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Rich Lindsay: Is there a new ally in minimum wage debate?

BASED upon the Daily Mail's August 22 editorial piece titled "Working for a living pays less than welfare" the good men and women who make up the working poor in our country may have gained an ally in the editorial board of the Charleston Daily Mail.

This is a surprise to most readers of the paper, and more likely an unwitting foray into cross-political aims rather than serious and rational reflection.

Regardless, the Daily Mail speciously opines that the reason why our War on Poverty has failed is because the money is just too "good" in government and temporary benefits.

That individuals who realize the full benefits of all assistive government programs are discouraged from working altogether because by taking advantage of these programs an individual can earn the equivalent of $11.97 an hour or $27,727 a year - much more than our current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or $15,080 a year. Assuming for a moment, no matter how brief and misinformed, that the Daily Mail has a point, the logical solution to our War on Poverty is not the elimination of programs that provide care, shelter, clothing and food to our most deprived and disadvantaged citizens and children, but the raising of our minimum wage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index the federal minimum wage has lagged behind inflation since 1968.

In fact, if minimum wage did track with inflation over the last 40 years, today's minimum wage would be around $10.50 an hour - clearly much more than our current minimum wage; and close and/or equal to the full complement of benefits available to Americans that the Daily Mail erroneously believes to be a shackle instead of a safety net.

Certainly, the Daily Mail must concede that should the minimum wage be raised to $10.50 an hour our War on Poverty would be won overnight because those pesky disincentivising government programs would be discouraged by the new living wage encouraged.

Calls for a new living wage are currently loudest on behalf of those working individuals that serve fast food to millions of people every day. This should be no surprise given the significant wage disparity between individuals behind the counter and those at the top.

According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, "head honchos" of big eatery chains across our great land made on average $11.8 million a year, up from an average of around $3 million in overall compensation in 2008.

This news, on the heels of reports that fast food chains like McDonalds and Taco Bell are beginning to pay their employees in debit cards that carry with them transaction and inactivity fees that inevitably further reduce an employee's minimum wage, paints a very bleak picture for our working poor in the service industry and clearly does not afford much opportunity or movement into our ever dwindling but essential middle class.

So, I applaud the Daily Mail's newfound interest in workers' rights.

Further, I hope that on Labor Day, the Daily Mail joins workers of all stripes and the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in demanding a living wage for Americans that are the backbone of our labor and service industry.

Lindsay is an attorney at Tabor Lindsay & Associates.


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