Given the circumstances, this large an imbalance is unhealthy, unsustainable, economically unwise and corrosive to a democratic society. Economically, it can be demonstrated that this sort of gross income disparity comes at the expense of large numbers of workers at the bottom of the earnings ladder.
During the course of our 238-year-old capitalist society, Americans have always endorsed the value of hard work, individual initiative, entrepreneurship and personal success. And we support the notion that those pursuits will be rewarded, and that some people will become far wealthier than us. But periodically in that history, we have taken steps to ensure that the creative dynamism of capitalism and its relationship to labor doesn’t cross over into exploitation. It’s always a matter of balance.
So, on balance, I’d raise the minimum wage to $10. I’d also introduce a few, special, lower-wage categories for seasonal, temporary, entry-level and teen workers. Their wages would adjust upward with time on the job. I’d also increase the Earned Income Tax payments, which effectively assist the lowest-income workers. It will take simultaneous adjustments to many aspects of labor, taxation, welfare, business and finance to strengthen our economy.
Brian T. Watson is a Salem News columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.