Letter: Reader argues for raise to minimum wage

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 11:25 PM

Editor,

Income inequality will be the defining issue for the coming year. Undeniably, Wall Street and corporations are experiencing record gains and profits leading to more wealth and, at the same time, more income inequality than at any time since the 1920s.

A living wage for anyone working a full time job should not be controversial. Minimum wage increases meet resistance along political party lines, not surprising with this Republican Party's propensity for opposing any program and legislation likely to benefit those struggling and the poor. This opposition insists that a minimum wage increase will drive costs up and increase unemployment. This notion in flawed. Costs have risen such as food, housing, transportation, utilities, etc. as wages remain stagnant.

The last federal mandated minimum wage increase came in 2009, rising to $7.25 per hour. The Pew Research Center reports — adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.56 (in 2012 dollars). Since it was raised in 2009, it has lost 5.8 percent of its purchasing power to inflation. An analysis of five recent studies conducted by The Center for American Progress and the University of North Carolina shows that increasing the minimum wage even during periods of high unemployment does not have a negative effect on job growth. To date 19 states have set their own higher minimums; this state is not one of those.

There are those that would have us believe that this talk of income disparity is an assault on capitalism. Income inequality is not a product of capitalism but of greed and selfishness. Inequality of any flavor is the product of human behavior, a problem created, controlled and solvable by man.

Pope Francis has eloquently addressed this problem calling on leaders to guarantee "dignified work, education and health care to their citizens and criticizes the idolatry of money." Despite criticism from some wealthy, reportedly God-fearing, conservatives feeling pressured to defend their own self serving view of capitalism, Pope Francis nevertheless has solid justification for his words and a reputable ally. To borrow words from a recent Facebook post, "two thousand years ago a Middle Eastern man who befriended prostitutes, beggars and the sick demanded that the rich give more to their peers; he tossed those who sought money as a goal out of a church at the end of the whip and begged man to love one another as their first commandment. So today, for the first time in a long while, the leader of a religious group is calling for exactly the same thing, how wrong could this be?"

Bill Dayton

Sevierville