Back in the day, my first job was working in Petaluma’s only movie theatre. There was only one screen. I got paid to stand in the back of the theatre and see all my favorite movies, except on nights when I worked the ticket booth.
My least favorite station was working the candy counter. Before the movie and at intermission it was intense – adding up the price of the order and making correct change – all in my head. Cash registers were just that – they registered cash.
It was a good job for a 16 year old high school junior. It gave me my first taste of accountability to a boss and a little bit of financial independence from my parents. I don’t remember how much I was paid, but I can’t imagine it was more than the minimum wage at the time.
When I go the movies, today, the box office clerks, ushers and candy counter workers all too often have grey hair. It makes me sad to see people in the prime of their lives working at a minimum wage job.
Minimum Wage Earner Is Not Middle Class
It worries me to think that even if Congress raises the minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $10.10/hour two of these middle aged workers – both working full-time and combining their incomes would just barely make it into the so-called American middle class. Middle class income is estimated to begin at about $40,000.
San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, already has a city-wide minimum wage of $10/hour – a little over $20,000 a year/full-time and few of these jobs are full-time. Average rent here for a one bedroom apartment is more than $1000/month – leaving these people at the brink of homelessness.
What about their future? They will earn barely $600 a month in Social Security. After a life-time of work, they will be dependent on Medicaid and Food Stamps.
That’s not the America I grew up in. That’s not the American future I imagine.
Raising The Minimum Wage is Economic Triage
Increasing the minimum wage does bring some temporary help for low wage workers, but it does nothing to solve the underlying problem.
The American middle class is shrinking faster than the polar ice caps.
The question is are we going to concede defeat or are we going to ignite a 21st century American economy that provides stability and prosperity for everyone willing to work for it.
This is not a government OR a private sector responsibility.
This is a NATIONAL Emergency
In the wake of tornadoes or forest fires or flood – we see Americans spontaneously reaching out to help their neighbors. They don’t wait for government to come and tell them what to do.
Even before the danger passes neighbors grab shovels and dig through the rubble to save lives and property. Home Depot and the Red Cross deliver relief supplies while government officials are still looking for the requisition forms.
The national economic crisis is no different. Every American must make national economic recovery their personal responsibility!
Economic Recovery Starts With Me
It starts with your wallet. Every time you make the decision to BUY AMERICAN you contribute to creating good paying American jobs.
It continues at the ballot box. Before voting to re-elect your representative to Congress or the Senate look and listen – are they leading the fight for real economic reform?
It culminates when Americans invite our private sector to step forward and lead from the middle.
Major Economic Surgery
There’s a lot of talk but not enough action to harness America’s innovation economy.
Innovation does not just happen. It occurs when a great idea meets a thoughtful, detailed implementation plan – well executed.
What if Warren Buffet and Bill Gates established a private/public think-tank chartered to develop a road-map to transform the American economy?
What if the think tank recruited a team comprised of past and present state governors, business, political, academic and social leaders and the four living former US Presidents – to examine every facet of American life and its impact on the economy.
Building Public Support for Economic Transformation
Economic transformation can’t happen without broad public support. The think tank must build a national consensus around a bold National-21st – Century Economic-Roadmap – timelines, milestones, KPIs and assigned responsibilities.
What if the think tank recruited David Muir and his ABC Made-in-America team to demonstrate how the economy works?
What if team members conducted – a beer teach-in on the economy – as a regularly scheduled reality TV show?
A strong and prosperous Second American Century Roadmap can’t be built on the minimum wage. It can be built on the self-sufficiency of average Americans who never fail to rise to meet any challenge or threat they understand.
Photo Credit: The White House