On the first of January, the state of California will raise its minimum wage. Moving on up from $6.75 an hour, sixty minutes of your time will now earn you a minimum of $7.50 per. That's a 11.1% increase, as California offers up the highest wages in the nation. I wondered how people would be impacted by the mandated largess by our elected officials. I set out to seek wisdom.
First, I discussed it with a friend who is a co-owner of a small chain of seven very busy pizzerias in Ventura County. I asked, "Well, my friend, how will you and your company handle this increased cost? Will you cut jobs, reduce hours of operation or is there another plan?" The owner looked at me with a bit of incredulity, "No, Steven, there will be no disruption of the current company policies. We will monitor the new higher costs and shortly thereafter, we will raise the prices accordingly."
I asked, "As simple as that?" His reply, "Well, someone has to pay for that cost, so yes, it is that simple." That answer did not offer the wisdom that I had sought. People get paid more but things will cost more. Surely someone else had a better understanding of the upcoming consequences of this action.
I sought council from another friend, whose politics lean a bit to the right, as in hard right. I inquired, "What do you think about the raise in the minimum wage?" It was his opinion that this action would have every single Mexican man, woman and child hightailing it to our borders. He spoke of bigger fences and more armed border patrols. "$7.50 an hour is a fortune to those people, the ones that aren't here now will come."
This seemed a more racially driven reply than the economic answer I was seeking.
I, then, discussed it with a liberal Democratic colleague of mine. His response was that the raise was meant to assuage the business community while throwing a bone to the poor. This answer seemed to have the "ring of truth."
Is a $.75 hour raise enough to motivate Americans to do the jobs that illegals have traditionally performed over these last years. For $7.50 an hour will citizens wash dishes, buss tables and pick our fruit? Can a family flourish on a minimum wage income. The Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2006 lists the following as below the poverty line:
A family of four with a gross yearly income of $20,000 or less.
That is approximately $9.62 an hour, over $2 a hour less than the mandate. So where is the benefit? Many people today feel that the concept of a "minimum wage" should be replaced with a "living wage." The Ventura City Council, for example, passed a statute in May of 2006, requiring city service contractors to pay a minimum of $12.50 hour. You can get more information about the living wage concept at the Living Wage Resource Center http://www.livingwagecampaign.org/index.php?id=1958