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Hullabaloo


Thursday, July 11, 2013

 
Want to boost the power of wages over assets? Increase the minimum wage

by David Atkins

The evils engendered by elite policymakers' focus on increasing asset values over wage values has long been a bugbear of mine. It's responsible for a host of ills that plague the economic system, and is the result of lazy, fearful and corrupt policymakers' response to mechanization and globalization of the labor force.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to reverse the widening gulf between wage growth and asset growth. One of the principal ways, as the Economic Policy Institute argues, is to increase the minimum wage:

If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity growth over this period, it would now be $18.67 per hour. That sounds shockingly high—it is two-and-a-half times as high as the current minimum wage and is actually higher than the median wage, which is $16.30 per hour. But it’s important to keep in mind that the primary reason a minimum wage of $18.67 sounds so high today is because the wages of most workers are so low. Most workers have not reaped the benefits of productivity growth for the last four decades. If the median wage had kept pace with productivity growth over the last 40 years, it would now be $28.42 instead of $16.30. In other words, an $18.67 minimum wage sounds shockingly high because the already affluent have captured most of the economic growth in the last 40 years, not because the economy hasn’t seen the kind of productivity growth consistent with that kind of minimum wage growth.

Of course, no one is suggesting a current minimum wage of $18.67 per hour. But this comparison does underscore the fact that the proposal by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015 is a modest proposal indeed. Further, this recent EPI analysis shows that across the country families living on minimum-wage jobs are unable to make ends meet, more proof that an increase is necessary.
The chart puts these numbers in infuriatingly easy-to-read terms:



One of the central tenets of conservative economic thought is that the economy is a divine machine whose workings are perfect if left free of government intervention. On the contrary, what this chart shows is that if the owners of production are allowed to act as they will, the value of human labor and dignity tends to be very, very cheap. So cheap, in fact, that only a sociopath or an Objectivist (but I repeat myself) would dare call it justice.

The gap between wages and productivity represents a very real and very calculated theft by the corporate shareholder class against the people who actually work for a living. That the theft has been made legal by the artificial rules we have put in place to govern our markets doesn't make it any less a theft. Lawful evil is still evil.

It's time to reverse course and put wages back in line with productivity. Increasing the minimum wage would be a good start.


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