The lowest wages on the scale exist largely for the benefit of workers who are not seeking to be careerists in the jobs at which they work to earn those low wages. Low-wage jobs allow that earnest teenager access to his first job, as well as permit people like a mostly-stay-at-home mom to work part-time in a job that doesn’t require that she assume a career track or responsibilities that quickly outsize the limited work demands she wishes to indulge. As for the typical full-time, adult worker, the “minimum wage” as we’ve known it is either something above which he starts, anyway, out of deference to his education or inherent skill set, or is an earnings level at which he spends only a brief period due to the natural and perpetual direction upward of workplace utility.
This brings us to the adult full-time worker who persists in the low-wage range. Most reasonable folks would agree that an able-bodied, 30-year-old person living in the United States who’s earning at or near the bottom of the wage scale is doing so principally because of choices made along the course of his life, up to that point, that have positioned him to do no better. While that assessment is admittedly a generalization, most intellectually-honest people know it to be broadly true; show me a person well into adulthood who’s making the same hourly wage as a high school kid plugging away at his first summer job, and the chances are excellent that I’ll be able to show you someone who’s not done what he reasonably could have in order to be earning more by that point in his life.
From the standpoint of the business, the low-wage entry point allows it to pay appropriately for more menial, unskilled tasks that represent work not suitable for its more talented and skilled employees to be doing. The bottom line is that it is entirely unreasonable, for reasons too numerous to itemize and detail in this space, to require of every business in America (the vast majority of which are not enormous, well-capitalized multinationals, but very small companies already operating on razor-thin margins and owned by people who are by no means “getting rich”) that the lowest wage it can pay is one still large enough to enable the earner to make a mortgage payment, a car payment, buy groceries, pay the cable bill, and so on.
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