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Guest Column: Minimum Wage, Maximum Rage

Comments (8)
Thursday, December 26, 2013

Two years ago I opened the doors to my new business, Sal’s Bakery and Café in Springfield. As a new small business owner, I had my ups and downs. Taxes, inventory, utilities, advertising, everything comes with an ever-increasing price tag. Now our commonwealth is facing a new increase, a positive for many and a negative for some: an increase in the minimum wage.

The problems with this increase are numerous for a small business owner. Do I have to reduce employee hours? Do I have to lay off employees? Do I increase prices? Each of these choices comes with a cost. Increasing prices may very well reduce purchases; laying off employees and reducing hours could be detrimental to employees. It seems easy to understand how a small business owner would be upset at the idea of a minimum wage increase. I am a business owner, not a charity. It only makes sense for me to make money from my employee’s work. If the employee is costing me more than I am profiting, that is bad business. If I increase prices, I potentially lose business.

Some “experts” try to persuade us small business owners that the increased wage equals out to more spending. I call that bullshit. If an employee sees a $3 per hour increase at 40 hours, he or she will take home about $95 after taxes. Is an additional $95 in his pocket going to mean that he will support small local businesses? Most likely not. Such a person seems an unlikely candidate to switch to a more expensive product just because he has a few extra dollars that week. On top of that, most businesses don’t give 40 hours to minimum-wage employees.

Bottom line, this is typical Massachusetts ignorance. Our elected leaders think they are helping, but they are not. Not one of them talks to the silent heroes of our communities: the small business owners. We are not rich people; we wake up before the sun rises, and we go to bed sometimes after midnight. We stay up worried about tomorrow’s sales, and we sometimes struggle to pay all our bills.

We love our neighbors and try to be as fair as possible. We pay more than our fair share of taxes, but we always get screwed in the end. Then these same politicians wonder why there are so many vacant store fronts, and why Main Street is covered with storefront churches and not shopping plazas. Why do we protest Walmart but do little to support mom-and-pop shops?

Minimum wage should not be a living wage. It is intended for non-professionals and students. The American way is not to settle for the minimum but strive for the maximum. We Americans are risk-takers, foreseers, philosophers and doers. We should never be comfortable with what is minimally guaranteed, but utilize our liberties to reach our dreams. We are not meant to be simply content, but we are called to strive for true success, virtue, and happiness. This liberalism that takes our economy hostage needs to be tackled and the free market should be allowed to be just that: free. This free market will then turn us to maximum wage and minimum rage.•

Sal Circosta closed Sal’s Bakery and Cafe earlier this month.

Comments (8)
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If the only way your business can be profitable is by paying your employees less than a living wage, then maybe it's time to reevaluate your business model. It's possible you're cut out to be a small business owner.

Posted by Reality Check on 12.26.13 at 15:01

I do think it would be nice if all politicians had the opportunity to run a business small or large before they start writing laws for all the people in our city, state or country.

Posted by Paul Sears on 12.26.13 at 18:23

Dear Reality Check: I think you need one. Sal is only addressing a reality; if costs go up then prices, quality or both will suffer. If prices or quality go down, then people will find a cheaper or better place to get their desired product. A large business can absorb costs in different ways or impact the marketplace by passing the cost of wages to the consumer thereby creating of inflation. Either way, the minimum wage whatever it is set at will either price minimum wage employees out of the market (nonprofessionals or students) or the cost of living will increase and make it difficult for everyone and creating less than a living wage for the minimum wage employee. It is a "dog chasing his tail" analogy; the minimum wage will never catch the living wage. This is a simple reality. Let the Free Market decide prices and wages and everyone will win.

Posted by Rick H. on 12.27.13 at 6:53

Sal, kudos to you for speaking the truth. Today's liberalism is relentlessly waging war against small business owners. Raising the wage causes less jobs to be available resulting in a net negative for the job market. I blame the left's class warfare rhetoric championed by Elizabeth Warren among many others who think the economy is a zero sum game. Your failure is the direct result of someone else's success. You nailed it by saying how people should not be able to live comfortably earning the minimum. It should be a stepping stone, not a hammock. The bottom line is that if you earn minimum wage for more than a year then that is what you're worth. Nothing wrong with it but I'm sick of the fantasy economics of Warren and her ilk convincing naive people that they are being taken advantage of. They expect business owners to absorb any increase in minimum wage as if their primary responsibility is to support employees rather than turn a profit.

Posted by Ben on 12.27.13 at 16:53

hey sal, quit your whining. i bet you charged $8.00 for a loaf of bread like your fellow small businees owners on main st. a real small business owner wouldn't hire outside help, they'd do all the work themselves and have members of their family help out, as an in kind contribution. that's what real paisans do!

personally, i prefer the machine made baked goods at walmart. the price is a fraction you small business owners charge, and i don't have to listen to right wing diatribes when i check out and pay your exhorbitant prices. i also find a better class of people at walmart, people that know what it is to work for a living.

hillbilly dave

Posted by dave lanciano on 12.28.13 at 7:58

I’m a strong advocate of small, locally-based businesses – and, while my income is modest, I will pay more to shop local and help small businesses stay alive. I can see lots of ways we can help small business to thrive: Business tax structures take too much from the small business owner and far too little from the chains and big boxes. License fees and insurance rates need to be reduced. Health insurance costs need to be supported more by society at large, less by individual employers – especially the smaller ones. Many environmental and health regulations, well-intentioned as they are, operate more as bludgeons than as guardians and need to be streamlined where small business is concerned. And – equally important to all of the above – we as citizens need to recognize the role that small businesses play in keeping our communities vital, and also recognize the damaging effects of chains and big boxes – and put our money behind it. The one thing we must NOT do is punish our lowest-income wage earners by denying them even the hope of keeping pace with the cost of living.

There is no evidence to support the idea that an unrestrained free market is to the benefit of society in any way. The concept is both morally and economically bankrupt. During the period of this country’s greatest economic strength, the late 1950’s to early 1970’s, wage levels and tax structures were FAR more equitable than they are today, the disparity between rich and poor a fraction of what it is now. We don’t need to wait to see the fruits of an unrestrained free market; we are already living in it: Skyrocketing wealth for a very few, anxiety and reduced quality of life for everyone else. Schools stripped bare of teachers and programs, crumbling infrastructure, the homeless and mentally ill roaming our streets, stratospheric levels of antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug use. This is your unrestrained free market at work.

There is another phrase for ‘unrestrained free market’, less pretty but more revealing of its moral reality: Jungle law. What we need is not to punish the lowest level of wage earners – or to burden them with the mean-spirited judgement that they are somehow deficient in character by not having made themselves rich - but to change the laws so the “little guy” – both individual and business – has a fair chance.

Posted by Gordon Kramer on 12.28.13 at 22:22

"There is no evidence to support the idea that an unrestrained free market is to the benefit of society in any way."

And there is the strawman argument, folks. Pushing for more government control while accusing your opponents of wanting "jungle law." In reality that is not and has not been the real argument.

Posted by Ben on 12.30.13 at 8:41

I agree strongly with the gentleman who wrote the piece. The minimum wage is one of those ideas that looks great, ubntil you start seeing the results, and one important result is that there are fewer jobs. There are many positions that are not worth the $8.00 per hour(or whatever the minimum wage is). As I understand it, the minimum wage was not initially thought of as a living wage but as a minimum for minor part time jobs that high school kids could fill. At this point, I think we would do better by completely eliminating the minimum wage and let the market determine what the minimum is. I think that there would be few people who would accept $4.00 per hour, but some people would start accepting jobs at rates from $5.00, but that would be a short part-time job, maybe an hour a day.

After we get rid of that hurdle that faces people starting businesses we could try to get rid of more of the bars to creating new jobs.

Posted by Peter P. Lewicke on 1.4.14 at 13:59
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