By Contributor on March 27, 2013

The present $7.25 federal minimum wage is a national disgrace.

President Obama is pushing for an increase to a $9 minimum wage, but we need to do even better than that. An employee working full time at $9 an hour would still barely eke out a living above federal poverty guidelines.

The value of the minimum wage has been falling over the last few decades. For instance, if the minimum wage in 1968 were adjusted for inflation, it would be at $10.50 today.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage use the same fear-mongering arguments they have spread since the minimum wage was passed into law in 1938. The foremost argument is that small businesses will have to cut costs by hiring fewer workers, and mom and pop businesses may be driven into bankruptcy.

But recent research shows that job loss is not a serious issue. When cities and towns have increased their minimum wage, it has resulted in greater productivity and diminished turnover. As a result, many companies actually do better.

Another objection to the minimum wage is the claim that it affects mostly high school kids. This is untrue by a long shot. Approximately 70 percent of the workers who benefited from the last minimum wage increase were 20 or older. The minimum wage today is the real take-home pay of Americans who work full time and have children to take care of.

Raising the minimum wage would boost the overall economy, since the workers would immediately spend the additional earnings. They have pent-up demand for all sorts of products they can't afford right now.

The most egregious exploiters of a $7.25 minimum wage are huge corporations such as Walmart and McDonald's which, despite reaping enormous profits, continue to pay employees at or only slightly above minimum wages. But Walmart and McDonald's should not be allowed to set the floor on wages. We should do that ourselves, as citizens, through our elected representatives.

Ralph Nader, the eminent consumer advocate, has campaigning for a $10 an hour minimum wage. Craig Jelinek, CEO of the major big box retailer, Costco, has joined the fight on his side, too. Costco isn't hurting, even though Jelinek pays his workers a starting wage of $11.50 an hour.

For moral and economic reasons, we need to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The payback will be ours.

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet and journalist in Santa Fe, N.M. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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