Rik Schneider Online

Friday, October 29, 2010

PBS: Video: The Open Mind with Richard Hefner: Milton Friedman on Minimum Wage



Those of you who've read my past posts on this blog may be thinking that I'm a libertarian because I'm in favor of legalizing  marijuana, gambling and prostitution.  I'm also for guaranteeing all rights under the U.S. Constitutional to homosexuals as strongly as for straight people and I'm pro choice on reproductive rights.  I don't consider myself a classical libertarian  though I have libertarian leanings. I consider myself a classical liberal in the mode of Jack Kennedy, John Kerry, Bill Clinton or perhaps even Thomas Jefferson, the father of the Democratic Party and, perhaps, liberalism itself.

I do believe in the maximization of freedom and responsibility for the Individual.  If you're a real liberal and not a social democrat, you're truly in favor of having government off our backs out of our wallets and bedrooms.  You believe that government should serve a supportive and empowering role, not an authoritarian role.  The minimum wage, or as I would prefer to call it, the living wage, is a pretty good example of that. 

In the 1930's, when the FDR Administration, with the support of Congress, established the minimum wage as part of the New Deal, it was done to create an income floor that American workers could rely upon to support themselves and their families. Most Americans (with the possible exception of the Koch brothers and other Republican oligarchs) don't want slave labor here.  
70 years after it was created the original concept of the minimum wage has outlived its usefulness and needs to be replaced.  It hasn't kept up with Inflation because it has to rely on a fickle and indifferent Congress that is captive to the corporate employers of the minimum wage workers.  That Congress never incorporated Indexing for inflation in the statute. 

I would replace the Federal minimum wage with a Federal living wage indexed for Inflation.  I would propose giving employers an additional tax deduction based on the fraction of their payroll paid to minimum wage workers so that they don't see a spike in their payroll due to this change. The current Federal minimum wage is a measly $7.25 per hour.  This is  a little over $15,000 per year.  This is well below the poverty level.  The living wage should be at least $10 per hour.

This living wage  would giving minimum wage workers in America a substantial raise that would directly go back into the economy because the recipients would spend virtually all of it.  These workers would still be low-income but their income  would finally be at the Federal poverty level instead of under it.  

Low-income workers contribute a lot to our society and we couldn't survive without them.  They sustain everything from agriculture, food service, groceries, health care, and aviation service Industries etc.  They should be adequately rewarded for the contributions that they make to our society.