Local wages depend on you

When the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act last week, they did so knowing the U.S. Senate was unlikely to take up the matter. Still, it was called a victory for the movement to increase the federal minimum wage to $15. (Actually, gradually raise it from $7.25 to $15 by 2025).

After all, it has been a long time since there was any raise at all in the federal minimum wage. It’s a feel-good idea. Of course it would be nice if everyone was making more money. But let me ask something:

If those who are clamoring for it now get their way — if the minimum wage does go up to $15 — are they willing to support the smaller businesses that would be most negatively affected by a more-than doubling of what they pay some of their employees? (And, remember, for many of those places, it would mean increasing what they pay all their employees. After all, it wouldn’t do to have a newly hired person at the bottom of the ladder suddenly making nearly as much as a manager who has been at it for ten years.

Smaller businesses would need an enormous revenue boost to make up for the increased expense of wages … or they would have to cut positions.

(And, just to be clear for some people, wages are paid by the employer, not the federal government.)

Such a dramatic increase in the federal minimum wage would require some changes in habit — again, often for the very folks who are its loudest advocates. You can’t walk around demanding that the book shop owner down the street be forced to pay his employees double what they are earning now, and then buy all your own books from Amazon, for example.

In much the same way, you can’t shriek on social media that Walmart needs to hire more cashiers … and then prove to them that they don’t need to, by using the self-checkout every time you go in.

If you want our economy to be better for the little guy … well then alter your own habits to be more favorable to the little guy. Heck, spend enough money with them and they might be able to pay their employees more even if the federal government doesn’t force them.

Rather than advocating for policies that tax-and-fee them to the breaking point (while the big guys get all kinds of breaks and subsidies), and then force them to pay people in some cases more than $16,000 a year more than what they are paying now, support them. Spend your money with them, get to know them, engage and keep your money in your own community.

Again, I get it. Wouldn’t it be nice if money grew on trees and Bobby Scott (the Virginia Democrat who introduced the legislation) could request the planting of rows of those trees on the National Mall to be distributed equally among us all? The truth is human nature and our (mostly) free market economy dictate the amount of money employers are able to pay their workers, no matter how well intentioned the folks in Washington, D.C., may be.

If, then, you truly care about the wages being earned by some of the hardest workers in our economy — rather than simply hoping for a political blow against “the other side” — do something about it. Shop small. Shop local. Support the businesses in YOUR local economy, not California’s or New York’s.

It’s up to you.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com