America's minimum wage must rise to the cost of living
It’s a mystery to me how the United States can call itself “exceptional”, yet at the same time fall behind on some of the most basic assets of a developed country. We already know the United States lags behind in healthcare and education, but jobs and wages in particular are no different.
A recent debate surrounding America’s dismal minimum wage has emerged thanks to Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech, now the only question that remains is what shall come of the rhetoric.
The current minimum wage of the United States is $7.25/hr. at the federal level. Some states have their minimum wages start higher than $7.25, but only a fraction in contrast to the country’s fifty states.
For a comparison, let’s look at Canada’s wages. Each province has different wages, yet no wage is lower than $9.50/hr. like in Saskatchewan. Wages start even higher in the territories with Nunavut at $11.00/hr. Yes, the cost of living is slightly higher, but that is what the minimum wage is tied to. A couple with two kids earning minimum wage earn roughly $40,000 a year. Still hard to get by on with two children, but at least it’s above the poverty line.
The western nations of Europe scoff at the United States and its exceptionalism, wages are a good example as to why. The citizens of France earn a minimum wage of 9.40 euros or 12.58 US dollars per hour. Even Great Britain (one of the lowest minimum wage countries in the West) has a minimum wage equivalent to $9.00 an hour to citizens 22 and older.
The United States is not exceptional, they are the exception. Its wage laws are so arcane that it even makes the English cringe at its thought. Those no good Frenchies across the Atlantic, it turns out they pay their people much more, have more paid holidays and enjoy a better standard of living, the same could be said for Canada. In fact, the US is the only developed country that does not guarantee one paid vacation day, not one, zero… zilch.
So the talk of the town is now focused on the raising of the minimum wage after President Barack Obama exposed the necessity to do so. Yet, if anyone has been reading my columns, you probably know already that I doubt Obama will succeed in this endeavor.
The minimum wage should be raised of course. If Obama had his way, the rates would be raised from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour. Honestly, the wage should be raised much more (If American exceptionalism is to be believed). Workers in America today are plagued by longer working hours for less pay while the businesses they work for make skyrocketing profits.
Big Businesses no longer invest their money back into our communities the way they used to. Times have changed, globalization has altered everything. Companies have far more incentive (regardless of tax rates) to do business in poorer third world nations whose labor conditions are much worse than the United States. Think about that for a moment.
When the corporations and robber barons of America state that we need to “become more competitive” to the rest of the world, all they are expressing is their desire to downgrade our tax system and regulatory authority to that of a third world nation in order to boost profits.
When they say “compete”, they don’t mean with England, France, or Canada. To do that you would need to add more to the social safety net, and raise the damn wages. The robber barons desire a system much like the one that existed before the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Before Roosevelt, there was no social safety net and big business made massive profits at the expense of exhausting the labor force (with very little to no compensation in return). The minimum wage did not exist.
Today conditions are somewhat better by comparison. Yet it could and should be a lot better than it is. The cost of living has risen over the years, but in America, wages have not kept pace with this inflation since the Reagan administration.
Wages for the majority of Americans have remained stagnant, while its most profitable corporations are making trillions under our noses. Believe me; as it stands now the average American will see none of this money.
Right-wing corporate heads desire an environment with no taxes, no minimum wage, no welfare and no regulation, essentially a return to a pre-1929 America and we all know what happened in 1929. If more damage is done to our social safety net and corporations keep re-writing our laws, The United States will find itself living a century in the past.
With the state of our corporate bought congress, it would be a miracle if wages were raised to $7.50 an hour, let alone $9.00.