There was a time, not very long ago, when our two-party system of government seemed not only fair, but downright necessary. The notion of checks and balances was healthy and created solutions of compromise among those with opposing views on social and economic issues.
Dueling economic philosophies are certainly nothing new. However, the recent, more extreme positions taken by the far-right are threatening the very existence of the American worker, and people are taking notice. Since President Obama suggested raising the minimum wage in his inaugural address in January, pundits and critics have argued that it would be a bad idea. In their criticism, they cite the age-old argument that raising the minimum wage only places a burden on employers by increasing production costs, thereby inhibiting job creation.
That argument has been used enough times that it’s considered basic economic philosophy. Many economic industry experts now beg to differ, however.
“We can argue about exactly why the simple Econ 101 story doesn’t seem to work, but it clearly doesn’t — which means that the supposed cost in terms of employment from seeking to raise low-wage workers’ earnings is a myth.”
“An important reason for the success of Costco’s business model is the attraction and retention of great employees,” Jelinek added. “Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty. We support efforts to increase the federal minimum wage.”
Sure, cheap labor may be conducive to lower overhead which, in turn is conducive to improving a company’s bottom line, at least in the short term. This was the case when our country was founded and built by slave owners looking to maximize profits. This was also the case when our industrial pioneers took advantage of the willingness of immigrants to work very cheaply building our first railroads and factories at a minuscule wage. Here in the 21st century, those workers are also consumers, taxpayers, and VOTERS. Those voters are apt to remember when they visit the polls next year those lawmakers who take measures to thwart all efforts to further empower American workers.
The most glaring and impudent example came recently, when House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va) suggested that he will propose legislation to end overtime pay for hourly workers. As if the proposal itself weren’t preposterous enough, Cantor’s justification for such a proposal is even more ridiculous. He suggests that the more ideal incentive for working more hours isn’t more pay, but more time off to spend with family by “going on a field trip,” or attending a PTA meeting.
“Forgive me for noting that conservatives seem to believe that the rich will work harder if we give them more, and the poor will work harder if we give them less.”
The answer may not be simple, and none of us really know the cure-all remedy to the crises we often face. We do, however, know that mistreating American workers with stagnant low wages and decreased benefits, hours and incentives is to visit the dark past of US industrialization and equally dark present of third-world forced labor. While these archaic and draconian tactics may be profitable for companies in the short term, that simply won’t work for America in 2013 and beyond.
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