Minimum Wage

The minimum wage should be raised to a living wage, and Congress should legislate capping the executive compensation of publicly held companies. In addition, privately held companies should abide by a uniform code of conduct, which complies with federal guidelines outlined by Congress. Our group contends the disparity of income between the lowest grossing and highest grossing employee at any company should not exceed the difference of 100 times the lowest grossing employee’s salary. This approach allows CEO’s to secure more income if they agree to pay the lowest earners in their company a higher living wage. One of our group members disagrees with the aforementioned approach, and instead supports Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s approach, which requires financial companies getting aid to cap compensation of top officials at $500,000 a year. Our group contends Congress is the best venue to legislate rules surrounding a living wage and executive compensation, because Congress maintains the federal authority, in the name of the common good, to correct extreme inequalities of wealth. A congressional subcommittee or standards board should be established to study the effects of extreme disparities in wealth, and the subcommittee should submit recommendations to shrink the shockingly huge disparity in income levels. Both public and private companies should be held accountable, by the executive branch, in limiting executive compensation. Numerous Americans lack basic human needs including shelter, clean water, and health care. There is something fundamentally unjust allowing Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Bear Stearns to award their employees a cumulative $145 billion in bonuses from 2003 through 2007. Wealthy Americans have witnessed their income skyrocket and an extension of the Bush tax cuts. Bartels argues this great disparity in wealth and income is a relatively new problem. Economic inequality threatens the middle class, and Bartels analyzes the relationship between economic inequality and political equality. Democracy necessitates a certain degree of both economic and political equality. Bartels refers to Robert Dahl’s argument that we all live in a constitutional democracy, and one of the ways we measure political equality is one person, one vote. Dahl argues minimal political equality exists in a larger context of economic inequality regarding unequal capabilities and resources. In Dahl’s words, it is ideal in democracy to have “continued responsiveness of the government to the preferences of citizens, considered as political equals.”[i] Perhaps Louis Brandeis said it best: “We can have a democratic society or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of few. We cannot have both.”

Bohman argues a democratic society requires political equality, which demands that every citizen, including the disadvantaged, have resources and capabilities to effectively participate political life. According to Bohman, the solution is to equalize political power. The democratic public plays a very crucial role in the decision-making procedure; however, Bartels claims, “Elected officials are utterly unresponsive to the policy preferences of millions of low-income citizens, leaving their political interests to be served or ignored as the ideological whims of incumbent elites may dictate.”[ii] When decisions affecting a great deal of people are made by so few and almost in secret, the procedure is not legitimate. As Iris Marion Yong said, “the norms of deliberative democracy call not only for discussion among parties who use the force of argument alone and treat each other as equals. They also require publicity, accountability, and inclusion. To be democratically legitimate, policies and actions decided on by means of deliberation ought to include representation of all affected interests and perspectives.”[iii]

[i] Bartels, Larry M. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2008 (286). [ii] Bartels, Larry M. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2008. [iii] Young, Iris Marion. Activist Challenges to Deliberative Democracy, Political Theory, Vol. 29, No. 5, October 2001, pages 670-690. Sage Publications, Inc.