It’s a word that seems to scare everybody, but it shouldn’t. Think about the other words it can be coupled with that might be greeted with hearty approval: higher wages, less waste, reasonable CEO pay, prioritizing, focusing on people and experiences rather than things.
Even though I am a business owner myself, I am so sick of other business owners who constantly complain that workers want more money — more than $10 or $12 or $15 or (how dare they!) $20 per hour. These owners say they would have to jack up their prices if they paid their employees enough to join the middle class.
For a family of four, a sole breadwinner has to earn about $25-$75 an hour for full-time work to be part of the middle class. Just try finding a job in that range. There are a few but not many out there. Despite the fact that I have a degree and more than 15 years experience in my field, it is virtually impossible to find such a position. I know. I have been trying for years.
I believe that low wages are the main reason both parents work full-time in so many families. I think that is great if that’s what both parents want to do. But if those parents would prefer for one caregiver to work part-time or completely forego the work world for a while to stay home with the kids, I think it’s despicable that our country does not support that choice by encouraging wages that can support a family.
That’s what the increase to $15 per hour for the minimum wage would begin to do. And if the business owners are right, then prices will go up. I don’t doubt that would happen. But it shouldn’t be a scary proposition. It should be one we welcome with the following life changes.
Buy new clothes rarely. Stop buying into the fashion industry’s mindset about trends.
I am a landlord, and I have seen dozens and dozens of tenants leave behind piles and piles of clothing that they simply realize they don’t need when they move. It’s because we all have too many clothes. Some of us purge them regularly, but if we looked at all the clothes we’ve purchased in the course of our lives, we’d be appalled. Rarely do we need clothing because our clothes have literally worn out. Usually we want new clothes to keep up with the latest styles. If clothing manufacturers stopped making clothes today, and everyone in America stopped throwing away clothes that are still perfectly good, I bet we’d have enough clothing to last for years and years. Most of the clothes my family owns have either been given to us by friends who no longer wanted the clothing or purchased in thrift stores for a tiny fraction of the retail cost of apparel. If wages go up and that makes clothing cost more, I think that would be great! That means all of us won’t be buying clothes as often and won’t be getting rid of them much either — reducing waste.
Buy new furniture rarely. Stop buying into the mindset that your home should be remodeled every few years with a new color scheme.
You get the idea. There are just as many perfectly good pieces of furniture that are discarded for no reason other than the owner got tired of looking at them. If furniture costs rise because of higher wages, people won’t be buying new furniture as often. That’s a good thing. That means you won’t be getting rid of perfectly good furniture much either — reducing waste.
Buy fast food rarely. Learn that immediate gratification is not desirable, even if you are bombarded by messages and signs telling you otherwise.
Everyone seems to think the moment they are hungry or thirsty, they must stop and satiate that. Instead, wait until you get home and have a meal with actual fresh food. It doesn’t take long. Keep meat in the freezer.. Keep pasta and rice in the pantry. Keep vegetables and fruit in the frig. Defrost, broil, cut, saute, serve. It takes all of 15 minutes to make a no-frills meal with all the food groups. Patience builds character. If fast food costs rise dramatically because wages go up, I see that as a good thing. We’ll all be passing by the McDonald’s and waiting until we can get home and eat the less expensive — and healthier — way. It doesn’t have to be organic to be healthy. It just has to come from the earth and not a box or can or drive-thru.
Regulate CEO pay. If not by government decree, then by mass consumer action.
If a company raises prices drastically because it has to pay its employees much more due to an increase in the minimum wage, look at the executive compensation package. Why does one person possibly need or deserve to make more than $1 million a year in a salaried position? If any one person is making more than $1 million a year in that company, boycott that company. If everyone did this and made it clear it was due to CEO pay, then CEO pay would adjust. According to Forbes, “The Economic Policy Institute issued a report on CEO pay, and the title makes the point clearly: ‘Top CEOs Make 300 Times More than Typical Workers.’ CEOs of the 350 largest U.S. public companies now average $16,300,000 in compensation, while typical workers average about $53,000.” The article goes on to say: “A CEO makes more in a single workday (based on a five day week) than the worker does in an entire year.” That should make everyone feel outrage! I know people who actually justify this by saying how hard CEOs work, and how many hours they put in, and how much responsibility they handle. I don’t doubt that is true. But it is also true that a single mother of four children working a full-time job and a part-time job to make ends meet — and fighting exhaustion to help her kids with homework and to shuttle them to extra curricular activities so they are not getting into trouble — is working just as hard and has responsibilities that are also vitally important. And it takes her a full week (making $10 an hour at a 40-hour job and a 20-hour job) to make what the CEO made in less than five minutes! Did he really work that much harder in five minutes, than she did in an entire week at two jobs?
If higher wages make things cost more, then we will be forced to prioritize which things are important to us. If a typical family wants to go to a sporting event or a concert nowadays, it has become so expensive that the family has to choose one special event like this a year — just as a family would do with a vacation. We’ve learned to budget and plan ahead because of the drastic inflation in these types of events.
When rising wages cause rising prices, we’d all learn to do the same with everything else that becomes expensive. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever buy something or go somewhere, but we do it less often. And it becomes a bigger deal. Kids may actually appreciate it more, when they know it is a rare event.
We don’t have to participate in some exciting, expensive activity every weekend to bond as a family. With such activities now out of reach of many families, we’ve learned to spend more time doing things with our kids that don’t cost anything — like taking a hike or playing a game — instead of shopping with our family and giving in to every whiny demand from kids.
So stop whining about higher wages. Welcome them. Welcome a chance to let people say NO to buying things because they are “too expensive” and see how they will not only survive, but thrive, without those things.
With higher wages, working mothers will finally be able to make the choice that reflects their values — stay home with kids if they want, work part-time if they want, or work full-time if that’s what they desire, not because it’s what they have to do to pay the bills.