Thursday, July 24, 2008

Minimum Wage

Hold your breath people, minimum wage is about to increase by 70 cents--from $5.85 to $6.55. By next year, they should be making $7.25 an hour.

Way to go DC! (he writes sarcastically) Those making minimum wage have gone from making a lowly $12,000/annually to a whopping $13,600. Next year, they will have it made with their $16,000 a year.

That doesn't include benefits, health care, transportation, childcare, paid vacation, sick days, etc.

Something seems to be wrong with this?
(I've changed the language from the original post. The word "sin" was too strong. Don't want that word to hinder this conversation.)


Anonymous said...

minimum wage was NEVER designed to be a permanent solution. if you dont want to flip burgers at age 45 then get training or education or some ambition.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree. Social liberals have basically mislead the poor into a "dead end" lifestyle. Instead of giving them crutches, there should be more inspiration to improve their lives regardless of their circumstances. This is what America (and true Christianity) is all about. Dont rely on others- especially the government!

Anonymous said...

Glad to know you don't own any TV's, Computers, Ipods, clothes from Gap that are made in countries that pay their people even less!!

Josh Ross said...

Government is not the answer to problems in the world. It never can be.
However, be very careful to say that people making minimum wage or flipping burgers don't have ambition.
I have story after story (and some of you do to) of people who have been caught up in the cycle of poverty. There are some success stories like in the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness." But that isn't the case for everyone.
Who is going to hire a 24-yr-old man who just served 5 years in the pen? Yeah, he made a mistake at the age of 18, might even have a kid or two, he might be very amtitious, but will he be given another chance?

Or, a 25-year-old who has been immersed in poverty their entire lives attempts to break the cycle by going back to school. The only problem is that she has 2 kids. She already has to work at least one job to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. Maybe she gets a scholarship but she still has to provide for the fam. She still has bills. She still has two kids to nurture.

"Pick yourself up by your own bootstraps" isn't the hope that we have to offer to the world.

From MLK Jr., "It is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps."

I'm assuming Anonymous #1 is different than Anonymous #2. I love your line, "Instead of giving them crutches, there should be more inspiration to improve their lives regardless of their circumstances." Good stuff.

Josh Ross said...

Anonymous #3, your response just made everything better. :)

Josh Ross said...

To all those commenting under "Anonymous." This is a blog created for healthy dialogue. I often write to stimulate thought and conversation.

If you have something to say, don't hide behind "anonymous." Write your name.

I changed the settings a few days ago in order for anyone to respond. I don't want to have to change it back, but if people abuse the "anonymous" title, then I will have no choice.

I do appreciate the conversation.

Mick Wright said...

Josh, at what exact point does the wage mandated by the federal government go from sinful to righteous? It's clear that you object to $7.25, so please reveal the specific dollar amount.

Will it continue to be modern day slavery, oppression and sin until the federal government mandates that businesses pay your specified wage along with all of the benefits you've listed to every minimum wage earner, the vast majority of whom are teenagers, part-time workers and secondary income-earners? Do teenagers need health care, child care and paid vacation in order for the nation to stop sinning?

Why isn't it sinful and oppressive that these federal mandates lead to higher unemployment and reduced productivity because businesses can afford to hire fewer workers? Why isn't it sinful and oppressive that such laws in fact raise the poverty level, rather than reducing it?

Why isn't it sinful for people to ignore the law of supply and demand and advocate federal mandates that do nothing to raise real wages and instead simply put more power in the hands of politicians?

Why isn't it sinful for the federal government to mandate wages that might correspond with the cost of living in one state but be unrealistically high or low in other states, where the cost of living is vastly different?

Why isn't it sinful for Christians to claim that liberal politics and socialist federal policies are righteous in the eyes of God, while conservative politics and libertarian federal policies represent slavery, oppression and sin?

Anonymous said...

I was going to have a lengthy response, but Mick said much of what I was going to say (and more). My 3 points were going to be: (1) how much is enough (truth is - those depending on m.w. will always say it's not enough), (2) how raising the minimum wages leads to higher unemployment (small business can't take on the extra burden, so lay-offs are inevitable) & (3)16 year olds don't need to make as much as the 25 year old ex-con.

I promise never to make anonymous comments.

Josh Ross said...

That is the kind of response that I like--critiquing, thinking, pushing, questioning, etc. I appreciate your thoughts and I'm grateful to be at SVC with people like you.

My response:
-I'm not a politician, and I don't want to be.
-Also, I wasn't writing this morning as a liberal condemning conservatives.
-I am simply writing out of my experiences with the poor who often get trapped into a cycle of poverty and no matter how hard they try, they can't get out. I'm not writing out of my experiences with teenagers or people finding secondary jobs; I'm writing out of my own experiences of working with single mothers, men who have been released from prisons, and people in their early 20's whose parents neglected to give them value, dignity, and respect. These are people with ambition and passion. They want to provide for children, but they are trapped, and often society doesn't give them a way out.
-Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm assuming that most of our politicians have spent little time with the poor actually listening to their stories and understanding their lives and circumstances.
-I don't have a fixed number in my head; I just know that minimum wage hasn't changed much over the past decade while inflation has increased drastically.
-The language of "slavery, oppression, and sin" is strong language. Maybe too strong. I admit that.
-I don't rely on the government to pave the path for how I preach or live as a minister. There are decisions (and lack of decisions) that are made that aren't good for humanity and I want to talk about them.

-The greater question is this--"There are people in our world and in our community suffering from poverty and lures of wealth, from all kinds of diseases, from the cycles and chains that trap us, and from all different forms of oppression. If the church is to be God's presencse on this earth...what is our answer? What are the words of hope we are giving to the world? How will we respond?

Josh Ross said...

Will you please shoot me an email at
Thanks brother,

mouseclicker said...

Our present system has encouraged the cycle of poverty to continue. Breaking away is not easy, but can be done. The MUM program is proof of it. One graduate of the MUM program is now working on a masters degree at Freed Hardenman in counseling. Testimonies like that can encourage others to do the same.

Chris said...

In the paper today was the story of a guy and his fiancee who were supporting a family of seven on minimum wage.

I doubt if that is the whole story. They probably get food stamps, public housing and other services.

Josh, would you have changed your post if more people had agreed with you?

Justin said...

I think what the heart of this blog post is the treatment of those in poverty (rather than suburban high school students). I find it interesting that two solutions are being argued. Mainly change the government system, also pulling oneself up from one's bootstraps. That is a great MLK quote, the next step is trying to understand what it is like to have no bootstraps.

Getting training and education is not as readily available as it is for those of us who have the resources to post thoughts on a blog. I don't want to assume anonymous number one's situation, but based on their comment I am not sure they have experienced what it is like to be robbed of opportunities, to have no bootstraps.

Anonymous number two, Christianity and America are not all about the same thing in any aspect. Period. Our American values tell us to not be reliant on other people, that is far from a Christian value.

My contribution is to ask where the responsibility lies. Does Jesus' idea of the treatment of the poor include lobbying for a better legal system? Doesn't the church play a role here? Yes mouseclicker, MUM is a powerful ministry. That is where I think we as Christians should attack poverty.

Anonymous said...

This topic always makes me sick, not because of the strong feelings on both sides but because it overwhelms me.

I'm a minister in a small town in NM and we have people coming by on a daily basis seeking assitance. I rarely, if ever, feel as if I have the wisdom to discern what is best.

Yesterday, I visited with a mother of six who works but who had to take a couple of weeks off because her son came down sick. She was behind on bills and need clothes for the kids. I asked her about her husband, "Does he work?"
"He's looking?"
"How long has he been looking?"
"Over a year?"
"That's a long time to be looking."

I then said, "It sounds like you are having to do all the work and that he is contributing nothing." Tears began to stream as she nodded. He was lazy. She was working hard. Do you tell her to leave him... what about the kids? He is their dad. Do you try separation as tough love? I wanted to resonnate with her situation but I couldn't. I've never been there.

Same day... I visited with a woman from Germany who married an American 20 years her senior. He brought her here and has mistreated her ever since. She has no money. She is an illegal alien and he offers no help. If he won't petition for her change of status she must go back to Germany. The change of status process - $720. She had called me for a blessing. She assumed I was a priest. I prayed and she cried.

I don't have answers but these are people with stories. Each story is different and each one is real. Sometimes I'm naive and sometimes I'm cold and harsh. When I really think about it all I feel so helpless, so I try not to think about it.

The government isn't the solution, but it can help and we could go round and round on how best it could help. But, I must cling to the hope of the resurrection - that God is recreating through Christ, that the Church offers an alternative community and way of life, that we can learn to love those we frown upon (or who disgust us), and that the poor do have something to offer the Kingdom of God.

I appreciate the honest discussion. I'm often at a loss of what to do and constantly am faced with my own biases and prejudices that I claim not to have. Thanks, Josh for dealing with a difficult issue!

Josh Ross said...

I will begin meeting with the director of MUM, HopeWorks, Agape, and two other ministers in town in August to discuss poverty in Memphis. I look forward to the dialogue.

Chris, the answer is yes. After the first few comments I felt that the word "sin" was probably too strong and that it might hinder dialogue. I do not succomb to peep pressure, but I felt that it create a healthier environment.

Great words brother. You are right on. Thanks.

Thanks for your contribution today. I know that it comes straight from your heart. You are a loyal Christ-follower and a great minister. It is an honor to call you a friend and partner in ministry.

Luke said...

Few thoughts-
Even a cursory read of scripture shows that God cares about the poor (possibly even- God favors the poor and weak).

Sin is bigger than just missing the mark. Sin often is systemic and oppressive. Poverty is a systemic evil. Personal responsibility and communal support seems to be the best Spirit empowered responses.

We all have seen those who have abused the system to perpetuate laziness and many have seen those who truly cannot pull their non-existent boot straps up. Its a tough issue that we need to work together to bring glimpses of God's Kingdom into the lives of those struggling with it on both ends.

Karen said...


Great post! I appreciate your willingness to discuss a topic this controversial.

I struggle with self-righteous tendencies when it comes to those in need. In many cases, I question what lead to their situation. Would I be a crutch? An enabler? If their situation is so bleak, won't they come back repeatedly with the same need? I have family members - and friends with family members - who can drain you with "dire needs". And it can really pull on your heart strings.

But, I remember that I am called to be like Jesus. He not only helped the needy, but encouraged them to make necessary changes. Even the woman caught in adultery was told to "go and sin no more". Perhaps we, the church, should do all we can to assist those in need - meeting the most pressing need first (clothing, food, etc), but also doing all we can to lead them to a true solution.

I, personally, do not think the government should bear the responsibility. I think there are ample governmental programs in place to help the needy. In some ways, I believe there are too many - leading to complacency and dependence. I think it is the church (I'm referring to individuals, not necessarily the congregations) that needs to do more. Truthfully, there is SO much more we can do. But, that's a whole 'nother post. :-)

Jeff said...

I'm a little surprised you started off getting onto government's role with minimum wage when you so often state that government and Christianity do not walk the same path. Can government really be convicted of sin? I don't write that to be argumentative but to agree with many of your prior statements that we Christians bear a bigger burden of taking care of the poor, the weak, the oppressed than government should have.

If I turn the picture upside down for a minute, maybe the problem isn't the poverty and low wages but the excessive lifestyle I and many other Christians live in. Having spent time in a foreign country with brothers and sisters who average $300 month in wages, I have seen people who know more joy than I experience on a regular basis and who exhibit the love of Christ much better than I do. They are not worried about things of this world because they are not burdened by them. Maybe the issue isn't so much raising people's standard of living - maybe it's giving up everything we have to follow Christ.

Josh Ross said...

I appreciate your honesty. I think we all find ourselves in that tension.

Are you saying that I have inconsistent politics? :) We all do to some degree, right?
Great spin on the topic. Way to call us to the radical nature of Jesus found in Luke.

Whitney said...

Hey, Josh this is what I really appreciate about you! You're not afraid to step up and say when something is not just unfortunate but a sin against our fellow humans and because they are God's children, against God too. I think that until a lot of society's problems are framed in this way that many people aren't going to do much to help bring about change.

One thing that really stuck with me when talking with a group of nonprofit leaders was that in Austin two adults working full time making $10 an hour would still not be able to meet the basic needs of a family of four.

Anonymous said...

This hits home. I don't know what the solution is...but I do know that we are all caught up in a consumer driven society that place possessions before people. I've been thinking about this a lot I am living in abundance compared to so many.

Jeff said...

Josh, I'm certainly not accusing you of any inconsistency because I really don't know your political stance. All I know is that I come to your blog and often find comments that challenge my thinking. I have been one in the past who would have blindly given government the responsibility of doing things for people that I really should be doing. You call that thinking out into the open - rightfully so.

Keep up the good blogging and come back and play ball sometime.