I recently saw a chart that indicated that the most searched Google questions during the State of the Union address was in regards to the minimum wage. It was overwhelming. Clearly there is interest in the subject. A question popped into my head: what would I do if I had only two choices — keep the status quo as it is or raise the minimum wage to $50 an hour? Without a doubt, I would take the second choice and jack the minimum wage way up. I suppose that’s a fairly controversial opinion.
Should it be controversial? Why not reward people who do our most demeaning, dehumanizing labor with at least enough money to pay the rent? Instead, our American capitalist system lavishes wealth on CEOs who send jobs overseas or dump toxins into our rivers. Whatever can turn a short turn profit is considered worth millions of dollars. In the old days, obsession with money, especially short term gains, was called for what it is: greed. Instead of naming evil as “evil,” though, we now blame the minimum wage earners, the “lazy” poor who can’t suck it up and lower themselves to flip hamburgers for seven dollars an hour, forty hours a week, and still not have enough money at the end of the week to properly support a family.
I don’t think that raising the minimum wage is the answer. I think we need to get much closer to the roots of our cultural evil. What’s most interesting to me about the minimum wage discussion is that to me it illustrates so clearly how perverse our national logic is. While we castigate people for wanting more than seven bucks an hour to clean toilets and believe them to be in possession of an attitude of entitlement, corporate executives and banksters keep hustling and fleecing, raking in millions and billions from manipulating the numbers and cooking the books.
The root of the evil is this spiritual sickness, this greed at the top that is allowed to flourish in our culture, virtually unquestioned, while we debate whether or not the check out lady is worth a living wage. But a different world is possible, one in which people are rewarded for their work, and we respect all labor and value it rightly.
“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” – Jesus, the Gospel of Luke