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Cape Cod, Mass.: A Living Wage, Less Spent on Defense
Cape Cod Times
Brad Kent

May 19, 2011
View the Original Article

If I remember correctly, a living wage in 1954 was $1 per hour, or $40 per week. I do know that a monthly mortgage payment for a 12-room, two-family house in Boston was $33.

Back then only 7 percent of high school graduates went on to college — for some, because there were good jobs available, and for others because it was too expensive, as cheap as it was then by current standards. The wages and mortgage payments have increased dramatically for some, along with the percentage of those now attending college.

Imagine if everyone who worked a 40-hour week were paid a living wage based on the area in which they lived. Obviously, this would have an initial negative effect on the bottom line of firms, and on the salaries of those at the top of the firms. Probably the price of goods would go up.

Still, if everyone who worked a full-time job were paid a living wage, the economy would benefit because more goods and services would be purchased. Government tax receipts would increase as would Social Security (FICA) receipts.

Years and years ago, Henry Ford understood that if he paid his workers a living wage they would be able to buy the automobiles they produced.

Today, we are stuck in a situation that Ike (Dwight David Eisenhower) warned us about. The military/industrial complex controls too much of our economy. It has been this way since the 1950s in this an oligopoly with its military/industrial elites.

Now, too many of our citizens work for less than a living wage, and too many by far have no jobs and have been without one for too long — and this, while we still have troops in South Korea and Germany, to name a few, some 60-plus years since hostilities ended. The economies of South Korea and Germany are doing very well, while our economy is not.

I know that a living wage would vary greatly across our nation, but it would mean that workers could afford decent housing, could feed and clothe their families, could afford medical care, and would have the dignity that a good job provides. A living wage would not be a panacea for all our ills, but it would cure some.

Today, income inequality is so great that we as a nation are more like a banana republic than a capitalist economy.

Bringing our troops back from overseas bases would mean there would be jobs available in the areas where the troops were garrisoned, and the troops would be spending some part of their paychecks in and around the bases where they were stationed. Jobs associated with these bases would have to pay a living wage if the company or companies servicing the bases had government contracts to do a variety of tasks.

Brad Kent lives in Cummaquid.