Let me preface this by saying I am not an economist. I am not a big business owner, nor have I ever been affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic or even Tea parties. I have, however, worked in hourly or minimum wage positions my entire adult life. While the current trend in Washington is to push for a higher national minimum wage, I believe this is trying to solve a problem from the wrong end. Minimum wage is meant to be a starting salary–not a permanent one. The current trend of companies to hire employees at the minimum and keep them there is the problem, not the minimum wage itself. Companies large and small are guilty of this infraction. Employees used to have regular evaluations, where their work of the past few months would be assessed and their salaries adjusted accordingly. Of course, this included promoting employees who excelled and cutting dead wood from the company tree, thereby creating new openings and expanding employee opportunities. Now, however, many companies prefer to remain stagnant; if an employee complains enough, he or she may receive a small increase in salary, or, if they quit, the company can replace the former employee with one who will be happy (for now) with a minimum wage or nearly minimum level of payment.
This is not a way to maintain a successful way of life. We need to change the way businesses think about doing business. We need to change from a model afraid of upsetting the bottom line by altering the way it handles employee payment to one where employees have a chance for real advancement, not shouldering more burdens for less pay. In turn, employees should realize they need to promote their company through hard work and diligence in order to promote themselves. Also, changing the way consumers price-shop and consume products will help alter the business model, but that’s a subject for another time.