6月4日北美场新SAT写作真题选自于2013年9月13日 Los Angeles Times(《洛杉矶时报》)上发表的由 The Times Editorial board (时代周刊编辑组)撰写的关于提升最低工资议论文。
A last-minute compromise between state legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown has cleared the way for a bill that would significantly increase the minimum wage in California over the next 2 1/2 years. Not surprisingly, the California Chamber of Commerce called it a "job killer." The chamber is probably right about that to a degree; some employers will eliminate jobs, reduce hoursor expand their payrolls more slowly as a consequence of the higher entry-levelwage. But the measure will bring much-needed relief to thousands of Californians struggling to get by on the minimum wage today, as well as helpthe businesses where they'll spend their extra dollars. Because the gainsclearly offset the costs, Brown should sign the bill into law.
California first set a minimum wage in 1916, 22 years before thefederal government established a national one. The state's minimum has gone up 25times since then, rising to $8 in January 2008. On Thursday, the Legislaturewas expected to give final approval to a revised bill by Assemblyman LuisAlejo (D-Watsonville) that would raise the minimum to $9 in July 2014 and $10in January 2016.The original version of the bill would have increased the minimum more gradually, reaching$9.25 in 2016, but with automatic cost-of-living increases in later years.
It's hard to say exactly how many Californians' pay would go up with thenew minimum — the government doesn't report how many people in the state earn$8 to $10 an hour. The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute estimates that3.4 million low-wage Californians would receive raises if the minimum climbedto $10.10, as some Democrats in Congresshave proposed.
A full-time minimum-wage worker with one dependent barely makes enoughtoday to stay above the federal poverty line of $15,510 a year. But mostminimum-wage workers don't have the luxury of full-time positions — andthat's often not by choice. The combination of minimum wages and limited hourstranslates into dismally low, poverty-level earnings.
That would be less of a travesty if minimum- and near-minimum-wage jobswere simply the first rung on the career ladder for young Americans. Sadly,such jobs are increasingly being filled by workers in their mid- to late-20s,not teenagers just trying to supplement their allowances. And about a third ofthem are parents.
What's worse, a growing percentage of U.S. jobs are in the low-skillindustries that are the most likely to pay the minimum wage. Six of the 10 occupations expected to see thefastest growth this decade fall into this category, led by retailing, foodservice and home healthcare.
Ideally, brisk economic growth would force employers to compete more forworkers, increasing wages and benefits across the board. That's what happenedin the mid- to late-1990s, and it's evident today in some boom towns. But inCalifornia, as in most of the United States, growth has been sluggish. Manybusinesses are still hesitant to expand because the main driver of the economy,consumer spending, remains stuck in low gear.
That aversion to risk helps explain how the solid corporate profits andstock market gains in recent years have coexisted with diminishing median wagesand stubbornly high unemployment. Raising the minimum wage should help shiftsome of the profits now being captured by business owners and investors backinto the economy, because unlike upper-income Americans, minimum-wage earnersaren't savers. They spend, and that spending promotes growth.
The unusually large increases called for in Alejo's bill would put thestate on track to have the country's highest minimum wage, potentially makingit less attractive to some employers. But that risk isn't as big as it may seembecause so many low-wage, low-skill jobs are in service industries, which haveto set up shop where their customers are. McDonald's can't sell burgers toAngelenos by opening a restaurant in Houston.
Admittedly, it's foolish to think that government can raise wages withouthaving an adverse effect on at least some employers. Otherwise, the Legislaturewould set the minimum wage at $50 an hour. The 25% increase called for byAlejo's bill will be painful for minimum-wage employers with thin profitmargins, especially if labor represents most of their costs, as is typicallythe case. Those companies may respond by cutting workers' hours, which wouldonly hurt the people Alejo is trying to help.
The bestavailable research, however, shows that previous increases in theminimum wage haven't decreased or increased hours or jobs in any statisticallysignificant manner. Employers have adapted in a variety of ways,including boosting productivity and trimming raises for other workers. And ahigher minimum wage tends to keep workers on the job longer, reducing the costsassociated with training new employees.
One other way employers have responded is to pass at least part of theincrease on to consumers. In a sense, though, employers in minimum-wageindustries are already passing on part of their costs to taxpayers, who pick upthe tab when workers earn so little that they qualify for Medicaid and foodstamps. A recent congressionalstudy estimated that low-wage workers at one Wal-Mart superstore receive about$5,800 worth of safety-net benefits each annually. By raising the minimum wage,shoppers will pay some of those costs at the cash register, not on their tax bills.
Improving workers' education and skills are part of the long-term solution too. In the meantime, though, no Californian who works full time should bestuck with poverty wages.