It is ludicrous to believe anyone can pay the rent and keep food on the table if their job pays the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Raising the minimum to at least $10.10 an hour is a high priority for President Obama. Even though some Republicans, including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, are offering tepid support for the concept, it never got out of committee in Florida’s Legislature.
The issue isn’t going away, though.
State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, has campaigned to raise the state’s minimum from $7.93 to $10.10 an hour. To illustrate the point he and other supporters lived for five days on the budget of a minimum-wage worker. By the middle of the week, he was eating cereal for dinner.
It’s easy to understand the frustration that drove fast-food workers to stage a brief walkout last week to demand higher wages of up to $15 an hour. To me, though, this issue isn’t just about raising the minimum wage to some arbitrary figure. People would find it just about as hard to get by on $10.10 an hour as they do now.
It’s complicated, though. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says a big jump in the minimum would cost 500,000 jobs by 2016 because some smaller employers couldn’t afford to pay it.
I actually agree with my colleague Tom Jackson — hey, miracles happen — on the point that jobs shouldn’t pay more than they’re worth. That’s why the minimum wage argument is just the tip of a problem that involves the whole economy.
Start with the fact that no one ever dreams of a career working the counter at a fast-food restaurant.
Serving up burgers was OK for kids working through college, or for high school students learning what it’s like to earn date and gas money. That was before the economy tanked, though, and suddenly the ol’ punch line “would you like fries with that?” isn’t funny.
So, look for ways to ease burdens on businesses so they can pay a decent wage.
Take the corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent, for instance. Taxfoundation.org reported it is one of the highest rates in the world, even when adjusted to about 29 percent after all the loopholes corporations can take.
That’s still too high. Cut the rate in half, or more, and close the loopholes. Companies would be much better off. We all would.
Don’t stop there. Serving up burgers won’t be worth much more in the future than it is now, so find a way to get remedial training in modern jobs so people trapped in those low-wage deals can find a way out.
Many small business owners in Tampa complain about the regulation and financial burden of the Affordable Care Act (see Care, Obama). How open would those folks be to a minimum-wage hike if they could get some health-care relief?
Lower taxes and reduced red-tape in exchange for higher wages and training.
If politicians are willing to engage in a little give and take, this is a chance to do something where everyone wins.