Wednesday morning, the day after Election Day, I had an interesting conversation with the manager of a business.
As I paid for my things, we engaged in our usual small talk, and of course, she wanted to hear the results of our election in Nebraska City.
Part of our conversation included Initiative 425 in Nebraska, which passed with nearly 60 percent in favor of increasing the state's minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8 an hour in 2015 and to $9 in 2016.
I inquired if it would negatively affect her operation.
"No, I pay my people way better than that," she said, smiling, as she continued chewing her gum.
So who will this help, and who will it hurt?
NBC News reported Wednesday that an estimated 143,000 workers in Nebraska will receive a raise.
On a national level, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that about 1.5 million hourly workers earned the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour in 2013.
According to a September 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, about 1.8 million earned less than $7.25 because they "fell under one of several exemptions (tipped employees, full-time students, certain disabled workers and others)," the report said.
This brings the total to 3.3 million hourly workers at or below $7.25 per hour - roughly 4.3 percent of the nation’s 75.9 million hourly-paid workers.
But let's look at what the average American is earning.
The BLS reports that full-time wage and salary workers earned an average of $780 weekly, or $40,560 annually, in the second quarter of 2014.
That is a decent wage on paper, but after you deduct taxes, health insurance, mortgage or rent, car payments, utilities, groceries, phone bills and entertainment – because “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – you are left with much less.
According to the American Community Survey, the median household income was about $51,000 in 2012.
A September 2013 article from Annie Lowrey of the New York Times reported that the top 1 percent of American households had "pretax income above $394,000 last year, while the top 10 percent had income exceeding $114,000.
That is way too much of a gap for my taste, and I?am a simple dude.
So are we surprised that voters in Alaska, Arkansas and South Dakota joined Nebraska in raising the minimum wage?
I’m not. Even in America, we enjoy sticking it to the man, even if we know a minimum wage increase is only a small step.
Voters in Arkansas, however, are the ones who deserve the headlines.
The increase, which passed with about 65 percent of the vote, will give a raise to an estimated 168,000 workers who now earn a meager $6.25 per hour. The wage will increase to $7.50 in January 2015, $8 in January 2016, and $8.50 in January 2017.
This is my theory: If you can't afford to pay your employees a minimum wage congruent with inflation, you should either scale back your operation or close your doors.
You would be amazed at your increased productivity when employee morale goes through the roof.
But that only happens when people are paid MORE than the minimum – for starters, when they don’t leave one job to go to another.
Many Americans work two or three minimum wage jobs simultaneously just to make ends meet.
But simply making ends meet isn't moving forward.
Fortune 500 companies are boasting billions in profits, so what will it take for them to create more jobs that pay more per month than the cost of a second-hand dirtbike?
Minimum wage jobs should be for students, retirees and those looking to supplement their income – not men and women trying to support a family.
"Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" is a cliche that does not apply to everyone.
Voters knew that when they went to the polls this week, and the majority in these states wants a higher minimum wage.
The biggest argument from the naysayers is the risk of product prices going through the roof, but I am here to tell you, they were already going up.
A wise man once told me that while the common man is tossing and turning in bed – trying to mentally budget his last few dollars to pay the bills – there is another man on the other side of town trying to increase the cost of products he sells to the common man.
The cost of living is going up no matter what, so we should think about how corporate America's greed trickles down, because the economics sure don't.