The Herald of Everett Washington recently published two opposing pieces on raising the minimum wage in Washington state (http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20141130/OPINION03/141139978). I found it interesting to contrast and compare the tactics and world views of these two positions.
This is a Community Voices submission and is moderated but not edited. The opinions expressed by Community Voices contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the TC Daily Planet.
The writer of the pro-increase piece starts right in the title talking about poverty. The article explains what it costs to live, and how far so many of today’s jobs fall short of that. The article discusses the “soul killing” environment faced by ever growing numbers of working class people and their families. The writer appeals to the reader’s basic sense of decency and justice.
The author goes on to point to facts about the current economy. The fact that it is traditionally low-wage jobs that are the majority of the new jobs being created. It cites government predictions that these same low-wage industries will show the most growth over the next decade. The article also counters the ‘loss of jobs’ caused by wage increase arguments, and others typically made by opponents of a living minimum wage.
The opposition article on the other hand, immediately in the title starts sowing fear proclaiming “Wage increase will drive up the costs for all.” The writer tells us that the increase proposed is 62% and it would be detrimental to business. The writer asks you to “imagine what a 62% increase would do to your personal budget” and gives examples of food, housing, etc costs increasing by 62%. Of course you are supposed to draw the conclusion (as implied by the title) that the wage increase will cause everything you buy to increase 62%, which is, of course, absurd.
The author then goes on to attempt to convince the reader that workers aren’t really the ones that are behind increasing their wages. No, it’s really the big bad unions and activists duping the working people so they can pay more dues. The author appears to hold a delusional view reminiscent of the ‘happy slave’ narrative. This view is particularly offensive considering the disproportionate impact of low wages in today’s economy on people of color.
The article then totally mis-characterizes the history of minimum wage legislation in this country. It makes the oft-repeated case that minimum wages were “traditionally” for the young and the immigrant. Fact: the first federal minimum wage was passed in 1938. Franklin Roosevelt stated “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” Doesn’t sound like the President at that time was talking about setting a wage for ‘kids’ does it? Oh, and by the way, why would it be ok to take advantage of people who are young or newly arrived immigrant?
In case these arguments aren’t enough, the author goes on to play the big ‘socialist’ versus the U.S. way of life card. Yep, that’s right, the Red Threat is what is really behind living wages. A paragraph on Kshama Sawant emphasizes that she is a relatively recent immigrant and implies that she benefited from “The American Way of Life,” and now wants to destroy it.
Expanding on this theme, the author states that, “Recent history clearly demonstrates the devastating effects of many decades of socialist policies in countries such as Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and India.” The reality is that the people of these countries are suffering from the result of a world-wide economic collapse. The collapse was not caused by ‘socialist policies’ as the article states. Quite to the contrary, the economic collapse was brought on by the system the writer is so desperately defending.
These two pieces clearly demonstrate the difference in world view held by the two ‘sides’ in this debate. At least to me they provided a poignant moment to ask what kind of a world we want?
Do we strive to create and live in a world where the needs of the people are met, where our children are well-fed, housed and educated? Or, do we continue on in a world dominated by unfounded fears, half truths and outright misrepresentations where increasing numbers are barely able to survive let alone flourish?
So, I ask: which world do you want?