I think an important and often missing part of the on-going “low wage” conversation is how a company’s decision to pay below-poverty-line wages affects more than just the employees. The vast majority of individuals receiving public benefits are from working families that are poorly paid, which costs taxpayers an estimated quarter trillion dollars every year.
I don’t want to frame this only as an issue of “poor workers are costing taxpayers money.” Instead, it’s an issue of corporations with profits in the billions of dollars taking advantage of public money to subsidize their labor operations in order to keep prices low. People say raising the minimum wage will also raise costs for consumers at these businesses. That seems appropriate, or at least it makes more sense than every American subsidizing their labor costs. And the argument that increasing wages will lead to a favoring of capital over labor, or increased automation, is an issue that this country will have to face (and the subject of my Amazon and Google cartoon a couple weeks ago) but is not a good argument for continuing to treat workers unfairly.