This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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A California Democrat strongly suggested Sunday that any small business that cannot afford to pay its workers a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour should not be open or otherwise allowed to operate until they can.
In an interview with CNN, Rep. Ro Khanna said that the country shouldn’t want “low-wage businesses” after he was pressed about how many of them would likely struggle to survive under a federal $15-per-hour minimum wage mandate.
“I know that you feel very strongly like many progressives about the minimum wage issue. Right now, at the same time, businesses, both large and small, are struggling in this pandemic economy, more than 9 million jobs have been lost in the last year, and they still aren’t back, and the problem is particularly acute in industries like retail and foodservice, which are more likely to pay minimum wage,” anchor Abby Phillip said to open the segment.
“I think the question that a lot of Republicans are posing and perhaps some moderate Democrats is timing. Is now the right time to increase it to $15? I should say the bill has stages, of course, but immediately it would go up about 30 percent right now. Is now the right time to do that?” she asked.
“Abby, it’s absolutely the right time to give working Americans a raise,” Khanna began. “Let’s look at the facts. Amazon raised their wage to $15 nationally, not regionally. They have more jobs today. It didn’t hurt job creation or business. Target followed. They also did it nationally, more jobs.”
Of course, Amazon is a massive corporation, so comparing the e-tail behemoth to a mom-and-pop shop on main street in Small Town America is apples and oranges. Further, a look into Khanna’s past does not show any extensive business ownership experience (he went to law school, joined a firm for a few years focusing on intellectual property and trade secret issues, then got into government).
Phillip pressed, “Large businesses like Amazon and McDonald’s, for example, can and perhaps should pay more, but I’m wondering what is your plan for smaller businesses? How does this, in your view, affect mom and pop businesses who are just struggling to keep their doors open, keep workers on pate roll right now?” [Fact check: Most restaurant franchises are locally owned by small business owners and their profit margins are extremely tight; forcing them to pay roughly double what they are now will lead to closures and lay-offs, denying mostly younger Americans an opportunity to gain valuable work experience that will serve them later in life.]
Khanna’s response was as tone-deaf as it was breathtaking.
“Well, they should be doing it by paying people low wages. We don’t want low-wage businesses,” he said.
“Most successful small businesses can pay a fair wage. If you look at the minimum wage, it increased with worker productivity until 1968, and that relationship was severed. If workers were actually getting paid for the value they were creating, it would be up to $23,” he continued without offering any fact-based analysis to support his claims.
But shouldn’t business owners, who have invested their own money, be the ones who decide what to pay employees? Khanna says no, the government should be mandating what employers must pay employees, regardless of their ability to do so.
“I love small businesses, I’m all for it, but I don’t want small businesses that are underpaying employees. It’s fair for people to be making what they’re producing. I think $15 is very reasonable in this country,” he added.