February 18, 2013
By Raynard Jackson
Last week, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress. I am stunned at how far left he has moved politically. He wants more government spending, more programs, and more government regulations. Ted Kennedy, the late senator from Massachusetts, would be very proud of Obama’s continued lurch to the left.
The one thing that stood out with me from his speech was his wanting to increase the federal minimum wage from $ 7.25 an hour to $ 9 an hour. With a weak economy, you want to increase the cost of labor? Are you kidding me?
This is like asking someone who just had a root canal to have a steak dinner or someone with a broken leg to play basketball—it’s painful. I am philosophically opposed to a minimum wage because it is very detrimental to the very people it’s supposed to help – low and under-skilled workers.
I know why a minimum wage was created. Its creation flowed out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Workers were routinely exploited in factories and sweatshops and worked in unimaginably horrible conditions.
Like many government programs, good often intensions lead to mission creep. Mission creep is when you create a program to solve a very specific problem and then the solution is expanded to address an additional problem that had nothing to do with the original problem. It’s like going to the grocery store to buy food and walking out with a new pair of shoes along with the food. There is nothing wrong with buying a new pair of shoes, but it has absolutely nothing to do with feeding your family.
Minimum wage started out as a way of protecting mostly women and children from being exploited. But, it has now led to the notion of livable wage. I live in Virginia where the livable wage is in excess of $ 10 an hour (well above the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 an hour). Local politicians determine what the livable wage is (but it is always higher than the federal minimum wage).
Even the most radical of liberals must admit that workplace protections have improved drastically since the 1930s; so worker protection is no longer a valid argument for minimum wage laws. Thus, the pro-minimum wage crowd has morphed into the pro-livable wage crowd.
As an employer, my goal is not a livable wage, but a profit. I know with the Obama crowd profit is a dirty word; but no businessman opens a business with the goal of paying a livable wage. Their whole raison d’etre is to make a profit. Any smart businessperson knows this means he or she has to pay a fair wage to make a profit or the employer will constantly lose good employees. It’s called free market economics. What a novel concept in Obama’s America!
As cold as it might seem, as an employer, your not making enough money to raise your family is not my issue. It is your private matter. Employers pay employees based on value added to the business, not on how many kids you have or the cost to sending those children to school.
The people who want employers to pay them so they can raise their children (a private matter) are the same people who tell their employers to stay out of their private lives—they should be able to smoke away from the job, be overweight (even if it make the cost of health insurance more expensive for all employees), watch pornography at home, or be a member of the KKK during their hours away from the job.
So, I am somewhat confused that employees want privacy when it comes to certain personal behavior, but when it comes to pay, they want to use their personal behavior (having a family) as the basis for increased pay. You can’t have it both ways.
My point is that the market place should determine the cost of labor based on value added to the business, not some politician who doesn’t understand business or has never had to meet a payroll.
Am I cold and heartless? Not at all. But rest assured that if I mistreat my employees, it eventually will affect my business and I won’t be around very long. Most business owners understand the value of having satisfied employees. But either your private life is off limits or it’s not. Make a choice.
After hearing Obama’s speech about the minimum wage, I am amazed that more Americans haven’t responded with maximum rage.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.