Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

September 24, 2013

Minimum wage hike would be beneficial

In reading Times-News editorials I’ve noticed a general absence of discussions regarding controversial topics. However, the editorial of Sept. 6 titled, “Don’t do it: Minimum wage hike would have negative results” was an exception.

The Times-News argued that it would be a mistake for Maryland to raise its minimum wage from $7.25 to $12.50 per hour. Permit me to respectfully dissent.

Evidently the editorial’s view that a minimum wage hike would have negative results is based on the rationale that such action would boost unemployment and eliminate “thousands of jobs.”

While I do agree that a shift from $7.25 to $12.50 is probably too large for any business to handle immediately (It would amount to a 58 percent raise!), clearly the proposition that minimum wage increases lead to a loss of jobs is bogus. History tells us such action actually stimulates economic growth.

The federal government first established a minimum wage in 1938. It was set at $.25 per hour. At that time there was substantial opposition to this policy because many believed it would hurt business and the economy. There have been 28 increases since that time and at each juncture opponents voiced the same position that such a policy would mean higher unemployment, etc.

So what actually happened in all of these cases? When the minimum wage was increased all other incomes were proportionately increased, consumers had overall more funds to spend on goods and services, thus the business world needed to hire more workers to keep up with the increased demand for their products. In short this process goes a long way in explaining how the famed American middle class was formed.

The legendary Henry Ford, who definitely was no slouch when it came to running a business, producing cars and making money, understood this principle well. He reportedly said that he wanted to give his workers sufficiently high wages so they could afford to buy his cars.

Just as Ford did, any successful businessman or woman today views his or her workers as assets, not expenses! A common refrain expressed by these business leaders is: “Our favorable outcome is because of our people.”

My second argument supporting increasing minimum wage is a moral one. I feel it’s clearly immoral for America, the wealthiest country in history, despite giving lip-service to the high value of work, to relegate millions of her working citizens to poverty status with pitiful incomes and no significant benefits.

While giving only nominal value to work, I feel regrettably that we Americans place an extremely high value on money. Due to this an individual’s worth is measured largely by his or her income and wealth.

In the economic sectors most directly impacted by a minimum wage increase — the retail sales, fast-food and hospitality industries — are the executives really worth more than those on the front-line performing the actual tasks associated with making and delivering the product?!

It is common knowledge that income (and wealth) inequality has been dramatically increasing since about 1980.

Although those fortune ones at the top have seen their incomes skyrocket, the low wage-earner’s inflation adjusted income has decreased. Why has this happened? Why do the rich continue to get richer and the poor become poorer? Is this moral? What would Jesus say?

There is another value many Americans share. This is the supreme importance we place upon the teachings contained within God’s Word. One of these sacred messages of the Good Book is that we will be judged by God in how we “treat the least of these.” It seems to me that low wage-earners, struggling daily to have the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, would fall within this category.

R. Steele Selby

Frostburg

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