Last month, we discussed in this space McDonalds and Wal-Mart as America’s biggest welfare queens. As it turns out, both retail giants are the beneficiaries of a surprising amount of Federal aid: Their employee’s receive an inordinate amount of Medicaid, food stamps and other public assistance. This allows them to maintain very low wages, and keep profits relatively robust.
I wondered aloud at why profitable, publicly traded private sector firms were receiving so much taxpayer largesse. With these corporations having their full time employees’ paychecks effectively subsidized by taxpayers, I decided to do a little do more digging. What I found about minimum wages in the United States surprised me. I suspect it will surprise you, too.
We begin with a little minimum wage background: In the US, it is currently pegged at $7.25 per hour. The law mandating these wages began post-depression in 1938 at 25 cents per hour. (New Zealand beat us by 40 years). Individual states have the option to mandate a higher minimum wage, and about half of them do with Washington State requiring the highest pay at $9.19/hour. Amongst developed economies, Australia and Luxembourg have the highest minimum wages ($15.75 and $14.21 respectively) while the other end of the scale includes Korea ($3.90), Poland ($2.69) and Hungary ($2.24), according to OECD. The United States sits in the middle of the range.