How $15 an hour can save our economy

What caught my attention about this talk was the title, specifically the word “pitchforks”. The word draws associations to the French Revolution or even that one scene in Shrek. Nick Hanauer is a self-admitted plutocrat, or someone whose power is derived from their wealth. He has founded, owned, and managed countless businesses and even sold one to Microsoft for $6.4 billion. So why would a man who owns countless homes, a yacht, and an airplane be worried about townspeople with pitchforks chasing him? Mr. Hanauer argues that the wealth disparity in the United States is too high, and he suggests that the luxurious lifestyles of plutocrats will eventually come to an end. This is his message to his fellow plutocrats: “Wake up. Wake up. It cannot last. If we don’t do something to fix inequality, the pitchforks will come for us.”

Mr. Hanauer explains that a thriving middle-class is the source of prosperity in capitalist economies. He believes that the best way the build up the middle class is to raise the minimum raise. His suggestion was adopted in Seattle, a city that is gradually raising the minimum wage to $15. If workers have more money, businesses will have more customers and will need to hire more workers. This cycle benefits workers, business, and society. A strong middle-class is nonexistent in modern day America, but it can be achieved. Mr. Hanauer also argues that if we pay workers more, we can reduce the size and need of government assistance programs, which benefits taxpayers. This “new capitalism” theory he proposes demands that we invest in the middle-class to make our economy more competitive and to reduce the wealth distribution gap.

The Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 is probably the best example of the 99% revolting against the 1%. The events that unfolded in New York City are exactly what Mr. Hanauer was referring to in his mention of pitchforks. I agree that the United States should increase the minimum wage because it will permit for the reemergence of the middle-class, it will increase consumer spending, and it will improve our economy. It is also refreshing to see a man who has amassed so much wealth lead this fight. Who better to encourage plutocrats to change than a plutocrat? Raise the minimum wage. Build up the middle-class. Watch the economy thrive.


9 responses to “How $15 an hour can save our economy

  1. I thought this was very interesting and will likely listen to the ted talk myself. What has he done individually to help alleviate the socioeconomic gap? What immediate action can be taken on the individual level rather than the economy as a whole? Do you think the Occupy Wallstreet movement was effective?


    • Mr. Hanauer was one of the main architects behind Seattle’s raise in the minimum wage. He has been fighting for this increase for many years, and believes that other major cities in the United States should also adopt it. I think that the Occupy Wall Street movement was effective in the short-term because it brought awareness to the issue of the 1% vs. the 99%, but if we take a look at our economy, the middle class isn’t growing, so I’d say it was ineffective in the long-term.


  2. Do you actually see this taking hold? I agree with it and think its a great idea but do you think the government would increase the minimum wage that dramatically? Seattle may be getting to $15 for minimum wage but the rest of the country is still at $7.25, and not every part of America has the same population that Seattle does.


    • I don’t think the federal government would ever consider this large of an increase for minimum wage, but I think cities could do this.


  3. I also wonder if someone who might have many affinities with the Republican party finds that its overall approach to framing politics and income disparity is so unable to deal with the fact-based reality of increasing inequality.

    I enjoyed getting to hear the wealthy discuss this issue devoid of the wearying Dem-Rep framing.


  4. There is this sort of joke about the Soviet Union, Marxism, the USA and equality. It goes like this: Stalin may have been awful for the average Soviet worker (gulags, totalitarianism in exchange for rapid industrialization) but he was great for the American worker (because life improved while the bourgeoise were worried about the US having a communist revolution).


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