For a Kinder, Gentler Society
The Case for the Living Wage
  • Jerold Waltman
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
The Case for the Living Wage.
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This well-documented brief demonstrates that both poverty and excessive economic inequality are inimical to the maintenance of a healthy republic, and notes that providing a living wage is not only fair, but is superior to any other public policy such as cash transfers (or the Earned Income Tax Credit) in the effort to fight poverty.

About the Author

Jerold Waltman is R.W. Morrison Professor of Political Science at Baylor University. He is the author of two titles with Algora and four previous books including The Politics of the Minimum Wage (2000), and the editor of three others. His articles have also appeared in a number of professional journals along with magazines and newspapers.

About the Book

Societies have always struggled to determine what is right in providing for those at the low end of the economic spectrum; now that America has seen an enormous gulf open between those with the most and those with the least, the question...

Societies have always struggled to determine what is right in providing for those at the low end of the economic spectrum; now that America has seen an enormous gulf open between those with the most and those with the least, the question becomes a campaign issue and a frame for how we define America's values.

What is the difference between a minimum wage and a living wage, a fair wage and a just wage? How are they the same and how do they differ?

Citing case studies and statistical analyses, the author explores the root causes of inequality and poverty, and compares efforts in the United States and the UK to address those problems. He considers what the principal religions have to say about poverty and inequality, and traces the evolution of the "just wage" tradition. In a review of American policy, he shows that the idea of a living wage was central to policy initiatives promoted by early advocates of the welfare state. In the wake of clear failures of the welfare system as it now stands, he urges we focus our attention again on the living wage, a promising instrument for economic justice and a means of contributing to general prosperity as well.

Material conditions in America make it appealing to people the world over, and anything we do to make it a better place makes it more so. But that is fulfilling our history, from the Puritan wish to "build a city on a hill" forward. Should we reject expanding freedom of speech or building better schools because that might attract more immigrants? No. And we need to adopt a living wage for everyone who works in this country.


More . . .

The Wage Debate

by: David Silverman

One of the first subjects the new Democratic Congress will likely address is the minimum wage. If the minimum wage goes up, what will happen to the U.S. economy? ….Congress has not raised the minimum wage since 1997, and, according to...

The Wage Debate

by: David Silverman

One of the first subjects the new Democratic Congress will likely address is the minimum wage. If the minimum wage goes up, what will happen to the U.S. economy? ….Congress has not raised the minimum wage since 1997, and, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the value of today’s minimum wage is less than it has been since 1951,….

At what level would the living wage need to be set, in order to truly make an impact? …. Living wage proponents suggest that a more appropriate level of minimum compensation is around $13 per hour. That is where the minimum wage would be today if Congress had indexed it to productivity and profits since 1968, when the level was at an all-time high of $8 per hour (adjusted for inflation). The level would be over $20 per hour had it kept pace with profits in the retail industry, which employs more than half of the nation’s hourly employees paid at or below minimum wage.

Whether we are talking about the minimum or a living wage, Congress is not without economic arguments that are used to justify its inaction. As Professor Jerold Waltman of Baylor University says in his excellent polemic, The Case for the Living Wage, there are five primary arguments against the minimum or a living wage:

1. It will lead to unemployment
2. It will cause inflation
3. Small businesses will be unable to absorb the costs and will fail in unacceptably large numbers
4. In a recession, there will be a shortage of minimum wage jobs
5. A higher minimum wage will draw illegal immigrants in even higher numbers than we are seeing today

Let’s take a look at each of these points and consider whether they are legitimate.

Unemployment

In fact, many recent studies, and one going back to 1909, have proven repeatedly that raising the minimum wage has no negative impact on employment.…

Inflation—An Incongruous Argument?

…if every business in the country were forced to pay higher wages, wouldn’t that result in systemic inflationary pressure?

…As for the issue of lower wage workers adding to inflation, it is true that the poor tend to spend a much higher percentage of their income than do the wealthy. However, there are two things that must be taken into consideration here. First, if, as we have postulated, businesses will be more productive in a higher wage world, then they should not have to raise their prices dramatically just because there is increased demand. Second, those earning minimum wage spend all their money because they must, simply to get by. It is possible that with higher wages we’ll begin to see some saving, thereby mitigating the inflationary pressures. Professor Waltman points out the “infuriating” incongruity inherent to this argument: “When was the last time you read an article about Wall Street bonuses or CEO pay that mentioned the possible inflationary effects? In 1999, Wall Street bonuses reached $13 billion…some of that was undoubtedly saved, but a lot of it went for additional homes, expensive vacations, and luxury cars. Not one word was said about how inflationary this might be, nor did economists issue such warnings.”

Excerpted from Stocks, Futures and Options Magazine, Jan. 2007.

Copyright © 2007 SFO Magazine All rights reserved.


More Information
Information about Jerold Waltman's next book can be found at Minimum Wage Policy in Great Britain and the United States
Information about Jerold Waltman's next book can be found at Minimum Wage Policy in Great Britain and the United States
Reviews
CHOICE December 2004 - Highly recommended. | More »
Library Journal October 15, 2004 | More »
Church Action on Poverty | More »

Pages 244
Year: 2004
LC Classification: HD4918.W264
Dewey code: 331.2'3'0973dc22
BISAC: BUS022000
BISAC: POL013000
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ISBN: 978-0-87586-302-3
Price: USD 22.95
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ISBN: 978-0-87586-303-0
Price: USD 28.95
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