2013 Symposium: Should We Raise The Minimum Wage?

Cartwright: No. Personally, I feel businesses should pay their workers a good, decent, livable wage. I support an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Not all businesses feel that way. And for a lot of businesses it’s a matter of economics. They simply can’t afford more than minimum wage and still generate a profit. Businesses aren’t non-profits. As part of a capitalist system, they’re in it to make money for the owners or shareholders. If they’re offering minimum wage, you don’t have to work for them. And in the free markets, the market will set the level of wages to attract qualified talent for a business. If you can’t attract good workers at minimum wage to profitably run the business, you’ll have to pay a higher wage. That’s simple economics.

You know, I find the whole debate about minimum wage hypocritical. We’ve got servers in restaurants working for $2.15 an hour or whatever the rate is now and relying on tips. How can we justify this even if they are working for tips? I’m just now comfortable with having a minimum wage but making exceptions for people who work for tips. If we’re going to have a minimum wage, everyone should be subject to it. However, if we’re going to allow some to abide by the minimum wage but not others, then why don’t we still have gas station attendants or ushers in theaters? Thank the minimum wage.

North Carolina: The concern for raising the minimum wage is on the radar screen again, and there is presently a proposal before Congress to raise the amount from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour over the next two years. Politicians, eager to show their sympathy to lower end workers, are ready to push the legislation, and several states and cites have already approved minimum wage hikes.

With all of the uproar of low-wage earners deserving a raise in their wages, there is one problem, raising the minimum wage is bad for the economy in general and for low-wage workers themselves, so it is to any low-skilled worker’s advantage to not raise the minimum wage.

The hike proposed by Congress would eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs and lower the country’s economic output by billions. That is all due to labor costs. When labor costs increase, it is more costly to hire, and employers struggling to meet costs have to slow down or halt hiring altogether.

Those eager to legislate wage increases are failing to see that when the cost of something goes up, the rate at which people purchase it is significantly lowered. If an employer decides to hire a new employee and the cost is much higher, he will simply not hire if the expense is too high. It is also difficult on current employees who have to work harder because an employer cannot afford to hire newer workers. An employer is denied the option of taking on someone new and providing a job for someone in need.

According to the Heritage foundation, another factor that is overlooked concerning raising the minimum wage is that few people actually are paid minimum wage, as less that 3 percent of workers technically earn $7.25 an hour. For many lower skilled and unskilled workers, the minimum wage is simply an initial starting point with advancement as they move through a job.

Millions of Americans in low-paying jobs have been given a chance at success through minimum wage jobs, and they can move quickly on the employment ladder to more pay or on to a better paying job. Increasing the minimum wage so drastically will simply exclude and marginalize those at the very bottom of the employment ladder.

Raising the minimum wage will not bring lower end workers out of poverty. It will serve to increase the cost of living across the board, as well as the cost of labor. Entry-level job losses will prevail with a minimum wage hike. Lower end workers will be out of work as fewer lower skill jobs will be available because of the increased cost of labor. Any minimum wage hike will be for naught, and those for the increase will wonder why.

Orlando: The minimum wage is far too low. Two individuals working minimum wage jobs for 40 hours a week would have a combined household income just over $30,000 dollars per year, assuming they never got sick, never had their children get sick, and never missed a day of work. $30,000, which, after taxes, is around $24,000, is about $1000 less than the Census Bureau estimates a family of four with a mortgage needs to pay for food, shelter, clothing, and utilities. This amount also puts them just barely over the poverty line, sufficient to disqualify them from many poverty reduction programs, housing assistance, and for their children to receive free or reduced price school lunches. In many cases, their lives would be considerably better if one of them were to quit working entirely. The present system does not reward work in any meaningful way. A minimum wage of $10 an hour would offer a household income of $41,600. That’s far from princely, but it would cover the cost of living and provide the possibility of escape from debt, retirement savings, and investment in education for children.

There are two major arguments against raising the minimum wage. First, people argue that minimum wage jobs are supposed to be entry level, and that they are not meant for someone to support a family. This may be fact, but it’s irrelevant fact. Positions paid minimum wage are integral parts of the economy, and someone will always have to work them. They are not charity, nor are they an extended interview for management positions. People working minimum wage jobs load and unload trucks and ships, stock shelves, sterilize hospitals, prepare food, and answer phones. These are all vital parts of modern life as we know it. As ideal as it would be if everyone who worked at these jobs had promotion potential and access to the benefits of the growing economy they facilitate, that is far from reality. To continue to pay these people so little is to force them to subsidize the affluence and convenience of a society they can never enter.

The second argument is slightly more complicated. People argue that raising the minimum wage would contribute to inflation. That’s a true statement. However, inflation is only a problem proportional to the amount of money you have. For those with very little, inflation doesn’t matter much. In that way, raising the minimum wage is about redressing a social imbalance that allows people to benefit from a system without paying their fair share. The price of goods is kept artificially low now by the unsustainable low wages paid to those at the bottom. Inflation that resulted from raising the minimum wage would be more like an adjustment which would revalue the price of goods and services closer to their actual worth.

It’s tough enough to get a job in this recession, and the surplus of labor always hits the least skilled the hardest. For them, times have been tough since the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008. Everyone else recovered from this market correction by forcing the working poor to bear the brunt of the cost. The time has come to redress that.

Michigan: Yes. I think we should raise the minimum wage. Doing this would not change the lifestyle of people now earning minimum wages. In many cases another $30 or $40 per week will buy a few more groceries and allow the heat to be turned up a little. Of course this is a double edged sword. If WalMart has to pay everyone more money, what do they do? Raise prices. So the people that just got the raise will be spending more. Will that dog ever catch his tail?

Washington, DC: Is it possible to have a normal life nowadays in America if you earn a minimum wage? Since its introduction in 1938, when the minimum wage was set at $ 0.25 per hour, it was supposed to be sufficient enough to allow families to afford such necessities as food, shelter, and clothing. The highest purchasing power of minimum wage was in 1968 at $ 1.60, since then it has steadily declined. The latest minimum wage adjustment was introduced in 2009 and set at $ 7.25 for non-tipped labor, $ 2.13 for tipped labor, and $ 4.25 for youth labor. However, Congress gave power to individual states to establish their own minimum wage requirements as long as they would be higher than the federal rate. As a result, for the year 2014, twenty-one states and DC have higher minimum wages than the federal one (the highest minimum wage is set in California’s Jackson Rancheria at $ 10.60); nineteen states and PR, GU, and VI have them on federal level; five states have no established minimum wages; and four states plus AS have lower minimum wages (thus federal rate applies). In addition, ten states adjust their minimum wages in accordance with Consumer Price Index.

It is not a secret that with the present state of world economy, it is getting harder and harder for many Americans to support themselves. Thus, if minimum wage were adjusted to current rate of inflation, it should have been $ 10.74 instead of existing $7.25. Moreover, many experts agree that if the minimum wage was increased, it would boost consumer spending and, in its turn, stimulate the economy overall. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the next decade, six out of ten jobs will be created in low-wage areas such as consumer service representatives, health aides, restaurant workers, retail, office clerks and such. As a result, the increase of minimum wage would benefit millions of people working in these fields.

Opponents of a minimum wage raise often argue that it would lead to higher unemployment, especially among youth, and force the employers to move their businesses to areas with lower wage requirements. However, numerous studies have demonstrated that higher minimum wage does not lead to higher unemployment and that most employers, in fact, benefit from higher minimum wages because it lowers worker turnover rate (thus saving the recruiting and training costs) and increases productivity. In conclusion, it is obvious that increased minimum wage will be beneficial both for people and economy.

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