The bare minimum

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Henry Ford, the country’s first great automaker — and, during his time, one of its most prominent anti-Semites — was by most measures a real jerk. But he recognized a single fact that changed everything about this country and ushered in an age of historic prosperity.

Ford knew that he wouldn’t sell very many cars if no one could afford them. And he famously paid his workers double the standard wage of the day, arguing that they should be able to buy the products they made — and also ensuring a loyal, trained workforce.

Even paying his workers at double the rate, he was still able to build 170,000 of them in 1913, right before the onset of World War I, during which he sold even more cars..

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to stand against raising the minimum wage, chief among them that it’s expensive, it lowers overall employment and it eats into profits.

Or does it?

We will know soon enough the practical implications of paying people enough to live on.

Proponents say it lifts the wage floor, causing a bunch of that “trickle-down economics” we’ve all been hearing so much about.

No matter: Seven states have enacted increases in the minimum wage, and a few cities have jumped aboard the movement. We will know soon enough the practical implications of paying people enough to live on.

The moral implications of not doing so are more readily evident: a tier of concentrated wealth built on an underclass subsidized by government programs, and a disappearing layer of the people who purchase the goods and services the other two produce.

More than that: Paying a person less than it takes to live on is a theft of that person’s time, and a looting of the taxpayers who must make up the difference.

It seems like industry is working the short con here, with the end result being that most people won’t be able to afford the things they make without government assistance.

You’d think our captains of industry would remember the ideas of Henry Ford, a man whose products are still available today, 100 years later.