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President Obama's call for the federal minimum wage to be raised to $9.00 was hailed as a "bold step."  I must dissent from this opinion.  I think it is important for the United States' minimum wage (and other employment benefits) to be compared to those in other Western democratic market economies, particularly English-speaking ones.

So here is a comparison, after the jump:

In Canada, it averages about $10.00 per hour, depending on the province, for an experienced adult worker, with the Canadian dollar trading at equal to the U.S. dollar currently.

In Ireland, it is €8.65 per hour for an experienced adult worker, which translates into $11.59 per hour at current exchange rates.

In the United Kingdom, the minimum wage for an adult worker 21 years old and older is £6.19 an hour, which at the current exchange rate is equal to $9.59 per hour.

In New Zealand, it is $13.50 per hour for an adult worker, which at current exchange rates is equal to $11.59 per hour in U.S. currency.

In Australia, the minimum wage is $15.96 per hour for an experienced adult worker, which is equal to $16.44 per hour in the United States.

The detractors says two main things: it will destroy jobs and that the cost of living is higher in these other countries.  The first one has never been demonstrated to be true in the history of minimum wage hikes in the U.S.; and to the second, I have this to say:

The other countries in the English-speaking world all have health care for all citizens, not just workers.

All workers in these other countries get vacation time (from two weeks in Canada, to 5.6 weeks in the United Kingdom).  See also Ireland; New Zealand; and Australia.

And don't forget maternity leave and retirement are guaranteed benefits, too.  EDIT: In my old age, I forgot to mention "sick leave" to that long list of guaranteed benefits.

And I don't think they allow employers in those countries to take a worker's retirement pension as part of a bankruptcy or "retention bonus" scheme, like we do here in the United States.

So, if we are really going to compare the United States' guaranteed wages and benefits, by all means let's do that.  Because raising the minimum wage would be merely a start toward our coming into line with the values of the rest of the Western world -- particularly the English-speaking world -- which is who we really ought to be comparing ourselves to.

EDIT: Thanks everyone for making this part of the Recommended List!

Originally posted to OkieLawyer on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Besides It Equated to $10.50 Right Here, Back in (21+ / 0-)

    1968.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 04:13:11 PM PST

  •  The one percenters control this country (12+ / 0-)

    They have taken over and we don't even seem to know. They scream about pennies so loud that we don't dare talk about dollars.

    •  More like the 1%ers of the 1%ers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hnichols

      Now that the top 1% of them, and those 315 people have roughly the same wealth as the poorest 157,500,000 Americans combined.

      •  Another perspective: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OkieLawyer, Quicklund, hnichols

        According the the capitalist bible, Forbes:

        "By sitting on their growing investments, the richest five Americans made almost $7 billion each in one year. That's $3,500,000.00 per hour."

        More in one hour than a husband and wife working forty hours a week for forty years!!!

        Or $58,000 a SECOND!!! In one second they steal more than an average worker makes in two years, in ONE SECOND.

        It's been said that it wouldn't pay for Bill Gates to bend down and pick up a thousand dollar bill.

        If they were taxed at ninety percent they would still pull down three hundred fifty thousand dollars an hour!
        Or, seven hundred million dollars a year.

        And, let's not kid ourselves, they are the one's funding the sycophants who are preventing a raise in the minimum wage.

        Google Pete Peterson.  He (alone) spent almost a half billion dollars in the last few years to tell teh stupids they need to take a cut in "entitlements".

        "It riles them to believe you perceive the web they weave." Moody Blues

        by BrianParker14 on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 08:21:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Pete Peterson (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hnichols

          How can a guy with an imaginative name like that think of a better way to invest him money?

          Thankfully some of the 315 are more imaginative, like Misters Gates and Buffet. But the hyper-concentration of wealth in this bastion of rugged individualism is breathtaking.

          •  What's in a name... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Quicklund, hnichols

            From Paul Blumenthal..paulblumenthal@huffingtonpost.com

            "According to a review of tax documents from 2007 through 2011, Peterson has personally contributed at least $458 million to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to cast Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and government spending as in a state of crisis, in desperate need of dramatic cuts."
            That's "at least".

            "It riles them to believe you perceive the web they weave." Moody Blues

            by BrianParker14 on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 09:09:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  So $9/hour is pretty similar to Canada, UK and (0+ / 0-)

    Ireland. It's a bold step b/c it has no chance of being enacted not b/c there is anything special about the number.

  •  Far better having State and Local Min Wage laws (7+ / 0-)

    The minimum wage that is needed is really based upon the cost of living where the wage earner lives.  However,  the cost of living varies very widely across the US.

    For example $20,000/yr in New York City is equivalent to $8300 in Tulsa, OK

    see http://money.cnn.com/...

    A meaningful minimum wage at the Federal level would need to have different rates in different parts of the country, otherwise in some parts of the country the rate will be too low, while others are too high.  Doing this however could be very difficult at the Federal level.  

    Many states that have higher minimum wages than the Federal rate don't make up for the the large difference in the cost of living the state or city has.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 04:40:07 PM PST

  •  Indeed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, Nulwee

    They are not going to pass $9, so why not propose something really progressive? Obama just can't stop compromising, I'm afraid.

    Oklahoma: birthplace of Kate Barnard, W. Rogers, W. Guthrie, Bill Moyers & Eliz. Warren. Home to proud progressive agitators since before statehood. Current political climate a mere passing dust cloud; we're waiting it out & planning for clearer days.

    by peacearena on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 04:53:32 PM PST

  •  I was thinking the same thing... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rantsposition, Cedwyn, HeyMikey, Nulwee

    when I saw the SOTU.

    I would add that the lower rate for tipped workers should be eliminated.

  •  My motto: 40 For 40 Or Fight (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, alnep, HeyMikey, Nulwee

    If an adult (21 years old) works 40 hrs. per week  they should earn $40,000 a year.  

  •  The countries you compare to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, science nerd

    have tiered minimum wages that depend on experience and/or age.  In the UK, for example, the minimum wage for 18 yo and under is only $5.70, and it is $7.71 for 19 and 20 yo.

    "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

    by Old Left Good Left on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 05:09:03 PM PST

  •  Should have been at least 10, which (4+ / 0-)

    is still not enough for the more-expensive-to-live-in states.

    12 would have been been a good target. These corporate giant stores paying min-wage for retail workers are the real offenders.

    How about we take some more money from these rich assholes who make millions and billions and start getting some medicare-for-all, and employers wouldn't need to cover healthcare.

  •  I have always hated the term (5+ / 0-)

    "minimum wage" because that implies to employers that while they can't pay you less than that, they also don't have to pay you more.  Instead of being the beginning wage, it became the, for many businesses, the only wage. They would do all they could to avoid paying more - make you part time, fire you instead of giving you a raise so they could hire someone else at minimum wage.

    I'm not even comfortable with "fair wage" because who's going to say it's fair  The employer, of course, and fair will never be enough to live on.

    Living wage, tied to the cost of living index, is the only appropriate wage.

    And oh how I wish there was a regulation where the spread between highest and lowest paid employees in a business could not exceed x times. I'd like it to be 20x - so if the lowest paid employee made $10 an hour, the highest paid could not make more than $200 an hour.  

    I am so tired of the Republicans defending the top 1% by saying they earned that money. No, they didn't.  They earned some of it, sure, but their employees were the ones who earned it for them - and those employees deserve more than sub-subsistence level pay.

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 05:56:28 PM PST

    •  I like some of the things you brought up, so (6+ / 0-)

      here are some things to add to your comment:

      1) Employers have more "bargaining power" than their employees.  That is why it is important to have laws protected basic rights of employees.

      2) Re: the spread between highest and lowest

      I think there are some Scandinavian countries that mandate the spread between the two (and I also think that it is a good idea in order to guarantee that those who contribute to a company's success share in its profits).

      If the "market" truly worked to set proper wages in the larger economy, then minimum wage laws would never have been brought about in every Western democratic market economy in the world.  They became necessary because there were "bad actors" that sought to be exploitative rather than paying wages that reflected their employees productivity.

      Thanks for the comment.  

      •  If the market worked, (4+ / 0-)

        there would be no adulteration of products, no bait-and-switch practices, no wage theft practices, no making the employee provide their own supplies to do the job they are presumably being paid for, no exploitation of employees, no controlling the employee's actions after work hours, no cutting corners on safety equipment and infrastructure, and so much more.

        Because employers will exploit, control, and deny their employees as much as they legally can, unions formed and governments had to create regulations.

        Government and unions exist to protect the worker.  Protecting the worker, seeing that the employees get what they need, actually makes a business more profitable, more stable, more valuable.

        Squeezing the employees and the customers may make for great short term profits, but it really sucks for the long term.

        All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

        by Noddy on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 06:38:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It MUST be linked to Consumer Price Index (0+ / 0-)
    in which case it should be $20!

    At least make it $15 and ratchet it up over the next 5 years to where it ought to be, which by definition should be the MINIMUM you need to live to rent a one bedroom apartment, pay for your REQUIRED medical insurance, public transportation, utilities and taxes.  

    Do the math, to live on $3,000 a month means, you must make $18.75/hour.

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 05:58:10 PM PST

  •  And we'll take the extra cash and (0+ / 0-)

    Spend it on low priced stuff at Walmart and drive more jobs to China. Can't stop it. It's coming.

    •  Automation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey

      Massive investments in automation are ensuring the jobs go nowhere, to China or anywhere else. If a robot does a job for $3/hr amortized cost, no reason to hire anyone for $7.25 or $9.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 06:04:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting point in response: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sychotic1

        In the 1960s, the argument was that automation would create more leisure time (read: vacation time) for workers.

        So much for that idea.

        •  Education/Training is a fixed cost. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sparhawk

          If you have to train 2 workers to work 20 hours each, you're still out twice the money as having 1 worker work 40 hours.

          In jobs with no experience/training requirements, yeah, you could just use more workers, but those positions are naturally the least compensated (and thus, the least likely anyone is going to want to work small numbers of hours.)

        •  And it has: unemployment. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OkieLawyer

          Automation has, in fact, created loads of spare time for workers. Unfortunately, that's resulted in them becoming ex-workers--the unemployed.

          This is a problem of distributing free time and the rewards of increasing productivity. Some people are getting all the free time (no work) and none of the rewards (no money). Some people are getting none of the free time and few of the rewards (the overworked, underpaid majority). Others are getting the free time if they want it, and most of the rewards (those who own the technology). But the rewards are very real; they've enabled the explosive growth in income and wealth for a small % of the population.

          Automation has, in fact, delivered on the promise of enabling people to accomplish more in less time. The problem is not technology--it's how we've chosen to use it. As always, the root problem is human nature.

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 07:19:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's not a problem of distributing productivity (0+ / 0-)

            It's a different kind of fundamental problem.

            The market is sending a clear message that we have too many people (in existence). As time goes on, we are going to simply need less people with more education.

            Now, I wouldn't exactly write that on a campaign bumper sticker, but it's pretty obvious if you think about it.

            The solutions are less obvious. As a compassionate liberal society, we can't just throw people to the wolves. However, we also don't want to send false economic signals that having children is a good idea when the market is pretty much screaming the opposite in a giant blinking neon sign.

            Wealth inequality is a symptom, not the disease. I suspect that in a "properly-sized" society, wealth inequality cannot be a problem because labor value will always keep pace with other economic criteria. Of course, human population isn't exactly a liquid market: people don't just pop into and out of existence at the whim of the market. Some smart person is going to have to figure out a method for all of us to weather the storm.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 08:37:40 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  (1) No, I don't think so. (2) Hope, sorta. (0+ / 0-)

              Suppose we cut the number of people in half but don't change the pattern of distributing the benefits of productivity--that is, distributing goods & services. The consumption of G&S will also be cut in half; and we'll still have a small % of the remaining people reaping a disproportionate share of the remaining G&S, and a significant % of the remaining people unneeded to produce the G&S consumed.

              I quite agree that the world is overpopulated, and that the problems are intertwined. But with any given number of people, it's quite possible to have a small % of rich and a large % of poor. And it appears that allowing those who own the technology to reap all the productivity benefits of tech advances exacerbates that inequality.

              The solution to overpopulation is obvious, though far from easy. When people rise to a material standard of living more or less equal to lower-middle-class American-European, their birth rate plummets to replacement rate or below. Eliminate poverty and you solve overpopulation.

              Of course the average lower-middle-class American-European now consumes an amount of energy and raw materials that would be unsustainable if extended to everyone in the world. That's a problem that is likely solvable by technology...if the technology is well managed. Back to square one.

              "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

              by HeyMikey on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 07:48:25 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Re (0+ / 0-)
                Suppose we cut the number of people in half but don't change the pattern of distributing the benefits of productivity--that is, distributing goods & services. The consumption of G&S will also be cut in half; and we'll still have a small % of the remaining people reaping a disproportionate share of the remaining G&S, and a significant % of the remaining people unneeded to produce the G&S consumed.
                You just assumed the answer in your question.

                In a world with less people, you can't just keep the current distribution because labor, even unskilled labor, becomes proportionately more valuable. You won't be able to hire people for $8/hr to push buttons on your machine because they'll demand more and you won't find a worker without paying more.

                As it is now, with 5 or whatever candidates for low-paying jobs, why increase salaries? There is no reason at all.

                Put it another way: why is it that even today there are a fairly large number of non-plutocrats who make $100k/year? The answer is that there are a few of them with in-demand skill sets. With less people, the same would apply for all work.

                Your other points are well-taken, but in the end further support my (assuredly unpopular) point.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 08:55:32 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I don't get it. (0+ / 0-)

                  You seem to assume that to get to a world with fewer people,  we'd get rid of (presumably by natural attrition) those without relevant skills, so mostly those with relevant skills would remain.

                  What is the basis for this assumption?

                  The only evidence I see is for the contrary--as I mentioned above, affluence correlates with a lower birth rate, and poverty with a higher one. Wealth/poverty is not a 100% accurate proxy for has/doesn't have skills in demand, but it's close.

                  Or are you assuming that the way we'd get to lower population would be to get low-skill people to lower their birth rate to well below the birth rate of high-skill people? (I don't think that's gonna happen. DNA/Mother Nature/human nature cannot be reasoned with reliably enough for the scale required.)

                  "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                  by HeyMikey on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 12:21:57 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

      •  That too (0+ / 0-)

        When will we demand a surcharge on product produced by machines. We need to go back to people making things.

        •  Eh (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MGross, misslegalbeagle, HeyMikey

          Machines do it better, faster, and cheaper. The question is how we distribute the gains. There's no reason to be stuck with more expensive, inferior handmade goods.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 06:25:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Isn't the lower price (0+ / 0-)

            The way the gain is distributed?  

            •  Yes. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sparhawk, misslegalbeagle

              Generally the counterargument goes to excessive profits, from that point (but excessive profit-taking shouldn't happen in a competitive environment.)

              •  The issue is... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                HeyMikey

                ...that even if prices are falling, we are rapidly reaching a point where large numbers of people are simply economically superfluous. We simply do not need as large a population as we currently have.

                So what happens to all the extra people who don't have the skill set to contribute and even buy the cheap goods that automation produces?

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 07:06:00 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  In response, I would say put them to work doing (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  HeyMikey

                  public works projects such as: cleaning up the environment, recycling and building infrastructure, among other things.  There are always improvements that need to be taken up.  The U.S., in particular, wastes far too much for its own good.  We could afford -- certainly in the short run -- to internalize these "negative externalities" as they are known in economic terms.

                  However, your point (even if unstated or unintended) regarding overpopulation is well taken.

  •  $9 per hour but no full time jobs (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites, HeyMikey, Lilyvt

    The lack of full time jobs is a huge part of the problem.  Another issue is that these part time jobs have schedules that vary day by day and week by week, making it impossible to get a second part time job to make ends meet.  

  •  A number I would like to have known. (0+ / 0-)

    2080

    2080 is the number of hours used for budgeting full time wages for the year. It is a simple number. 52 weeks in a year times 40 hours in a standard work week equals 2080 hours in a standard year.

    It can miss a day or two at most (once in a blue moon). For budgeting, it is simple and accurate.

    An honest heart being the first blessing, a knowing head is the second..Jefferson's Letter to Peter Carr

    by JugOPunch on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 06:50:38 PM PST

  •  The other tragedy is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OkieLawyer, HeyMikey

    the number of people with college degrees (and massive student loans) who are working at unpaid "internships" or for $11-12 an hour. Around here anyway, it's not just the minimum (which is $8.25 I think); it's the large number of jobs, even those requiring a BA and/or high skill levels, that only pay slightly above minimum wage.

    •  Re: unpaid internships (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey

      Another area where "volunteerism" is being abused.  Many law school students will go work for a law firm -- providing free, cheap labor -- with the "possibility" of getting hired later.  All too often, it never pans out -- and there was never a chance it would from the start.

  •  Raising min. wage does NOT cost jobs. (0+ / 0-)
    One of the few industrialized countries that is doing fairly well, Australia, has an unemployment rate of 5.4%. Their current minimum wage is about $13.50 in USD...a landmark study...examining employment at fast-food restaurants on both sides of the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border after New Jersey raised its minimum wage to $5.05 an hour while Pennsylvania’s minimum wage held constant...found no evidence that the increase in the minimum wage in New Jersey led to job loss­. In fact they found that employment increased in fast-food restaurants in New Jersey. For this and related research, Card was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, ­the so-called 'junior Nobel prize.'
    http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/...

    Of course at some level a higher minimum wage would cost jobs. We can't solve our problems by raising the minimum wage to $1 million an hour. But it appears there is significant room to increase our current minimum wage without costing jobs.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 07:26:15 PM PST

  •  $20 would be closer to reality. (0+ / 0-)

    Can you imagine any of these idiots in Congress trying to live on $18,000/yr let alone today's minimum wage.

  •  Thoughts (0+ / 0-)

    First up my spouse works for a Canadian minimum wage ($10.50/hr) + 4% vacation pay (essentially 2 weeks), and of course we have single payer health care paid through our taxes.

    So I am sensitive to how hard it is to make do on the minimum wage, even at $10.50 BUT ... there is at least some truth to its impact on jobs and prices.

    In Canada we pay more for most everything than in the US and a good part of that is due to higher wages in places like retail and restaurants. Even where my spouse works (a non-profit restaurant) they are actually losing money primarily due to wage costs, so they are trying to reorganize the menu and the way of serving to try to reduce how many staff they need. They are also having to raise their prices.

    The problem for the US is that so many of the recently created jobs have been in the service sector (restaurants, health care, retail) and these can be impacted with higher minimum wages ... or prices will have to go up. So take walmart, if Canadian workers are getting $10.50/hr, how can they sell for the same price as in the US where workers make a lot less.

    I still believe in a higher minimum wage for its societal benefits, but this is just to point out that there are real impacts that businesses and consumers will have to adjust to.

    There's room at the top they're telling you still But first you must learn how to smile as you kill If you want to be like the folks on the hill

    by taonow on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 07:48:23 PM PST

  •  Can we agree it's a step (0+ / 0-)

    Adjectives need not apply today. Agreed to that. But is it not an improvement over the status quo?

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