What’s a living wage? The president thinks $10.10 is the magic number. The governors of some states think it’s more. Some think it’s less. I’m not sure how our leaders come up with these figures but in my mind a living wage shouldn’t be a specific number. It should be a percentage of economic output. Put another way, workers’ wages should rise or fall with the wealth of the country. I don’t say the percentage should be the same for everyone but all workers should be treated as shareholder in the overall economy.
For several years now, the worker’s share in the nation’s wealth has been dwindling. Jeff Madrick, writing in Harper’s, notes that wages for “those whom the government calls ‘production and non-supervisory workers’ – the nonmanagerial class – have risen only 3 percent since 1979 while labor productivity has risen 90 percent.” (“The Anti-Economist,” by Jeff Madrick, Harper’s 2/14/ pg. 10.) And while wages during an economic recovery do normally rise, until 2013 they have fallen.
Madrick believes when New York City broke its long standing tradition of electing Republican mayors and voted for Democratic liberal, Bill de Blasio, they were reflecting their discontent with their diminishing share in the nation’s recovery. de Blasio made the growing disparity between the rich and the poor the cornerstone of his campaign and he was right to do so. But defining a living wage by a fixed number, like $10.10, must inevitably lose ground over time, especially in a growing economy. That’s why a different formula is required. Workers are investors in their country and they deserve a fair share of its prosperity.
(Courtesy of thinkprogress.org)