Take it From a Millionaire: America's Future Hinges on a Decent Minimum Wage | Opinion

The unprecedented assault on our democracy coming on the heels of a historic win by Democrats in Georgia's runoff election left many Americans concerned about what the state of our nation would look like in the coming days. During the unveiling of his pandemic relief plan, President Joe Biden renewed his commitment to economic reform and announced his plans to include a $15 an hour federal minimum wage in his stimulus package. As the economic outlook becomes increasingly dire for so many Americans, it underscores why Congress needs to prioritize the needs of working class Americans and vote in their interest.

As a wealthy businessman in Georgia, it makes me mad as hell to see so many of my neighbors working their tails off and still struggling to make ends meet. Nearly half of all Georgians currently make less than $15 an hour, with people of color making up a disproportionate share of those workers. And with an estimated 78 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, it should come as no surprise that 71 percent of Georgians support a higher minimum wage. The possibility of raising the minimum wage is one of the reasons I was such an avid supporter of the campaigns for Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Supporting a $15 minimum wage should be a no-brainer for everyone in Congress, yet Republicans still refuse to support giving their constituents a raise. It's clear what their priorities are, which is why Democrats—bolstered by their new numerical advantage in both chambers—must be unwavering in their stance moving forward.

I've seen firsthand the difference a higher wage can make in people's lives. As the former CEO of a moderately sized manufacturing company, I've made sure to pay all of our employees a living wage in order to guarantee them a higher quality of life. Raising that wage has done wonders to improve my company's turnover rates and productivity. If my simple act could drastically improve the lives of my employees at one little company, imagine how many workers around the nation would benefit from a long overdue and well-deserved raise.

But a national $15 dollar minimum wage isn't just the right thing to do by our workers, it's also a pro-business policy. That might come as a shock to those who've heard business interests rail against minimum wage increases for the past decade, but look at it this way: the more money workers have in their pockets, the more they spend, and because we live in a consumer economy, when spending goes up so does our country's economic growth, benefiting everyone. As a business owner I understand that my success is dependent on consumers, and if the average worker doesn't have enough money to afford the basics, let alone a couple luxuries, then everyone will suffer. And right now, I don't think our economy has much more room to suffer under another 8 years of wealthy-first leadership.

That same line of thinking can also be applied to the next round of COVID stimulus. If the next relief package consists of generous handouts only for wealthy people like me and major corporations, then our economic recovery will take substantially longer than it needs to. We can't afford another top-down recovery package like Senate Republicans secured within the CARES Act, where the lion's share of aid was handed over to the wealthiest business and individuals who did not need it.

Trust me when I say that as a rich man, I am practically begging lawmakers to stop giving me all these handouts. Instead, my neighbors need that money dispersed through programs like boosted unemployment benefits and small business loans.

If we dole out relief to those at the top, they'll use it to increase their own wages and benefits rather than distributing the relief to their employees and their operations. As much as my wealthy friends would like to imagine, their success just cannot keep the economy afloat alone. If we truly want a sustainable recovery that lifts all boats, then guaranteeing a higher wage for all workers and another round of stimulus relief could make a huge difference. It's about time we reject the false notion that a small number of wealthy elites are solely responsible for generating all the wealth in this country and realize that long term economic success only comes from the bottom up.

The time has come and Democrats in Congress have the means to accomplish what they have spent years calling for and finally pass policies that prioritize the needs of our nation. With the economic fallout from the pandemic getting worse with each passing week, they should start by raising the minimum wage to $15—and they shouldn't take no for an answer.

Stephen Prince founded Card Marketing Services in 1993 and is vice-chair of the Patriotic Millionaires.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.