Out-of-control money breeds power, which breeds money, which breeds more power. This increase in power and wealth for America’s richest intensifies income inequality and transmutes our democracy into an oligarchy. We can begin to reclaim universal unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit happiness by creating economic justice with a living wage for all.
Enterprises are sustained by operating at a profit, with income exceeding expenses; this is true for corporations, small businesses, and families. So, if an employee’s pay check is less than expenses (shelter, heat, clothing, food, transportation, health care, education, child care and a prudent reserve for emergencies) working makes no fiscal sense.
Given that two-thirds of consumption is domestic spending, increased pay will expand the economy: Workers will spend more and the modest wage increases borne by small businesses will be offset by enhanced revenue. We will begin to reverse nine years of deficit budgeting in Vermont, as tax revenues will be augmented, and state expenses will decrease, because less social service and income support funding will be needed.
Entrepreneurs say that those who make a business succeed should expect a return on their investment; in other words, take the risk and reap the reward. They are right. But who really makes business succeed, who takes the risk? Workers, whose capital is not only their toil but also their commitment of signing leases or taking out mortgages, enrolling children in local schools, and connecting with neighbors in the community. It is the ski lift operator, waitstaff, groundskeeper, sales person, home care provider, housekeeper, and convenience store clerk who labor with hand, heart, and head, who bring about success in our tourism, retail and service industries. For the entrepreneur, if a business fails, it’s no big deal; he takes a tax write-off and goes elsewhere. But for working families committed locally, success is crucial. So, it is only right that those who take the risk to create our economy should earn a fair return.
While some socially responsible businesses support just compensation, most corporate powers do not: With tax cuts for the rich and decreased benefits for every one else, we become less and less a land of equity and opportunity. Yet, capitalism does not decide for us. Our Declaration of Independence gives us the right to determine our destiny.
When the so-called free market does not secure for everyone life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, our founding document is quite clear: the duty falls to government.
It is time for Vermont, through our elected representatives, to immediately say yes to a $15 an hour minimum wage and, in solidarity with our nation’s founders, pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to take control of our state and our country from the oligarchs, and return it to the people.