Raising the Wage is a Necessary Reality
By: Terry Gipson, 12/15
The season of giving is upon us and it’s a stark reminder of how inequitable our economy has become. Numerous large corporations are making record profits, paying their CEOs huge sums, and hiding profits offshore to evade taxes. Meanwhile, the American people are paying over $150 billion dollars for public assistance programs to help these corporations’ minimum-wage workers pay for food, healthcare and housing. And, Big Business is paying lobbyists millions to keep government from doing anything about it.
No taxpayer should have to subsidize a profitable corporation’s payroll, and no person that works full-time earning the minimum wage should have to live in poverty.
Let’s put this in local perspective. In New York, a full-time minimum wage worker earns about $18,000 a year. That’s $1,500 per month for rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other needs like healthcare and clothing. The median monthly rent in Dutchess County is over $900. The numbers are stretched even thinner for those in the 30% of minimum wage households with children, and, the majority of minimum wage earners are women.
Dutchess has a poverty rate of 9% and census figures show at least 25,000 local employees would directly benefit from a raise in the minimum wage: they’d have more money to spend in our local economy. This could reduce government spending by millions, reduce the number of households on public assistance, and free up more money to help modernize our Hudson Valley infrastructure.
Minimum wage jobs used to provide hard workers the opportunity to build a career and improve their standing in life. As a young man growing up, I myself was able to help pay my way through college, buy a used car, and rent a small apartment by working at minimum wage jobs. This afforded me the independence to move up the career ladder, work in a variety of rewarding fields, and start my own business. Personal stories like this are common to people of my generation because the minimum wage was more in balance with the cost of living. This is not the case today.
There needs to be a constructive dialogue between policy makers, business owners and workers to establish the best wage increase and timeline. Special consideration needs to be given to small businesses as well as nonprofits that provide essential human services. Regressive state policies like the MTA Payroll Tax and the 18A Utility Tax need to be repealed which will further assist small businesses in offering living wages to their employees.
Without government, businesses and labor working together to achieve a sustainable minimum wage policy, we will not be able to achieve the necessary reality of moving our economy forward, taking hardworking families off of public assistance, and lifting over one million New Yorkers from poverty.