American Consequences - March 2021

We must consider this with respect to individual states’ economic realities before sweeping federal legislation upends small business owners’ lives in states that happen to have lower costs of living. ENTERING THEWORKFORCE I got my first official job when I was 12. That summer, I worked 40 hours a week as a swimming and sailing instructor at a local community center up in Maine... 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. In fact, many minimum- wage jobs are where young folks get into the workforce for the first time. I made $25 a week. Heck, that wasn’t even minimum wage – even then! In retrospect, I’m not even sure how the organization managed that unless I was considered some kind of volunteer (probably). Anyway, the point is... I was so proud to have that job and earn that $25 check every Friday. I remember how I’d pick up my check at work, stash it in my pocket, and ride my bike all the way into town so I could deposit the money in my passbook savings account every week. That job taught me some basics... including the reality of just having a job , which entailed being there on time before my shift started early in the morning, working with others, and having responsibilities. All of those facets are crucial for a young person to learn.

But here’s the thing... We’re not the perfect little country of Denmark, flush with oil reserves and an entire population roughly 30% less than that of New York City’s. We’re the United States of America. We’re a massive country, with a diverse, hardworking, brilliant, and entrepreneurial population – and we need opportunities for upward mobility and yes, low-paying jobs are part of that. The federal minimum wage first came to be in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal government’s initial instance creating a baseline for workers’ pay. And nearly a century ago, America’s minimum wage was only 25 cents an hour. Yes, imagine working for quarters. The minimum wage has increased 22 times since then, climbing to today’s $7.25 rate. And though raising the minimum wage would undoubtedly help some Americans, it’s crucial to note that its potential effects vary by geography and relative living standards. Just like so much of our pandemic response has revealed the apparent tensions between state and federal policies, this minimum-wage argument is no different. States like California and New York already have a minimum wage floating around $15, whereas Alabama and Kentucky’s state minimum wage matches the current federal rate. More than doubling the minimum for these latter two states would create shockwaves for their small businesses since the cost of living there is already low.

American Consequences


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