Decent Living Wage

imageAfter plenty of debate and threats that law-makers will raise the minimum wage, employers have decided on their own to take responsibility for the well-being of their staff. Fortune 500 companies, national franchises, and domestic industries are leading local businesses in this endeavor. Ensuring that their employees will be able to live within their means has become a priority.  Could this be the beginning of a new competitive streak to determine which employers take the best care of their staff?  Or is this a ploy to show a good-faith effort before the fed makes unrealistic mandates?  Who will be the last to succumb to the pressures?

But there is still heavy debate.  Opposition to raising wages comes from a certain class of individuals.  They warn that offering a higher quality of life for everyone threatens their own livelihood.  This is a bold statement, but it’s not too far from the truth.  Very few people who have worked hard to earn a decent wage (through training schools, colleges, or job experience) want to see someone less qualified offered a comparable wage.  As for the elite, there’s a kind of wealth that causes a sub-class division. Even the rich compete with each other to establish a hierarchy. We are a society of “haters”.  We hate it when someone either has more than us OR if they get theirs easier.  

In a capitalist society, there’s a premise that hard work (and innovative ideas) are rewarded with profits.  These profits, if managed properly will distinguish competitors and drive the economy.  Those who don’t work hard, won’t succeed in business. That’s the belief.  But good businesses fail all the time, mostly because of their inability to adapt in an ever-changing economy. Quick example:  General Motors lost major profits to Toyota because of its reluctance to pursue energy efficient innovations.  Now all auto industrialists are taking notes from Elon Musk’s Tesla!   Adaption is the true requirement for success.

Our legislatures offer a great deal of faith and favor to industries that can generate profits in a variety of ways. The profitability is recognized but not taxed. Instead we hope that  successful companies will be decent enough to offer jobs, pay decent wages, and provide stability for the regions they occupy.  

These same companies tend to capitalize from international labor exploitation.  Those companies that remain loyal to the United States still find ways to exploit the laborers, business professionals, and even stockholders for the sake of profits.  There’s no class warfare in that–everyone is invalidated.  Another bold interpretation.

With raising the minimum wage, there is a fear that prices will increase substantially. This is not a prerequisite to inflation.  Some argue that increasing any expense for the employer causes a domino effect which is eventually offset by the consumer.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, it shouldn’t!

In can be quite the opposite.  This creates an opportunity to equalize business expenses instead of passing this “additional cost” off to the consumer.  These same companies report huge gains, for which their tax burdens are reduced because they are in the viable position. They can create positive change in our economy, right?

Here’s the rub though. Creating jobs is not the only way to stimulate the economy, nor is it the only expectation of industry.  Providing sustainable goods and valuable services through a productive (and eager) work force yields the highest profits–both financially and intrinsically. There’s value in giving back.

CEO’s and shareholders who refuse to see the inherent good in stabilizing their businesses by distributing the resources between profits, capital, and employee benefits are unwilling to adapt. Society accepts the fact that change is a constant force, but our culture is unwilling to adapt.  Nature, however, is a stronger force than our own free will.  We will adapt–by nature or by choice!

And even giving back to the community is a tax-deductible asset!

We’ve gotten into this terrible habit of praising anyone who can positively impact on our society.  So much so that we’ve mistakenly offered incentives and rewards to entities that don’t deserve it. When Wall Street tycoons warned of a collapsing economy in 2008, the government tightened budgets so that they could give low interest loans and grants. These were later translated into bonuses (and golden parachutes) for CEO’s who later kept that money or invested it over seas.  Those tightened budgets robbed the tax payer coffers of money for education, social programs, and much needed infrastructure repairs. Nearly ten years later, we are worse for the wear and tear.  THIS was done to keep corporations happy.  Where’s the return?

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More importantly, what’s the real incentive?

There’s an agenda to diminish the value of labor  while giving the appearance that the product (or service) is worth more.  Worth more to whom?  We need to make a distinction between who the customer is.  Just as important, we must identify who is marketing the idea or product.  Does raising the wage send a message to the consumers or to the employees?  Here a hint:  “Don’t strike!”

Employers recognize the awesome power of organized labor.  Non-Union employees hope to capture a taste of the enumerable perks of negotiating contracts and ensuring safety conditions. The labor landscape is evolving.  Business owners as well as industries MUST adapt.  But this may simply be a short cut.

An increased minimum wage is a short term win.  Wage adjustments do not prevent reduced shifts or deminished working conditions.  Cut hours and layoffs are on the other side of added employer expenses. Employees are still exposed to what would otherwise be considered unfair labor practices.

Here’s a question:

Do foreign consumers of American goods value our products for their quality, their durability, or for their support of an American-made consumable?  None of the above!  American exports are at an all-time low!   Even novelties like American flags have no value beyond our boarders.  Retailers mark down items to blow out inventory, but what comes of those products that can’t be sold?  Trash!  When even our citizens will not consume the only affordable, only available goods, we are left with a diminished value and a voided return.

Wages have increased.  Products and services are being marketed. But who is buying?

 

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