(May 7, 2009)
One might think that a Consevative such as I, who owned a chain of retail bookstores, would be against a government-mandated Minimum Wage.
Many Conservatives (Limbaugh, Hannity, Kristol, Kristol, Crystal) warn that any increase in the minimum wage would, invariably, result in small business failures, and lead to a loss of jobs.
En Garde'. Saying so does not make it so.
Historically when minimum wage increases have been mandated, there has not been a commensurate increase in small business failures nor a loss of jobs.
Not long ago, when the economy was booming, you rarely visited, for example, a fast-food restaurant like McDonalds that did not have a "Help Wanted" sign in its window. Then you waited in line unhappily for 15 minutes, for your understaffed "fast food" eatery to deliver your Happy Meal - about the time it takes Smith & Wollensky to deliver your $79.00 lunch steak in Manhattan.
So why you might ask couldn't McDonalds get help? Perhaps because some people, or many people, didn't want to work that hard for minimum wages (chump change). And you wait in line. Kinda defeats the purpose of the fast food reataurant concept, no?
Ummm Hmmm. And why can't McDonalds pay higher wages and get more help, you ask? Because McDonalds might have to raise the price of a Happy Meal from, say $3.99 to $4.25 (Full disclosure - I'm no expert here as I don't frequent fast food places) the homely girl with the red pigtails over at Wendy's continues to serve her Whatever Meal at $3.99. So, you all go to Wendy's and McDonalds goes to Chapter 7.
But hold on now. If the Government mandates an increase in the Minimum Wage, both McDonalds AND Wendy's will have to raise their prices. Maybe people will buy fewer "Happy Meals." Oh ahahahah ha ha - I amuse myself.
Here's the Conservative rationale: (A) I think subsistance wages are a detriment to a free society, more appropriate to third-world countries. (B) People that work these menial jobs work harder than you and I - don't try to tell me different Mr. three-martini-lunch, I've been both places. (C) When my tummy is growling, and your "fast food" line is twenty minutes deep, call security. (D) A substantial increase in a workers wages leads to an increase in that worker's discretionary spending capability. (E) That increase in discretionary spending is good for the economy - good for business - good for you and me and (F) Even though it's a tax on all of us through higher prices, It's all done without government management, and without a Trillion Dollar "stimulus package." (more below).
Actually I like fastfoods, and I believe my Cardiologist, Dr. Macaluso does too. But he says I can't have any.
The Conservative Sawyer solution: raise the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour. I'll pay another quarter for my Big Mac - and maybe I won't have to wait 20 minutes. No government programs. Then minimum wage people might actuall have some disposable income to spend - voila ! The whole economy benefits without an increase in taxes.
As a former retail entrepreneur, who would have been embarassed to pay anyone minimum wage, I agree with the Hillary Clinton quote - even if I do not agree with the mean-spiritedness with which it was delivered - "I don't know if we are in the business of propping up underfunded businesses."
At any rate, people shouldn't own businesses who earn a profit solely by squeezing the help. Better fewer retail stores, paying a decent wage, earning a decent profit.
UPDATE - Feb 1, 2016
In 1980 the minimum wage was $3.30
Adjusted for inflation - today's minimum wage would be $18.06 !