Discussion of the minimum wage can easily slide into a technocratic back-and-forth that ignores the vital political aspect at play. We can see this in much of the response to the report just released by the Ontario government’s Minimum Wage Advisory Panel (MWAP). Andrew Coyne, for example, once again argues that a basic income is a better solution to poverty than increases in the minimum wage. The question, however, should not be one of which single tool is best for fighting poverty, but how we can build the most effective toolkit, one that also puts political power into the hands of the poor. Poverty is multi-faceted and, while low-wage work is only one potential aspect of being poor, the minimum wage has effects beyond providing much-needed higher incomes.
I know I promised to not post until the New Year. Clearly the holidays have gotten the better of me. This, however, will be a short reflection and at once a New Year’s resolution.
Christmas is a time of large get-togethers for my family and this year was no different. We feasted late into the night on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. Both nights the talk at the table inevitably turned to politics.
The range of economic, social and political problems identified during our meals would make any left-wing activist squirm in her seat with glee. A dearth of good jobs, runaway inequality, corporate control of politics, rampant consumerism, housing unaffordability, environmental degradation, climate change – these and more like them were raised many times over and by different people. Indeed, there was broad agreement at both feast-tables that we are in the midst of a systemic crisis.
At this point, you would expect the token lefty writer and activist (me) to easily leap up onto the table, make a rousing speech and lead a rabble in its Sunday best to take over the nearest bank, corporate office or shopping mall armed with borscht spoons and pierogis…or, at least, to get widespread agreement among those at the table that the only sensible way forward is a strong left-wing program – one best able to address the concerns raised.
Sadly, nothing like the latter took place (nor the former in case you’ve been holding your breath).