Government assistance programs are fundamentally un-American, in their current structure.
Government assistance programs are essentially being used as a subsidy for unpaid wages. If an employee is earning $7.25/hour and the cost of living is $9.50/hour, they can automatically qualify for food stamps or daycare vouchers, or housing assistance. Paying employees below poverty levels, regardless of the skills required or the perceived value of the job, is socially irresponsible. If a business paid responsible wages, we wouldn't need supplemental government assistance programs, and would therefore be able to reserve assistance for the portion of our population who truly meets barriers to employment either due to ability, age, or illness.
An increase in wages is often isolated to include certain revenue streams. People fear that increasing the minimum wage would not lead to restructured profit models—in an effort to equalize wealth distribution—but would instead lead to companies passing an increase to consumers through price changes, or to employees through benefit adjustments. Businesses could restructure their revenue and profit models to avoid creating pockets of poverty and pockets of irresponsible wealth—or wealth that's been accumulated as a result of exploited labor. When businesses employ people who must simultaneously rely on the government to meet basic survival needs, the wealth they've accumulated is not a direct result of their energy produced, but instead of utilizing resources outside of their company—in a roundabout way—to funnel profits into a certain area where revenue can be distributed to upper management disproportionately than entry-level or mid-management level workes.
Raising the Minimum Wage
When we talk about minimum wage people immediately fear the restriction of wealth opportunities—believing that a requirement to share money will restrict wealth attainment abilities—but raising wages means fewer people would qualify for government assistance programs, fewer people would be susceptible to poverty. Fewer taxes would need to be allotted to programs that help bridge the space between poverty and survival. In our current economic structure, the stakeholders of a company are able to distribute the revenue made from the company, regardless of the source, without regard for the long-term impact on communities.
There is no accountability to ensure businesses—owned by other people—utilize the human capital of a community responsibly. If a business employs a community but pays below the cost of living in that community, based on some arbitrary view of skill value, they are essentially attaining their own personal wealth by taking advantage of a lack of government regulation. There is no economic benefit to allow a business to operate on labor that pays below the cost of living.
Considering Community Impact
Transitioning employees to limited stakeholders is another way businesses could become more accountable to communities. An entire community is impacted by wages paid by the businesses within their communities. Empowering employees to have an impact on decision-making facilitates responsibility, allows for accountability, and leads to responsibly acquired profits.
Consider a community of automakers, the people of the community will have significant stakes invested in auto companies. If an automaker comes into their community and starts employing people—over decades, generations—they absorb the human capital of the area. If people of the community are committing ten, fifteen, or thirty years of their lives to a company and the company decides to leave, those employees will lack the skills to do a wide range of jobs outside of their already-developed skillset. Do these employers have any responsibility to care about what happens to the people they employ?
When employees are limited stakeholders, employers are held to account for their impact. In this instance, the automaker would need to account for their impact on the towns that have come to depend on their employment, where the skillset has been focused on one industry through generations of employees who develop a certain skill set that then becomes obsolete. The government should not need to intervene in the loss of income in the community due to irresponsibly reservoired human capital. The employer irresponsibly used resources in the community and should be responsible for facilitating a dependency transition. If the people are stakeholders, they can be afforded certain choices such as voting on expansion plans, developments, area closures, wages adjustments, benefits packages. They will be provided choices but not freed to impose all preferences. It will facilitate accountability rather than the transfer of ownership.
State and Local Governments
Regulations should be set by state and local governments regarding reservoiring human capital. If a company, that employs a certain number of people or a certain percentage of the population, is closing or restructuring, part of their plan should include re-employment education and training. Instead of leaving a wake of unemployable people behind—who then become reliant on the government through no fault of their own, people who did what they were supposed to, who worked hard and focused and pulled their bootstraps up—the company needs to be accountable for their impact.
People frame corporate accountability as an infringement on profits. But we, as people, don't have profits, we have survival stock, in the form of money. We accumulate money so we can purchase our basic survival needs, and then prepare for the survival of our children with extra money sometimes placed in investment accounts. There are no profits in life, there is only the ability to survive and potentially thrive provided there are no intentional obstacles.
When we are born, we don't have the option to live freely for free. We cannot search out a piece of land and build shelter and gather and hunt food. We can't opt-out of society because we would be removed from the land we did not purchase, or purchase a license to use. Attempting to use land without paying could lead to incarceration. Once released, if the actions are repeated rather than seeking out an employer and paying for commoditized survival, we would be jailed again. There is no opting out.
If other people and companies or the governments can impose restrictions to accessing basic survival needs upon your life, should they not be accountable then for that imposition? When people become capable of impacting the operation of a community's economy, there will be less dependence on tax-funded government programs.
Regulating the way a business uses human capital provides everyone with the ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.