Just in the Nick of Time – A Livable Minimum Wage

I’m becoming a big fan of Nick Hanauer, co-founder and partner of a Seattle-based venture capital firm, Second Avenue Partners.

It’s one thing for a guy like me to preach economic justice from a progressive podium. Quite another matter to hear it coming from a super wealthy venture capitalist. Nick has become a leading advocate and spokesperson for dramatically raising the minimum wage ($15 in Seattle) because it is a Win-Win-Win. Working people win because a “livable” minimum wage helps raise them from economic hardship, even poverty. It allows lower income workers to pay for basic living expenses – housing, food, utilities, clothing etc. Most importantly, a robust minimum wage provides individuals with a sense of hope and self-reliance.

The second big Win is scored by taxpayers and our government. When low income wage-earners are not forced to seek economic relief from government programs designed to ameliorate poverty, taxpayers benefit as the size and scope of government can be reduced. Finally, financial stability for folks near the bottom rung of the economic ladder would be able to participate in our free enterprise system. More disposable income, even if modest, means more spending and a greater ability to spur business activity across the entire economy.

Hanauer asserts, “I believe that we in the American political and economic elite face an extraordinarily inconvenient but undeniable truth: Our country will not get better until our fellow citizens feel better; and they will not feel better until they actually do better. And this is the hard part for many of you: The American people will not do better until they are actually paid more” (POLITICO − July 18, 2017).

It is truly heartening whenever we see an incredibly wealthy individual take the lead on issues of economic justice. Our free enterprise system desperately needs more Nick Hanauers, Warren Buffets, Bill and Melinda Gates, and others for sure, who sincerely understand the concepts of the ‘greater good,’ fairness, and the dignity of work. Sure, Mr. Hanauer readily acknowledges that when workers are compensated a livable, fair wage − it’s good for businesses, including his own. That’s the beauty of building an economy that recognizes ‘we are all in this together,’ rich, poor, and in between. When society’s wealth is distributed on the basis of fairness, rich folks will still be rich, and poor folks will be empowered to provide shelter, food, and clothing for their families. Our great nation has a solemn obligation, especially citizens blessed with wealth, to make certain that every person, every family, who works for a decent living can achieve economic security.

Hanauer’s minimum wage formula is one significant way that we can save capitalism from itself. Extreme greed by the rich, the oligarchs, will be the culprit that unravels capitalism. If we as a nation truly cherish “free enterprise,” we will heed Nick’s advice – and do so sooner, rather than later.