The country is still recovering from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. It is a slow recovery and one that is seeing its ups and downs. We need to face reality that many of the new jobs being created are not as good as the ones that were lost. The wealthy are creating incredible new wealth for themselves but workers are finding their paychecks aren’t growing. Many families are still much worse off than they were before the tax cutting policies of the Bush administration took effect and helped create the recession.
As a proponent of capitalism, I believe those who take the risk and create and compete in building a business are entitled to their success and to make money. But the reason we need government regulation is we have seen entrepreneurial businessmen and women don’t tend to always share their success with their workers. Many feel they are entitled to make as much money as they can and increase their profits by paying their employees as little as they can. That isn’t always the case and we have seen many owners generously share their profits understanding without good and loyal employees they wouldn’t be successful. But unions were formed and workers banded together because unfortunately this was the exception not the rule.
Today there are many employers who still believe paying workers a living wage, or providing minimum benefits such as sick leave and healthcare is something they shouldn’t be required to do. The Republican Party continues to fight any increase in the minimum wage last set at the federal level on July 24, 2009, when it rose from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour, the last step of a three-step increase approved by Congress in 2007. Before that, the minimum wage hadn’t risen in 10 years.
The real facts about the impact of raising the minimum wage for workers can be found in a document put together by the National Employment Law Project. The reality is that under the current minimum wage, a full-time worker would make less than $16,000 a year. As has been suggested by President Obama, members of Congress who believe it shouldn’t be raised should try to live on that. Every legitimate study has shown raising the minimum wage doesn’t hurt employment opportunities, which is the basic claim of those opposed to it.
Many Republicans — and some who consider themselves libertarian — fight efforts by government to regulate business. They believe any government requirement on business to be fair to their employees is onerous. Many want to exempt small business owners from any regulation saying they provide the most jobs and regulating them in any way will hurt workers in the long run. Although it is true they provide the jobs, what is also true is that most small business owners, not all of course, are no different from large business owners in they tend to pay as little as possible to their employees and try to generate as much profit as possible for themselves. Some would say that is capitalism in its purest form.
Each time a new government regulation is proposed, Republicans shout the “sky is falling.” Whether it is demanding healthcare, sick leave or raising the minimum wage, they claim this new regulation will force businesses to close and jobs to be lost. Sometimes the opposite happens — such as when smoking bans were introduced in restaurants across the nation. Some take their anti-regulation mantra to the extreme, such as Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who questions the need for employees in food businesses to wash their hands before serving customers and believes even that should be optional.
Some suggest the focus on wage disparities today, and asking businesses and the wealthy to help in correcting it, is pure political pandering. They suggest this is taking advantage of business because of the government’s lack of focus on the real issues causing the disparity such as a lack of quality education or job training programs. They tend to forget that these programs are paid for with tax money and the same people object to raising anyone’s taxes, especially those of business and the wealthy.
I would suggest they look at history and see that cutting taxes has not led to economic growth. It rather pads the pockets of the wealthy even more.