I favor a $12.50 national minimum wage, and would like to see Hillary Clinton make it a platform position in 2016. Why? Because globalization has put enormous downward pressure on American wages over the past 20 years. This means that those white collar and business-owning Americans with professional and higher education skills–and who make, say, $80,000 a year or more–need to think about what sort of society they want to live in going forward. The fate of the majority of Americans, however intensely and dutifully they work in the 21st century, is to be stuck in service oriented jobs with low or stagnating wages (even as those with high-end skills see their incomes rise substantially).
Under these circumstances, what’s the minimum floor for wages going to be for average people in this country? I don’t think $12.50 an hour ($500 dollars a week for 40 hours of work) and access to Obamacare subsidies are unreasonable propositions. And I’d make the $12.50 an hour inflation adjusted. A lot of Americans are going to be doing low-end service work their whole lives, and it maintains social order to make it possible for a 40 hour per week service worker to have an apartment, food, and health care. $12.50 an hour means that the poorest full-time workers in the country would have some degree of dignity and stability even as the rich and highly educated get much, much richer over the next several decades. We don’t want the country to bifurcate so dramatically in terms of income that the fates of the top 20% and the bottom 80% have little real contact with one another. It’s bad for society as a whole to disrespect the working poor. Nobody wants to reward freeloading, but the working poor are not freeloaders. They are, instead, people caught in the vortex of some very large historical forces.
And recall that most people (by definition) are average in intelligence, creativity, and energy-level. (Statistically, for example, only 1 person in 400 has an IQ above 140.) This means that there are only so many individuals in a culture who can rely solely on their creativity, intelligence, entrepreneurship, and motivation to outdistance the larger economic forces exerting downward pressure on them (in this historical moment, that would be globalization and technological innovations that are rendering the future of whole employment sectors in the U.S. insecure). Globalization is a good thing, technological innovation is a good thing–but this also means a $12.50 minimum wage with Obamacare is a good thing. In a dynamic time like this, they all go together. Hillary would inspire my active support if she would run on issues like this.