I would like to respond to my friend Vic Arnold’s letter in Friday’s Westerly Sun. He does what many libertarians and capitalists do, which is to use the label “socialism” as a pejorative to include a whole range of practices and ideas without needing to consider each on its own merits. The bottom line is that there is no system, economic, or political for that matter, that cannot be used or manipulated by someone for their benefit to the detriment of others. Even his preferred unregulated “capitalism” can result in power and wealth concentrated in a few with significant income inequality and significant negative health effects and poverty for others. One need only look at the direction our own country is moving as we speak.
The point is that all systems need oversight and regulation to ensure fairness for all. We should pick and choose and debate what any policy or program does for the country regardless of what label we give to the system that devised it.
I also cannot understand his comments about the minimum wage. He states that the “average family income for minimum-wage workers was $50,000 a year.” The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour. For a 40-hour week for 50 weeks this translates into an annual income of $14,500. And that is usually without benefits like insurance, sick days, or retirement. Even in a two-worker family, each worker would have to work two jobs to meet or exceed $50,000 a year. In Rhode Island, where the 2019 minimum wage is $10.50, the annual income for a 2,000-hour-per-year worker is $21,000. At least one of the two workers in the family would have to work a second job to meet or exceed $50,000 a year. The move to $15 per hour would raise the annual income of such a worker to $30,000. Based on 2018 data (which will increase in 2019) this is just at the poverty level for a family of five ($29,420) and only slightly above the level for a family of four ($25,100).
He also lists groups that he claims make up minimum-wage workers, such as teenagers, retirees, women with children, and those with a second job. Quite apart from asking why even these people should not earn a living wage, Vic should be aware of the many minimum-wage workers who are adults who are trying to support themselves and their families, or who do work two jobs that are both minimum wage and still cannot earn a living wage.
As far as I know, raises in the minimum wage have rarely if ever resulted in a net job loss. In fact, getting some people off food stamps and other entitlements actually saves money for society as a whole while giving people who need it some help in improving their lives. Rather than labeling ideas we don’t like with pejorative terms, let us evaluate all ideas for helping people improve their lives and bring fairness to the system under which we live.