For the devoted followers of Adam Smith, humanitarian arguments for an increase to the minimum wage simply aren’t compelling. “Pull yourself up by your collective bootstraps,” these aggressive capitalists shout at the minimum wage labor force. Some say that increasing the minimum wage would cause businesses to raise prices and cut jobs. Others simply don’t feel that a low-wage laborer deserves to make a living wage, or aren’t compelled by the fact that minimum wage hasn’t kept up with the cost of living.
If these dissenters cannot be swayed by questions of a worker’s quality of life, perhaps they can be swayed by questions of their own finances (read taxes).
People Pay Instead of Employers
I would ask that naysayers consider the following data: according to a study, Walmart’s low wage laborers cost taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance.
At the same time, Walmart made $482.2 billion last year, paying out $7.2 billion to its shareholders. Pause to reflect on that for a moment. Do you honestly believe that a company paying its shareholders $7.2 billion cannot afford to pay its everyday workers a living wage? Moreover, do you believe your taxes should have to make up the difference? To add insult to injury, Walmart has some $76 billion stashed away overseas in an effort to reduce their tax burden.
Not Just Wally World
Walmart isn’t alone in this low-wage worker game. Fast-food, I’m looking at you right now. According to a UC Berkeley study, fast-food workers cost the public an average of $7 billion a year in support programs.
So, just between the fast-food industry and Walmart, we have a pool of workers who need to collect an average of $13.2 billion in public assistance. If the rest of the retail and low-wage workforce were added in, I’m sure that number would be higher.
Why should the taxpaying public have to cover the huge gap between a living wage and the minimum wage?