When it comes to the minimum wage, probably the only aspect that all would agree upon is that it isn’t a lot to live on.
In fact, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is $3,000 below the 2011 federal poverty threshold for a family of three.
Here in Illinois, the minimum wage is $8.25. Also not a lot to live on. But some say it’s too much.
Not that workers receiving the minimum wage would never say it is too much. Most critics of increasing the minimum wage seem to come from those on the top of the economic ladder.
On the very highest rung of that ladder, one of those critics is GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who reportedly made more than $53 million in 2012 — or $25,480 an hour, based on a 40-hour work week.
Higher pay actually hurts workers, minimum wage critics argue. Surrounding states already have lower minimum wages than Illinois, So Illinois already is at a competitive disadvantage for attracting and retaining business.
Also, if employers are required to raise wages, they will be forced to lay off workers.
Those who favor hiking the minimum wage counter that such arguments are only hypothetical. Mass layoffs never have happened when the minimum wage has been increased. And increasing the minimum has real, and obvious, benefits for workers. The extra money they would earn would be spent and boost the economy in general, thus increasing the demand for goods and services and actually creating jobs.
Maybe, maybe not, say the unconvinced minimum wage critics. They say the only real solution is to level the playing field for all states by adopting a federal minimum wage that would be law for all states.
This is a good idea. Except that such a bill would die a quick death in Congress.
No, there has to be another solution. And I think I have it.
If increasing the minimum wage cuts jobs and puts Illinois at a competitive disadvantage, Illinois has to go lower.
But if Illinois reduces its minimum wage, other states will go even lower. Somebody will always go lower.
No, the only thing for Illinois to do is to go not lower, but lowest.
Don’t pay workers at all.
Then there would be jobs for everybody.
And while there is plenty of time before next Christmas, we should rewrite the end of “A Christmas Carol,” so that the newly enlightened Scrooge helps Bob Cratchit and his family by cutting Cratchit’s wages instead of increasing them.