Sunday, March 2, 2014

Robert Reich: 'The Real Job-Killers'

House Speaker John Boehner says raising the minimum wage is “bad policy” because it will cause job losses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says a minimum wage increase would be a job killer. Republicans and the Chamber also say unions are job killers, workplace safety regulations are job killers, environmental regulations are job killers, and the Affordable Care Act is a job killer. The California Chamber of Commerce even publishes an annual list of “job killers,” including almost any measures that lift wages or protect workers and the environment.

Most of this is bunk.

Almost right: actually, ALL of it is bunk.

I often accuse Republicans of living in the last century, but this is proof that they live in the last decade of the 19th century. Why that particular decade, over a century before our own time?

Model T
That's easy. Henry Ford reincorporated a previous venture as Ford Motor Company in 1903. For all his personal failings (adamant opposition to unions, for example), Ford was smart enough to pioneer the five dollar workday, a wage vastly higher than other companies offered for similar work, a wage that enabled his employees to become his customers.

... and always low wages?

And in America's economy, that is the secret to a profitable enterprise: if every employer pays a living wage. In America as everywhere else, those closest to the bottom of the heap in income will take any increase in that income and promptly spend it on life's necessities. It was true for Ford Motor Company over a century ago. Why should it not be true of Wal‑Mart today? Rumor has it that even Wally‑World is considering the possibility that their workers are also their customers and should be paid more, though I'll believe it when I see it.

I am following Robert Reich's lead in emphasizing the only aspect Republicans seem to give a damn about— increased profits— rather than the humanitarian aspect of having a healthy, well-fed, well-paid workforce as the seed of a customer base. If you want more on that subject, please do as I am doing: read Joseph E. Stiglitz's The Price of Inequality. Even HPL has a couple dozen copies; you should be able to find it in your own local library. I have a feeling I'll be writing more about this book. For an excerpt published in Vanity Fair in 2012, see here.

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