Two interlinked forces have shaped the modern economy to the greatest degree. Untrammeled consolidation and collusion between corporations has artificially raised the cost of living and reduced the number of available positions; while injurious trade deals such as NAFTA have outsourced the remaining opportunities to foreign factories and rendered the traditional image of middle-class careers - manufacturing jobs paying enough for employees to purchase a home and support a family - obsolescent.
The reduction in the number of open jobs affects employees in two ways. Firstly, it lowers salaries outright by increasing the number of willing candidates for even the least desirable positions, and denying applicants the opportunity to work for a rival company that was either transferred overseas, acquired entirely, or driven out of business by these national trends of monopolization and outright exodus. Secondly, in the absence of free competition, the emerging conglomerate has almost complete control over the prices of its products, decreasing the purchasing power of already meager wages.
While these conditions exist, statutory increases in the minimum wage will fail to materially better our current predicament. First, drastic inflation will quickly ensue as noncompetitive industries remain the same, but the prices consumers will pay for their products rise; second, small enterprises with modest profits bear most of the burden but only receive a disproportionately small amount of the additional commerce produced by workers' augmented earnings; third, as long as tariffs on imports from Asia remain relatively low and trade with Mexico remains free, far more jobs will be created south of the border for $3.88 a day than here at home for $15 an hour. If our antitrust laws are enforced and protective tariffs are established, natural competition will raise wages and lower prices until our past prosperity begins to reemerge; but artificial salary hikes create as many problems as they solve.