Illinois is one of several states debating bills that would raise the minimum wage; another has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.
The arguments on either side are as old as capitalism. Those in favor of raising the standard point out that someone earning minimum wage can barely afford the basic costs of living, let alone support a family. They maintain that a higher wage gives workers more spending money and boosts the economy.
Those who oppose raising the minimum wage insist it would actually hurt workers, by making it too expensive for businesses to hire and train them. Businesses would be forced to raise prices, reducing workers’ buying power and slowing the economy.
While the advocates and experts have at it, I imagine the 100,000 Illinois residents who have been out of work more than a year saying, “Who cares?”
Worrying about the minimum wage when you’re unemployed is kind of like deciding which seat to take on a train that’s already left the station. What’s the point? What you really need to figure out is, when’s the next train?
Is there a magical minimum wage that will put more people back to work, assure all workers a living wage, guarantee businesses profitability and kick the economy into high gear? Of course not.
The solution isn’t a number. It’s a word—productivity.
Find workers jobs where they can be their most productive, and everyone wins. Businesses gain higher profit margins and look to expand, hiring more staff and rewarding them with higher pay. Better-paid people have more spending money, which boosts other businesses and prompts them to expand as well.
Of course, finding workers jobs where they can be their most productive isn’t easy. It’s an enormously complex challenge. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying.
Here comes the next train, folks. All aboard!