The Miraculous Minimum Wage

I was overjoyed to hear that our Republican Congress is planning on raising the minimum wage again. The proposal will raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15. What took them so long! The minimum wage law is one of the best government policies. Merely by typing certain words on paper and saying, aye, Congress puts real money into the hands of the poorest workers. Not only that, but it doesn't cost taxpayers a cent because no government money is spent on the project. This is clearly a superb example of government at its best.

I must confess I haven't the slightest idea how it all works. I know that workers make more money and can buy more and better food, clothing, and shelter. I also know that Congressmen make none of these things. Yet, the Congressmen make it all possible. It's nothing less than magic, unexplainable and beautiful and beneficent magic. In our drearily rational, scientific, and technical world, a little magic is a welcome respite from the grim, harsh world of reality. The minimum wage miracle is proof of the old adage, "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

With that thought in mind, I think we can conceive, believe, and achieve a lot more with this kind of miraculous policymaking. As far as I am concerned, the sky's the limit. First, what's this nonsense about $6.15? Can anyone really live on that chump change. I think a reasonable salary for people these days is at least $15.00 per hour or thirty thousand dollars per year. Anyone earning less than that is a walking laugh riot in today's society anyway. So let's raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. That way, all workers' salaries will be above average.

I know what you're going to say, won't businesses have to raise prices to increase revenue to pay these new salaries? I am way ahead of you there, buster. We deal with that by passing a maximum price law. No prices will be allowed to rise for five years. At the end of the five years, businesses can apply for a modest price increase and they get one as long as the reason is not the increased minimum wage. Some people say that businesses will fire people and hire fewer people if the minimum wage is raised. That's just another unproven economic theory put forth by the same old sourpusses who oppose all progressive social legislation. But even if they are right, we can deal with that with yet another miraculous stroke of the pen. Let's pass a law making it illegal to fire anyone because of a minimum wage law increase, or to fail to hire someone because of such an increase, and allow the victims to recover attorneys' fees and quadruple damages. Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

There's only one other loophole for greedy employers to escape the clutches of economic justice. Faced with the requirement of raising wages, not laying anyone off, and not raising prices, some employers may consider going bankrupt or going out of business. We can deal with that devious scheme as follows. All we have to do is remember our basic premise that Congress can improve the lives of the people without producing any wealth itself and without increasing taxes or spending, all with a mere stroke of the pen. Thus, all they have to do is put some words on legislative paper to the effect that any employer who goes out of business because of the minimum wage law is guilty of a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison. So much for that problem.

Well, now that I think of it, there is the problem of employers avoiding this penalty by committing suicide. It is amazing the lengths that reactionary, rapacious capitalists will go to avoid putting money into the hands of the working poor. This prospect, however, can be deterred by passing yet another law that would make the minimum wage earners the beneficiaries of their suicidal employers’ estates, notwithstanding any will or statute to the contrary. Okay, putting myself in the place of the endlessly devious capitalist, I just thought of another problem. What if the employer, knowing he cannot operate the business profitably, go out of business, or kill himself, decides to go crazy? Well, in that case, the law would provide for a receiver of the business to liquidate assets and pay them to the minimum wage earners. So you see, just like in a horror movie when the evil demon is chasing you, there's no escape from the magic of social justice. Go ahead, you greedy capitalist pig, make my day, kill yourself!

September 1, 2000

James Ostrowski is an attorney practicing at 984 Ellicott Square, Buffalo, New York 14203; (716) 854-1440; FAX 853-1303. See his website at