Forget health care, Ukraine, Colbert replacing Letterman, and even same-sex marriage, the issue that will decide not only the 2014 mid-term Congressional elections as well as the next President of the United States will be income inequality aka the living wage.
As Northwestern football players unionize and the Affordable Care Act brings the poor out of the shadows and into actual health care with insurance, those living below the poverty line will have a voice in voting booths across the United States. Maryland just became the second state to raise their minimum wage to over ten dollars per hour. Like gay marriage, something the country thought would never happen but now 17 states have it as law, the living wage – raising of the minimum wage so people do not have to qualify for food stamps or other government assistance – will be the next big thing among American political issues.
Reasonable people know this is a good thing, or at least a much needed debatable thing. Seeing the poor become less dependent on welfare and more independent for themselves and their families isn’t being celebrated by big business and their sycophantic supporters on the political right.
It’s easy to pick on Wal-Mart. They’ve spent 4 decades driving mom and pop out of business of their own retail outlets and making grandmom and grandpop low-waged, dignity deprived employees of their big box brand of evil. But this video from Upworthy and the AFL-CIO says it all.
I realize that’s two minutes of your life you could be instagramming your lunch or Facebooking your rash, so I’ll thumbnail it for you. – if Wal-Mart, a multi-billion dollar corporation, would pay their lowest paid workers – cashiers – four more dollars an hour above their current average of approximately $8.81, they would wipe out 300 MILLION with an M dollars in government issued food stamps.
Let’s talk layman, okay? All of us have stood behind someone using EBT cards at the grocery store, convenience store, and big retail outlets like the Mart of Wal. Some of us have expressed outrage, internal or external through blog comments and Facebook posts, about some person who paid for booze, condoms, beef jerky or Blue Collar Comedy DVDs with government assistance. Yeah, that sucks. But since we’re not all able to conquer our nasty, self-absorbed, somewhat bigoted thoughts about what people do with their money, regardless of where it comes from, let’s concentrate on the real problem.
If Big Business, especially major retail outlets like Wal-Mart paid their workers a decent living wage – teen numbered digits or more per hour, then the whole government assistance abuse would go away, forever, and ever.
Sixty-years ago, when unions ruled and manufacturing, not retail, was the leading industry in America, General Motors and Ford paid their auto workers a modern day equivalent of fifty-one dollars an hour. You could do door trim on a Fairlane at the plant all day, go home take care of a family of five and still be middle-class without any other outside income.
So, what happened?
Cost of living increased, industry pay did not. There are two things poor people remain out of the loop on having that middle, upper-middle, and upper class people; health insurance and long-term savings. With the ACA working (almost 8 million signed up, over 5.5 million paid), the poor will become a voting block and who do you think they’re going to hang a chad for, Ted Cruz?
You’re going to hear more about the living wage in the next few months before the November mid-term elections. Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon, New Mexico and Texas (good luck, there) face legislation votes and passages on increase in their minimum wages between now and mid 2015. By the 2016 Presidential election, the living wage will be bigger than foreign policy, same-sex marriage, and yes, even the ACA aka Obamacare.
Maybe by then, Stephen Colbert’s Top Ten List will be “Top Ten Things Wal-Mart Cashiers Can Buy With Their Disposable Income”.
Lance Burson is a writer living outside Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and 3 daughters. He’s the published author of 2 books, The Ballad of Helene Troy and Soul To Body, available on amazon.com for kindle and Lulu.com for paperbacks. He also blogs, for less than minimum wage, at http://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com