What is a fair minimum wage?

Politics has become the avenue of career for many, who pass name recognition down from father to son, keeping their family in our “ruling class.” They love (serving the public?) and they want to continue their tenure. There are many things they do which give the appearance of being out for the little guy, which gets them votes, even though it is really only a show.

I’m going to be the bad guy and cite an example where the “good guys” mislead in their working for the little guy. Everyone looks for growth in their earning power, but the truth is that raising oneself by one’s bootstraps is still the best bet for anyone with aspirations of improving his lot in life.

Everyone has sympathy for the little guy, and would like to see his situation improve. Let’s help him. Let’s pass a law to set a good minimum wage that every one has to pay. Actually, the Constitution does not allow the federal government to set wages in industry. That should be left to the states if at all, but hey, if nobody objects, we can do it. Unfortunately, it has the effect of cutting down on the number of jobs available to low-skilled people, as many employers will find a way around tasks without hiring someone for a job that’s really not worth paying a required high minimum wage for. It’s just another unintended effect of Congress passing ill-considered laws that make them look like they care.

Now that we’ve reduced the number of jobs available to unskilled people, let’s recognize another ignored fact. Anyone in a job that requires a degree of skill will be paid more than the minimum wage. No matter what the minimum wage is, or by how much they raise it, if the minimum is what you earn, you will still be the lowest paid person in the country, at least among those legally employed, thus your situation will not really be improved.

The unions use their influence to get congressmen to raise the minimum wage. Why? They point out it will make them look good to the little guy, and get them votes. Then, if the minimum wage goes up, the unions will find it easier to negotiate a raise in their contracts, to maintain their previous step above minimum wage, and look good to their members. The overall effect is that while the politicians look good, and the union bosses look good, no one is any better off. Why? Because the employers now faced with increased costs, must increase their prices, to maintain their normal level of profits. So, while the minimum wage and union wages are higher, they don’t have any more purchasing power than they ever did. As they say, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” and each boat doesn’t float any higher on the water than it ever did.

The union bosses get their raises for their people, and the politician gets re-elected for showing such compassion for the little guy, but in reality, no one is any better off. All we’ve really done is lowered the value of the dollar. That’s basically why today a man making $1,000 a week is no better off than a man in 1950 making $80 a week. I remember a friend bragging to me in the early ’40s that his dad made $5,000 a year. They owned a nice home, and could afford to buy a new car every two years.

The only realistic way to increase your income, and be better off than you were before, is to get a better job, or make yourself more valuable in the workplace, so that you may earn a greater salary. That of course may take a bit of dedication on your part, but many can attest that it is worth the effort.

Of course if you work in a union shop, it may not do you any good to work any better if you don’t have seniority. In a union shop, seniority usually counts for more than ability or hard work. That’s called introducing “fairness for all.”

Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com