer education, they offer training. i.e. they teach you what to think, not how to think. If these things were paid for by tax dollars instead of by our wages, then the cost of living would plummet.
I know what you're thinking, if we pay for that with taxes, then we have to pay more taxes. Well, no. We can do a lot of things to reduce tax loads. We can stop bombing so many people at once, we stop giving subsidies to industries that pollute our water and air, we can make the uber rich pay a higher percentage in taxes. I'm talking about Billionaires. If you feel any kind of sympathy for the billionaire who doesn't want to pay higher taxes,then read this, and tell me if you still feel that sympathy.
There's a lot of really stupid stuff that's boring to talk about that would save us a lot of money. Like not making anymore pennies, nickles, quarters, and dollar bills, and instead rely on dimes, half dollars, and dollar coins. This would save billions a year in materials, and in the case of the dollar bill, reclamation costs. Dollar bills only stay in circulation for about two years, and then get taken out and replaced. Dollar coins can stay in circulation for about 30 years. Pennies cost 1.9 cents each, so they aren't worth keeping around, and if all prices were rounded to the nearest dime, then local business would benefit from a nice little price hike that wouldn't break the bank.
If we take our commons back, there will be no need to raise the minimum wage, because things will be affordable then. It will take care of all the things that kill our paychecks before payday is even over.
If you feel any kind of sympathy for the billionaire who doesn't want to pay higher taxes, then read this, and tell me if you still feel that sympathy.
How about envy? I've always wanted to own a castle, on an island, where I can drive around in my very expensive car, once I get there on my private jet.
I think many billionaires become philanthropists like Warren Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg. Of course, some billionaires are deservedly not in this photo of billionaire philanthropists. The Koch brothers and that brilliant asshole Steve Jobs, for example.
Personally, I think millionaires are the bigger problem. Few of them become philanthropists and there are far more of them.