Watch: Robert Reich dismantles the 'rubbish' behind minimum wage myths

Watch: Robert Reich dismantles the 'rubbish' behind minimum wage myths
Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (screengrab/The Gravel Institute/YouTube).

Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich appeared in a new video on Wednesday and dismantled the many myths surrounding the federal minimum wage, which since 2009 has stagnated at $7.25 per hour.

In the roughly eight-minute-long spot, Reich noted that adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is lower today than it was 13 years ago. He placed at least some of the blame on corporate titans who lobby the government to keep American workers impoverished and stressed the importance of guaranteeing a livable income to all.

"This is an insult to American workers, and bad for our economy. It’s far past time to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour," Reich said. "Today’s minimum wage is a starvation wage. A full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford a two-bedroom rental in any city, county, or state in the entire country. Meanwhile, billionaires like Jeff Bezos can afford a D.C. mansion with 25 bathrooms and 5 living roomsjust one of his many mansions."

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Reich explained that "if the minimum wage had kept pace with workers’ productivity increases since 1968, it would be over $22 an hour today" and that "conservatives are out to scare you about raising the wage."

Reich laid out four of what he considers the biggest myths that pro-corporate powers relentlessly drill into the public psyche:

Myth #1: If businesses have to raise wages, they’ll cut employees’ hours or cut jobs altogether.
Myth #2: Small businesses won’t be able to afford the higher wage and will be put out of business.
Myth #3: If the wage is raised, prices for everything will skyrocket and lead to widespread inflation.
Myth #4: Most minimum wage workers are teenagers making some extra money on the side; they don’t need a wage increase.

The first, Reich said, is "rubbish," adding that "if your business model depends on paying your workers starvation wages, you should not be in business."

The second, he called "baloney," because "the fact is, a higher minimum wage can actually lower costs to small businesses. How? For starters, a higher minimum wage attracts more potential workers into the labor force, thereby giving employers more choice of whom to hire. This leads to higher productivity and better service. Better service means more satisfied clients and customers. Higher paid workers are also more likely to stick around, saving businesses the hefty costs that come with recruiting, hiring, and training new workers."

Reich then cited a study of the San Francisco Airport in which "researchers found that following a wage increase, a majority of workers who received a raise improved their overall performance. The higher wages even led to shorter airport lines. Researchers also found that employee turnover declined by 34 percent -- saving employers an estimated $6.6 million a year."

The third, Reich continued, is "wrong again," due to the fact that "for every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, prices increase by less than half a percent. And it’s a temporary price increase — occurring only in the month the wage hike goes into effect. No way this sparks inflation."

Reich added further that "raising the minimum wage would reduce the amount of money taxpayers spend on public assistance that families need because their breadwinners don’t make enough to live on. It’s estimated that nearly half of federal minimum wage workers’ families are enrolled in at least one safety net program, costing the public $107 billion every year. That’s right: our tax dollars are subsidizing corporations that don’t pay a living wage."

The fourth, Reich said, is "more rubbish," because "today, only 1 in 10 workers who would benefit from a $15 minimum wage is a teenager. More than half are between the ages of 25 and 54. More than half of them work full time, and over a quarter have children. Nearly 8 million are mothers. Today’s starvation wage hurts people who are in their prime earning years, preventing them from building wealth and establishing financial security."

Giving Americans a raise, Reich emphasized, "would also help reduce racial and gender pay disparities. Minimum wage increases and expansions in the late 1960s reduced the income gap between Black and white workers. Raising the wage would have a similar effect today, because Black workers, Hispanic workers, and women comprise a large portion of today’s low-wage workers."

Reich stated in conclusion that "raising the minimum wage is good for workers, good for businesses, and good for the economy. In addition to all this, raising the minimum wage is the morally correct thing to do. It ought to lift working people out of poverty, not keep them in. We’re the richest country in the world, home to the richest people on the planet. We can, and we must, treat our workers with the dignity and respect they deserve. That starts with paying them a living wage."

Watch below via The Gravel Institute:

Destroying Minimum Wage Myths with @Robert Reich


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