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Now Is the Time for a Living Wage Law in America

05/13/2015 01:50 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016

"There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it."

Those words were taken from one of the most famous political speeches in American history. It is an excerpt from William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech, delivered on July 9, 1896, to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Bryan's words are timeless. They ring true today as they define the forces that pull on both ends of the American capitalist system. Bryan's words reach forward to the 21st century to frame the debate surrounding fair wages for the masses.

Conservatives and libertarians often pontificate against a "living minimum wage" and some of late are even opposing any minimum wage. However, as expected, no one opposing a "living minimum wage" has ever been forced to live permanently in a low wage world, and certainly not in the absence of public assistance.

The macro economic history of the most recent three decades clearly shows that state and federal policies have locked in predatory low wages for millions of people by supporting business models that can only flourish by depending upon low wages for profitability and growth. These businesses have replaced better paying jobs that began their exodus with NAFTA. These substandard business models are behind the growth of the Wal-Mart class of worker in America. This 2014 analysis by goodjobsfirst.org offers a look behind the scenes at this growing inequity. Click here for the full study authored by Philip Mattera, research director for "Good Jobs First".

The report leads us to the conclusion that predatory low wages proliferate from corporate welfare programs and not because the workers are not worthy of their hire.

In fact, the growth of corporations that depend on low wages for profitability actually proves the real value of the workers they exploit, instead of the value of the corporate structure that exploits them. The sequestered value of the worker's labor always ends up benefiting the corporation at the expense of the worker and the taxpayer.

The whole system is continuously refueled by corporate welfare. Without the fuel, these predatory business models must either fail or reform.

The failure of corporate welfare programs is obvious. These programs perpetuate poverty wages while they concentrate wealth at the top of the economy.

The past 30-year record of such programs proves without a shadow of doubt that trickle down economics is nothing but a hoax, just as Bryan suggested in 1896.

Sadly, the America's wage structure sends the signal to low wage earners of all ages that honest hard work has no personal reward, because the reward for work only benefits those who are caste to profit from labor at the top of the economy and at the risk of burdening the obvious, this caste system is being built on a foundation of corporate welfare.

This sinister trap of permanent poverty level wages is snapping shut on a growing number of Americans each year, causing the middle class to evaporate into poverty before our eyes, while these same Americans get blamed by conservatives and libertarians for falling into the trap.

If you oppose a living wage law, I suggest you take the minimum wage challenge for one year. Try to live on a minimum wage for one year and then let's talk again.

I'll bet your opinion will change.