The fundamental law of capitalism is that if workers have no money, businesses have no customers. That’s why the extreme, and widening, wealth gap in our economy presents not just a moral challenge, but an economic one, too. In a capitalist system, rising inequality creates a death spiral of falling demand that ultimately takes everyone down.
Low-wage jobs are fast replacing middle-class ones in the U.S. economy. Sixty percent of the jobs lost in the last recession were middle-income, while 59 percent of the new positions during the past two years of recovery were in low-wage industries that continue to expand such as retail, food services, cleaning and health-care support. By 2020, 48 percent of jobs will be in those service sectors.
Policy makers debate incremental changes for arresting this vicious cycle. But perhaps the most powerful and elegant antidote is sitting right before us: a spike in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
This is what we are gong to have to do one way or another as more and more labor is replaced by “working capital” (i.e. automation). The question, as per, is how long we are going to fight against the obvious before it hits.