Sure, let’s double the minimum wage. I mean, after all, don’t we want fast-food workers to have a livable income? Thinking very superficially, this argument might just barely make sense. However, below the surface, too much substance belies the point:
1—A Wage Is An Expense. Although I always advocate for paying workers the very best wages possible, the fact remains wages are forever on the expense side of the ledger. Business owners cannot just inflate wages without any regard for the bigger picture. Every penny paid in wages reduces the company’s profit margin. This is always true, but it is particularly, painfully true in the fast-food business where profit margins are razor thin.
2—A Wage Is Not A Handout. Workers receive wages because they work for them. Wages are not handouts. I fear some value shifts over generations have resulted in a contemporary mentality of, “you owe it to me,” when in fact I do not.
3—Pay A Fair Wage. Paying a high school student $8 an hour to flip burgers is fair. Paying an attorney $200 an hour to handle a civil lawsuit is fair. Paying workers for the value of their contribution is always fair. However, to decide arbitrarily that all fast-food workers should receive double compensation is not at all fair.
4—You Can Pay Now Or You Can Pay Later. Even if we immediately double the minimum wage for all fast-food workers, does anyone really believe that extra money materializes out of thin air? Someone always pays. In this case, it would be customers paying significantly higher prices for their fast food, restaurants laying off workers to reduce their labor costs, or some combination of the two. There is no free lunch.
5—A Wage Is A Prochoice Decision. Granted, we all have situations and circumstances beyond our control. Nevertheless, we all have a tremendous amount of situations and circumstances that are within our control. I can choose to flip burgers forever, but I can also choose to pursue my dreams for a better future. Some of those dreams might involve going to college, starting a business, working three jobs, or relocating. The more passion and dedication I bring to my dreams, the more likely I am to achieve them, and to obtain the financial reward that often accompanies them.
6—A Wage Is An Incentive. Workers do their jobs hopefully because they enjoy them, but assuredly because they value the paycheck. The paycheck allows workers to live the lifestyle they want to live. Precisely because a wage is an incentive, people pursue training, education, apprenticeships, and entrepreneurial endeavors to enlarge that wage. Part of the indirect benefit of the lower fast-food wage is the very fact it forces that worker to ponder whether he or she wants to remain in that wage bracket forever. In many cases, the worker opts to improve his or her skill sets to command a better wage. The fast-food wage itself is an incentive to advance to a better wage.