Quite aside from the wise words of just about every thinker from the time of the ancient Greeks, it really is true that the fortunes and moral worth of a country are best measured by the quality of life for its poorest citizens. We can prove it statistically in many ways. We have proved it, but Republicans don’t appear to be interested in such quaint things.
When the poor are able to earn according to the true value of the work they do, the whole country thrives. In fact the poor would no longer exist, at least in large numbers. Although such workers would remain the lowest paid, their rightful earnings would allow them to live a life without having to scrabble for every dime, and without becoming a burden on the government.
When the poor are able to earn
according to the true value
of the work they do,
the whole country will thrive.
This would have profound consequences for the national economy. To begin with, nobody who earns the full social value of the work they do needs government assistance just to get by. The only people who need assistance are those who simply cannot work, mostly the ill and permanently injured. If everyone earned according to the value of their work, it would not even be necessary to underwrite their old age.
You would think that Republicans would jump all over this idea, and be all for Living Wage, because people would be rewarded for working. The greatest Republican scorn is reserved for the fictional mass of people—47%, according to Mitt Romney—who want only to live on government handouts the rich provide. If Living Wage were the law of the land, the consequent cost of government would decline, which is the Republican holy grail. Instead, Republicans embrace the fiction that everybody who doesn’t own a business is inherently lazy and uninterested in earning a living. This, of course, is demonstrably false; most of us don’t own a business and are not lazy. Nor is it true that those who pay no income tax pay no tax at all. Check out “Five Points…” by Chuck Marr. It’s worth remembering that American taxes are among the lowest of advanced nations. Taxes for the very rich are at their lowest level in half a century or more, and the rich have a thousand tricks to avoid paying taxes that are not available to the rest of us. If high taxes are a business disincentive, which is a common theme heard from conservatives, the converse is not true: low taxes are not a business incentive, and nobody benefits except the rich.
You would think that Republicans
would jump all over this idea.
Living Wage, by definition, allows everyone working to earn enough to live on. At the moment, a living wage is something in the range of $23/hour, compared to the national minimum wage of $7.25, and the preposterous minimum of $2.13 for restaurant waiters. Nobody earning minimum wage can afford an apartment anyplace in the country. Nationally, most waiters don’t earn the equivalent of minimum wage even with tips (which, themselves, are unnecessary with Living Wage).
Karl Marx first pointed out that the nature of capitalism, which Republicans are following to the letter, is to force wages ever lower in order for owners to have more profit. So if anything is done to assure that the rest of us can earn a living, it will have to be because the government passes laws that require it, because it sure won’t come from kind-hearted capitalists. The bellwether exemplar of this is Australia, which has had Living Wage for a century. Things tend to be a bit more expensive there, but tipping is unnecessary because people are adequately paid and proud of it.
Living Wage also pays for two most important costs: health care and savings for old age. Health care could be paid for individually, but it costs twice as much as a national policy, and we aren’t so rich we can afford to pay double for one of our major expenses. Also—minor factor—we wouldn’t have millions of uninsured or 120 deaths daily from lack of insurance as we do now. But Republicans want to keep us as the only advanced nation without a modern plan because, for obscure reasons, national health care is assumed to be the equivalent of being sold into slavery. Literally everyone who enjoys national health insurance finds this attitude either mysterious or simply crazy.
Republicans also rant and rave about Social Security, but have proposed no viable alternative. Sure, we could have individual financing for old age, as they wish. There are only two requirements: Living Wage, and mandatory savings in a government-managed account. But Republicans don’t want either of these, also for unexplained reasons.
Our lack of Living Wage means large numbers of hard-working people who can’t earn enough money to survive on, so it is necessary to have extensive government programs for them. This is exactly what Republicans say they are against, yet all their effort is toward paying workers less and less.
Want to do away with Social Security?
There are only two requirements:
Living Wage and mandatory savings.
It would appear that Republicans don’t actually want to solve the problems they say are important. They say that giving ever-increasing gifts to the rich and to business will bring down the golden rainshower that will cure all our economic woes. But it has been shown again and again that the legacy of such gifts is always greater inequality and poverty.
Which is more important, that the rich get more money or that everyone in the country live a life free of want? Equality and fairness will not come from conservative Republican business owners. Their entire focus is on increasing their own income. Equality and fairness must come from federal laws that allow the rest of us, all of the rest of us, to earn a decent living.