“Where did this idea come from— that if you raise the minimum wage, there’ll be an economic disaster? That if you give poor people money they’ll just hoard it, that the money just disappears into a black hole and everybody stops hiring and unemployment soars because it’s too expensive to hire people…?
You know what happens when you give poor people a bigger cash flow?
Suddenly we’re not living paycheck to paycheck. We don’t have to choose between paying the electric bill and the groceries, we can actually cover both. Suddenly we’re not nervously eyeballing the first of the month, because covering rent is no big deal.
We get that funny noise in the car engine fixed even if it’s several hundred dollars, instead of just putting up with the knocking and driving to work with our teeth gritted and fingers crossed every day waiting for the car to just up and die (and then end up spending several thousand on a new used car— being poor can actually be very expensive). We get the house’s leaky windows patched up and hey, the heating bill just went down, look at that. We’re less tempted to rack up debt on credit cards buying— not luxuries, but essential things like food or medicine.
We’ll pay for nannies and babysitters for our kids so we can show up to work that job flipping your burgers. We’ll pay for after-school programs and extracurricular activities so our kids are happy, socialized, and well-rounded.
We’ll funnel that money into more books, movie tickets, weekend getaways, art supplies, a hobby vegetable garden, community involvement, whatever— things that enrich our lives and take away the stress of the working day, because we’re no longer sinking all our time and energy into two or three jobs just to scrape up enough to make the most meager of ends meet. We’ll buy gifts for our loved ones on holidays. We’ll go out to eat more, shop for clothes more— patronizing the businesses that hire minimum wage workers. (How ‘bout that.)
We might put some money in a savings account, yes, but eventually spend it— on major purchases like college or a house, or spend it when retirement rolls around. But by and large all that extra money gets fed right back into the local economy— by workers who are more likely to be happy, less likely to be stressed and exhausted.
I’m not saying having more income will magically fix all problems min-wage workers have. But it will take care of the biggest ones, and enable us to take care of many more.
And you can be damn sure if you give us more income the one thing we won’t be doing with it is hiding it in a mattress and never spending it.
Rich people do that.”