Nick Hanauer, one of Amazon’s first investors, is no stranger to taking on battles about class warfare and income equality. As a tech-made multi-millionaire, he comes from the perspective of helping out regular working folks in these times of growing economic disparity between the haves and have nots.
Just last year, we reported on a “heated conversation” Hanauer had with local KIRO radio host Dori Monson about the $15 per hour minimum wage in Seattle.
Now that $15 per hour is a reality here, Hanauer traveled to New York to testify in favor of $15 per hour for fast food workers there, he talked to Gawker about his quest for economic equality.
As we know, Hanauer is no shrinking violet, penning a piece for Politico about how the “pitchforks are coming” for the uber-wealthy, and he had some choice words about the minimum wage — and other money issues for the working class — for Gawker: “My message is that the counterclaim—which is that if wages go up, employment will go down—is a scam. It’s a con job. It’s an intimidation tactic. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere that it’s true. On the contrary, where you find high wages you usually find low unemployment.”
Hanauer’s argument includes points that raising the minimum wage would allow workers to spend more on goods and services they typically would not be able to afford. It would also allow more lower-income people to get off public assistance: “There is no earthly reason why Walmart and McDonald’s and Walgreens and these other giant, profitable institutions should have one worker in need of public assistance. It’s ridiculous.”
In addition to the minimum wage debate, Hanauer talked about several other pay issues, including unpaid overtime for salaried employees: “Today, the average full time worker works 47 hours a week. And they work those [extra] seven hours mostly for free, because today, less than 10% of salaried workers are entitled to overtime.”
And on taxes: “I think there’s about a 41% federal tax rate on income above a few hundred thousand bucks right now. If that rate applied to all income greater than $500,000, I think you’d solve the problem.”
While Hanauer told Gawker that while his ideas still weren’t getting him “invited to the country club,” there was greater acceptance among his wealthy friends to entertain some of these ideas.
It’s an interesting read, to say the least. And now that Seattle is the poster-city for the $15 minimum wage, probably one we’ll continue to watch as the debate expands nationwide.