The good news is, while you weren’t looking, Denver raised the minimum wage in that city by almost $2 a hour.
That’s the bad news, too.
A seriously higher minimum wage is great for people who currently toil at jobs that often go wanting. If you work at one, you can afford some cheap food, or you can afford a crappy place to live. But you can’t afford both cheap food and a crappy place to live.
The argument for a bare-bottom wage has raged for decades. Market purists — aka tightwads — say the labor market should dictate the price of labor, just like it does everything else.
It’s a bogus argument because the market does not literally dictate the cost of almost everything in this country. The market affects costs and prices, but government regulations, associations, taxes, tariffs and more work to drive the costs of electricity, gasoline, rent, broadband and the bevy of things that almost every business depends on.
I can recall endless times as a business employee and as a business owner I have seen decision makers shrug a little when faced with a 20 percent hike in the cost of newsprint or big gasoline surcharges.
The same decision makers have emotional meltdowns when pushed to provide cost of living raises to employees.
They take to the twitterverse in angry droves when governments ponder raising the minimum wage.
These same people hardly grumble or remain silent when President Donald Trump imposes tariffs that translate to instant tax hikes on a multitude of businesses and industries.
The same tired and erroneous argument is made when lawmakers work to hike the minimum wage: It kills jobs.
The reality from endless studies? It does not.
Just like a hike in trash removal or rent, it eats into profits and sometimes forces price hikes. But real, bona fide study after study shows that hikes in the minimum wage do not affect job growth for cities or regions.
Immediately, naysayers point to the fast-food industry, wailing that the price of a drive-through burger will rise 50 cents.
The U.S. president is a perverse felon, global warming is threatening our species’ very existence, the cost of crappy health insurance for even crappier health care is fast surpassing the cost of housing, and the Broncos couldn’t beat Grandview High School on a good day.
Burger prices? The argument tends to run toward our constitutional right to have cheap stuff, even at the expense of other humans.
Child sweat shops in China in exchange for cheap t-shirts? No problem. Dollar-menu drive-thrus at the cost of the slaves who make them being unable to pay their electric bill? Toughies for them.
All of these harsh and senseless arguments come from a lot of people thinking that people who work for a living are essentially lazy and therefore not worthy of a higher wage. Arguments against hiking the minimum wage also stem from people not equating time with money, and work with goods.
A minimum wage worker in Texas must work almost two hours to pay for a fast-food meal. They get $7.25 an hour and then pay taxes on that.
Now you know why half of Texas is moving to Colorado, where the minimum wage is nearly $4 an hour higher.
Is two hours of your time, doing anything, worth only a Whopper, fries, shake and maybe a cookie?
I didn’t think so.
So here’s the bad news about Denver raising the minimum wage: Aurora is not. Not yet, anyway.
A lower minimum wage means that in a labor market as tight as this one, those precious few willing to work for minimum wage will wisely and most certainly choose to work in Denver.
Wouldn’t you? Cleaning offices or handing tacos through a drive-thru window on the other side of Havana Street makes sense. It gets you an $80 a week raise, which is real money when you’re making $11.10 an hour.
It’s a cell-phone bill, groceries and maybe even some beer.
The bad news about Denver hiking the minimum wage isn’t bad new for workers in Aurora. It’s bad news for Aurora businesses that suffer under corporate control and can’t voluntarily raise their wage to match Denver. It’s bad news for Aurora businesses that simply refuse to do it, saying they just can’t afford it.
And that’s the real argument over a minimum wage: entitlement. No one is entitled to run a business based on paying people wages that force them to live in working poverty.
If you can’t afford to pay people for their time, you don’t have a business. You have a hobby, and you need volunteers, not employees.
So, Aurora. It’s up to us now. Denver’s new wage starts next month. We can either match it or hash over old arguments. Instead of offering “help wanted” signs to Aurora businesses, we can hand out “good luck” placards. They’re going to need it.
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