Picture is from USA Today
We have become a service society. The jobs where the most people are hired are service positions, like fast food jobs, retail clerk jobs, hotel jobs, grocery store jobs, unskilled health care jobs, jobs to unload freight and stock shelves, jobs delivering goods and services. These jobs are perhaps the only jobs available to high school graduates without college, or to single parents and, in this economy, they are sometimes held by college students or even college graduates who are unable to find career-track jobs in an economy that hasn’t been growing very fast.
There are some manufacturing jobs left, but very few. They offer none of the security that the old factory jobs offered, employers who stayed in the same town for decades. I could recite a long list of factories which have scuttled out of my town, first for southern states and eventually overseas, but it is just too depressing to contemplate. Any new factories that have been lured to our cities hire fewer workers than they once did, often require workers with special skills, and threaten to leave us often enough that little comfort derives from their presence.
Now I know wealthy Americans believe that American workers were greedy and chased all the factories away (nonsense) and they also believe that they earned all the money they have (also nonsense). While I believe that many Americans with wealth worked hard to earn what they have, I also believe that they used money to influence our government to pass laws that favored those at the top. In other words, they stole our money and we let them because we were doing well enough.
I believe money has played a huge role in our nation’s laws. I also believe it is time to adjust our laws so that we don’t keep funneling profits and government “subsidies” to those at the top while letting them off the hook for taxes. We are not talking about the redistribution of wealth. Semantics is at work with this particular word choice. The word is chosen by Republicans for its negative connotation in this context, which means that every time the GOP utters this word the word socialism is its silent partner. What we are talking about would constitute repayment or restitution to the American middle class (not redistribution). What we are talking about has nothing to do with socialism; it has to do with fairness.
Repayment or restitution would involve rewriting those laws that favor employers who no longer employ people in America and that favor the wealthiest Americans. It is clear that our laws have tilted too far in favor of the rich and that we will eventually have no middle class at all. The wealthy in Congress have signed a pledge to deny any attempts to raise taxes or close tax loopholes that would amount to a tax increase. We have not been able to shake them from this pledge, which I view as un-Constitutional and as a really strong indication of how much those at the top want to hang on to their ill-gotten gains.
There will never be a time when it is more important to raise the minimum wage than now. Americans, in this basically service economy, will keep losing ground if their wages don’t go up. If we lose any more ground we will stop being able to buy, to consume the products that the businesses of wealthier Americans make and sell. How many more American cities will fail if the wealthy insist on hanging on to every cent? I have a feeling we are about to find out because all I hear from those “haves” is a repetition of an ideology that blames the poor for their poverty and has the wealthy acting like we have had our hands in their pockets for far too long, when, in truth, they have had their big hands in our very little pockets.
Raise the minimum wage. It’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it. Although it may cause cutbacks at first, I feel that will mostly be the result of angry backlash from employers and it will soon change; we will eventually see an uptick at the bottom, which may even defy gravity and “trickle up.”
This is the view from the cheap seats.
This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com