I have always tried to pay a living wage. The actual dollar amount is irrelevant because a living wage can vary dramatically depending on where your business is located.
I consider a living wage to be enough to provide the employee with an income that allows at least a basic level of comfort. An employee who is so strapped that he or she can barely afford gas money to get to work is going to be living under constant stress and that is not good for either of us.
The problem is that, even though we are being told that there is little or no inflation, the facts speak for themselves. Everything is costing more. The 1984 technique of escalating prices steadily for years and then touting a relatively insignificant price reduction is pretty transparent. The cost of living is rising, especially in metropolitan areas. Wage earners are hard pressed to make rent let alone buy a house. Prices for a new car and health care are absurd.
Paying a living wage is getting harder for all businesses but it is becoming especially difficult for smaller operations. Many larger businesses simply close their eyes, minds and hearts to the needs of the people they depend on for day-to-day operation. Somehow, I cannot bring myself to become that callous.