What happens if you enact laws that say people receiving government assistance (SNAP benefits, subsidized health care, subsidized child care, housing assistance, etc.) have to be employed in order to receive those benefits AND simultaneously repeal the minimum wage effectively telling employers that they can pay people as little as possible?
These two ideas are, as far as I can tell, mainstream thoughts within the GOP party. The first is being enacted to varying degrees in a number of GOP states. The second is being discussed loudly by many GOP politicians, especially in response to calls for a higher minimum wage.
But what actually happens if we do both at the same time – tell people that they MUST have a job in order to get help, and tell employers that they don’t really have to pay their employees if they can get them to work for less?
Keep in mind that current minimum wage already provides a poverty level income to anyone earning it while trying to keep even one other single family member afloat.
Now imagine eliminating that wage requirement while telling people they must be employed – that means that the government is blackmailing people into working for even less. If they strike in protest of low wages that will not keep their family alive – does that mean they’re not working and thus the benefits that were helping them bridge the gap are cut off? (Not that they’d be able to strike effectively anyway since the GOP is also working hard to eliminate unions…) Given the reality that government programs have already seen significant cuts and many people receiving government assistance are already working multiple jobs in addition to receiving benefits, and are still struggling to make ends meet… what does this really mean? What does this really look like?
Yes, I can see where businesses will be able to make more money, and potentially even employ more people (I mean, hey, if you don’t have to pay them, why not hire them? That’s the line I’ve heard from the GOP side – eliminating the minimum wage will eliminate unemployment! Everyone can work, if no one has to pay them!) But… Is that really solving the problem we’re trying to solve? Do we just want everyone to have a job, any job, for any pay? Or do we want people to have a job that supports them and their families? Do we want them to have jobs that pay for the basic necessities of life: Food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe drinking water… Do we want employers to pay their employees enough that people with full time jobs don’t need to ask for or rely on government assistance to scrape by?
If we eliminate the minimum wage, rather than raising it, does anyone actually think that will lower people’s dependence on government assistance? Especially if having a job is a requirement for receiving assistance? Am I the only one who sees this as blackmailing people into accepting sub-par wages and becoming MORE reliant on government aid rather than less? Am I the only one who sees this as a serious step toward creating a government subsidized permanent serf class?
And where will the funds come from to pay for the increased need for government services? Obviously individuals receiving government assistance won’t have any money left over to pay taxes, and most of the large corporations have found enough loopholes, tax breaks and tax credits to avoid paying taxes – many actually receive tax refunds each year. So, companies like Walmart, McDonalds, Kraft foods, Amazon, etc. not only won’t have to pay their employees, they also won’t be paying tax dollars into the government relief pool. They are completely off the hook for the responsibility of ensuring their employee’s livelihoods.
Who does this policy help then? Shareholders, CEOs and other top executives who see extra company profits turned into bonus checks…
Who does this hurt? Pretty much everyone else. The poor who get poorer, the middle class who have to take up the extra tax burden because no one else is…
And why is THIS never called “income redistribution” or “class warfare” or “theft at the point of a gun” or and of the other terms used when the poor and middle class ask wealthy America to start paying back into the pot? Why is it okay for people to work 40+ hours a week and NOT be guaranteed a living wage? How is that not theft – of labor, of energy, of time? In the “richest nation in the world” or so we’re told, how is it that we’re okay with asking more and more people to work harder and longer for decreased pay and benefits rather than insisting that companies seeing record-breaking profits pay their employees livable wages?
If we’re not going to raise the minimum wage to match increases in cost of living, and we’re not going to enact price controls on essentials like medicine, housing, food, transportation, etc. while simultaneously blackmailing people into working for less than current minimum wage (and gutting the government relief programs that these workers would need to survive…) I don’t see how this results in anything other than the needless pain, suffering and degradation of American workers. It’s not enough to give people jobs, we have to insist on jobs that guarantee them a viable standard of living.
I think at the end of the day, what I’m most confused about is why many members of the GOP elite seem to want to compete with “developing” nations like China and India (and really, we’re looking up to Vladimir Putin now!?!) in a race to the bottom in terms of worker rights, human rights, environmental action, etc. instead of competing with other “developed” nations like Sweden, Finland, Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, etc. to raise the standard of living for everyone from the bottom to the top.