Disjointed arguments about wages

A minimum wage is likely to be a topic of political banter for the foreseeable future. In Minneapolis, small businesses must pay an employee a minimum of $13.50/hr and for large organizations (more than 100 employees) the minimum is $15/hr. One tweet that went rolling by made the claim that a living wage should be enough to pay for housing. The possibility of these numbers working out is well beyond reality in a large urban area, but let’s still consider its feasibility.

Consider a household with a couple and a high school senior. If each of these individuals were meant to earn enough to pay a mortgage or rent and then they each could secure a dwelling. Does it really make sense that everyone who wants some type of employment for money is tied to a job that supports a house? Because we certainly do not have the number of units. The US Census reports that we have just over 2.5 million housing units available to us in Minnesota.

Yet the labor force in the state is quite a bit larger than that. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as of October 2022, there are about 3,073 million workers out bringing in a paycheck. There is enough of a shortage of housing without turning another half a million people out to look for their own place.

The spectrum of wages in the private labor market represents payment for a spectrum of skills, dedication, and commitment. The well-intended people who want a living wage for folks are really talking about a certain set of individuals. Those people are ones who, through no fault of their own, are trying to support a family on just one job. This is an unfortunate situation that does deserve support. Not only for insufficient dollars but also the insufficient hours one parent can provide in other support services.

The poverty rate in Minnesota runs around 9%. People in this category will be well served by a variety of aides necessary to boost them back into a stream of the functioning community. And then in turn the rest of the community is better off. But the solution isn’t achieved by warping the system. It is done by additional aid, provided with respect and dignity, in times of need.