The infuriating arguments against raising the minimum wage

If there is one thing that really makes my blood boil, it is smug, rich people coming up with arguments as to why people who are barely surviving on what they earn should not be paid more. These people are disgusting human beings. I honestly cannot understand how you can be so lacking in basic human decency that you think that it is actually a good thing for people to live in constant anxiety about how to make ends meet. The fact that children are also among those affected does not seem to bother them in the least.

Jon Stewart takes a look at the arguments that these people offer and marvels that anyone could say such things.

The Daily Show
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(These clips aired on December 5, 2013. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)


  1. wilsim says

    People that can say those things are on the far apathetic end of the empathy spectrum.

    They either haven’t ever had to struggle to make ends meet, seen their kid hungry and crying for food, ordon’t know anyone who is barely getting by.

    Disgusting, really, how many people are capable of ignoring the suffering of their neighbors.

  2. Sleeper (from Sci blogs) says

    There was a paper published last year called “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” which seems to show that the more money you have the more likley you are to think you deserve it. Which I guess implies the wealthy may also hold the converse belief, if you don’t have money you don’t deserve it.

    An article in New York magazine gave a brief overview of the area of research.
    The Money-Empathy Gap

  3. hyphenman says

    Good evening Mano,

    All discussions of minimum wages or living wages are meaningless.

    Until workers receive a share, some set percentage of gross profits, there will be no justice in employment.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,


  4. J. J. Ramsey says

    One thing I find strange about the argument that raising the minimum wage is somehow welfare or a government handout is that someone who’s on a non-living wage is more likely to actually need government assistance, such as food stamps.

  5. miles says

    I think he means gross as in the opposite of net (gross being profit before deductions like operating expenses and taxes, net being after) – profit sharing.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Yes. Clever accountants can make net profits ‘disappear’ so you want to get a share of the gross profits which are less easily manipulated.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Not only that, if people are paid a living wage, they actually go out and buy stuff (because they need the essentials have to) and this stimulates the economy and provides jobs for others.

  8. Andrew B. says

    Geez, and sorry for the auto-imbedding. Don’t know the code to disable that and present the link just as a link.

  9. Félix Desrochers-Guérin says

    Like this:

    <a href="">Hey, look at this video!</a>

  10. hyphenman says

    Good morning all,

    Raising the minimum wage only works if:

    (a) all retail costs remain the same (i.e., the government freezes prices); and
    (b) all salaries higher than minimum wage (particularly government wages) are not indexed to the increase.

    If (a) and (b) are not true, any increase in minimum wage has, at best, only short-term (until the next election) benefits; and the status quo — the minimum wage is not a living wage and people at the bottom once again need public assistance — returns.

    The Royal Navy had the right model.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,


  11. says

    Indeed. The marginal utility of an extra dollar is vastly greater to a poor person than a rich one, as it is to the economy, because poor people, we spend every dime we get every month, just to survive. Give me more dimes, I’ll spend more dimes on the things I’ve been neglecting.

    Put another dime in Romney’s pocket, what’s he going to do? Buy a third car elevator? Get John McCain his sixth house?

    Increasingly, I find myself thinking that some form of guaranteed basic income is going to be the only empathetic way forward, in an economy where a higher rate of unemployment goes hand-in-hand with increased productivity: when machine translation becomes available to do a professional-quality job – which, thankfully, won’t be soon, and maybe not before I’m croaked – what am I going to do? Retrain at 57 years old?

    The more white-collar and pink-collar jobs are replaced by automation, the less effective the economy will be at providing liveable wages to a reasonable proportion of the people. We – generally, I mean, in the western dems – need to have certain basic things made non-profit. These include health care, fresh water, and a minimum food and power supply. Without these things, it’s not really possible to function efficiently in a modern society, and there’s no particular reason other than tradition that we haven’t included food and/or power and/or health care in the ‘government responsibility’ bin, as we already do with roads, water, fire/police/ambulance, national defence, and so on.

    There’s still plenty of market left for capital to play in; add a tiny fraction of a percent as a financial transaction tax so that society gets some benefit from the giant casino wherein our economies are rashly gambled daily, – in the same way that we levy fees on airlines to use airports, to cover the cost of “what happens if it crashes?”, we should be doing this to the financial speculators for the same reason. If we add that tiny percentage in transaction tax, we’d have no real issues financing all of the above as public utilities.

    Food is probably the most problematic one there, but I don’t see why it should necessarily be left out of the survival package.

  12. fentex says

    Annoyingly, now that all my problems with auto-playing have passed, these Daily Show embeds are blocked for my location. Argh.

  13. ollie says

    Wow…those who say “why not raise the minimum wage to 30-40-50 dollars an hour” must have forgotten about calculus and that there is such thing as a “local maximum” that is also a “global maximum”.


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