A LIVING WAGE
The United States of America is the richest nation in the history of humanity. One of the consequences is that people in this country considered poor have a standard of living far better than many in the developing world. Yet economic conditions here are such that many people who work 40 or even 60 or more hours a week must rely on public assistance just to get by.
Without help from what we call entitlement programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, and housing subsidies, millions of Americans who are working very hard at low-wage jobs would be destitute, unable to assure that basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter are met for themselves and their families.
Economists and policymakers have varying opinions on the effects of raising minimum standards for wages. Concerns are voiced about upward pressure on prices. Wage inflation, it is said, will lead to price inflation, with the potential for an upward spiral yielding a seriously inflationary economy that is bad for everyone.
Yet there is abundant evidence that mandating higher wages results in increased consumer spending, our nation’s chief engine of economic growth, and that this need not be inflationary. Further, reducing the dependence of low-wage workers on government entitlement programs has an obvious benefit for budgets at all levels of government. Balanced budgets, or at least a reduction in deficit spending, also reduces upward pressure on prices and the cost of capital.
Among those who earnestly pursue economic justice in the United States it is an article of faith that no one who works full time should be living in poverty. Yet many are living in poverty, and it is time for economic reforms. We must decide that in a nation so wealthy, the conditions in which the members of the economic underclass live are heartbreakingly bleak – and demand change.