President Obama, I hear, is talking about raising the minimum wage. This issue comes up every so often as we watch the cost of living rise and wages remain ridiculously low for many of our fellow citizens. The argument put out by businesses is that if they are forced to pay their employees more, they will have to cut back on the number of employees which would only serve to increase jobless rates. The assumption is that businesses are barely making it – money is so tight that any extra expenses automatically leads to letting workers go. I suppose there are some of these, but those who watch profit margins and know that it is not true for all.
I have a suggestion for those companies that might help them get by if they have to pay higher wages to their lower level employees. Rather than firing people to cover the extra cost to them, how about they lower the wages of those at the top? In the coffers and out. Balance the books and no one gets laid off. I am not promoting socialism. It is right that those who hold positions that require more skill and education and more responsibility should be paid more. But to pay so generously to these higher level employees while they have employees living below the poverty lines just isn’t right.
What would we be asking of someone at the upper level of the pay scale if their wages were lowered? Perhaps they will have to choose a slightly less expensive car or a vacation within the borders of the United States instead of abroad. But what do we ask of those at the lowest level of pay when we refuse to increase minimum wage in spite of increases in cost of living. We may be asking them to choose between food or medication, between a car to get to work or no vehicle, between living in a warm, clean, safe apartment, or living in a place where their children’s safety is at risk.
This makes me think of the parable Jesus told about the employer who paid the same wages to the workers who showed up early and those who came later. In the minds of the early-arriving workers, they should have gotten more money because they did more work. This seems logical enough, even fair by our standards. But Jesus it seems had a different standard. I can’t honestly say that I know what that standard was, but perhaps he was taking into consideration what it takes for a person to be able to live.