I: THE MINIMUM WAGE DEFICIT
The wealthiest in the United States make more and are taxed less than ever before, but quite a number of them claim that this somehow isn’t enough, that taxes need to be lower, that they need to be allowed to make even more. In other words, they’re admitting that they’re unable to be as industrious and efficient as the wealthy individuals half a century ago who had a fraction as much and paid far, far more in taxes.*
Yet somehow, lower-income workers are “lazy”, and asking for a higher minimum wage is “greedy”, even though the minimum wage hasn’t risen at all, adjusted for inflation, and is in fact worth about $2 less than it should be, if adjusted for inflation since 1968. The wealthiest can’t do as much with substantially greater resources, yet the poor have no choice but to do more with less, and somehow they’re the ones called lazy.
And there are different values for less:
– At a minimum wage of $7.25/hour for a full-time, 40-hours-a-week job, that amounts to: $15,080 a year
– An additional $2/hour for the same full-time, 40-hours-a-week job would be: $4,160 a year
To put that into perspective, the CEO of McDonald’s (a company often associated with minimum wages) makes, according to Forbes, $20,710,000 a year. That doesn’t include stock bonuses and retirement packages and other things. So, going in the other direction:
– With a yearly salary of $20,710,000, over 52 weeks a year, assuming 40-hour weeks, that amounts to: about $9,956 per hour
Of course, to be fair, the $15,000/year income is going to incur little if any tax burden (aside from FICA and such, which you don’t get back), and the $20,710,000/year income is going to have a much higher tax burden than that (because he’s making twenty fucking million dollars a year), but there are loopholes and offshore funds and trusts and things that can be used to weasel out of a lot of that, so it’s impossible to determine how much he’s actually paying.
But even if we take an extremely conservative estimate and say that his take-home was half of that, that’s still over $10,000,000. And once you have that much, you’re already so wealthy that everything beyond a certain point is meaningless. Having $20,000,000 or $10,000,000 at the end of the year still makes you pretty phenomenally wealthy. You can still buy that car or that house or that TV or that movie theater or that black-market kidney you want and it would barely make a dent. Compare that with the person making $15,000 a year — if they only took home half of their income, that’s only $7,500, and you can barely even survive on that. The less you make, the more every cent matters. A single dollar actually has meaning.
But aside from all of that, the CEO of McDonald’s makes in a single hour over twice as much as the entire yearly minimum wage inflation-adjust deficit for a bottom-pay employee.
He could lose an entire day’s pay and probably not even notice, but for someone making $15,000/year, that $4,000 is the difference between how many meals you and your children have to skip. Or how many times you have to opt for Dollar Menu offerings that will impact your health. Or whether or not you can afford the premiums for a health plan. Or whether or not you can fix your car, or pay for medicine, or pay off student loans. That $4,000 could be the difference between life and death. It’s over 1/4 the minimum wage yearly income.
Of course, over this same period of time (~1960s to present), average CEO salaries have risen from roughly 20 times as much as the average non-managerial employee to almost 300 times as much as the average non-managerial employee, and in the specific example listed above, the CEO of McDonald’s has a yearly income of 1,373 times as much as someone making minimum wage**, and that’s without factoring in “options realized”, which compensation metrics usually take into account.
And yet, they claim they need more.
* In the 1950s and 60s, for instance, the top marginal tax rate was over 80%, and people still started businesses, had jobs, and could even raise a family of four on a single full-time income. Today the average full-time worker is lucky to support themselves.
** The highest-paid CEO is Stephen J Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group, with a yearly salary of $101,960,000 — 6,761 times as much as a minimum wage worker’s yearly income.