New York City

OPINION: On raising the federal minimum wage

December 5, 2014 By Dominic Kang For the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Fast food protestors have asked for a $15 minimum wage at McDonald's. AP photo
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Consider this: you want to provide medicine, food and education for your children, but you also don’t want to suffer from the physical toll of grueling housekeeping work as your third job. This dichotomy is forced upon millions of Americans each and every day.

To top it off, the cost of life’s essentials have gone up since the last minimum wage increase, as the prices of groceries and average tuition have increased by 20% and 44%, respectively. It is imperative that we link the federal minimum wage to the cost of living, to help not only our economy, but also those who have been in desperate need of our nation’s collective attention.

It is preposterous that there are people in the United States today who work long, hard hours for their family yet are still stuck in poverty. According to Oxfam America, one in five U.S. workers would benefit from a higher minimum wage, be it an urban, rural, or blue-collar worker. You may not be personally affected, but it is more than likely that you know someone who is.

A report completed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) titled “The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income” estimates that in total, the minimum wage hike affects 18 million workers across the nation. If we were to raise the federal minimum wage, the entire economy would benefit from the influx of “more money into the economy by allowing low paid workers to spend more” (“History and Debate of Minimum Wage”). This entry of more money into the economy means a bigger and more stable economy.

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Watch unemployment numbers go down as well, as people once discouraged from joining the labor force now have a greater incentive to join. Confidence in the economy will grow, and no matter who you are, when the health of the economy improves, you will benefit.

The chief concern with raising the minimum wage is also highlighted in the CBO’s report. An estimated 500,000 workers could lose their jobs should the federal minimum wage be increased.

But maybe that decrease in jobs won’t hurt as much as it sounds like it will. A report issued by the Center for Economic and Policy Research titled “Why does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernable Effect on Employment?” shows how employers have adapted to the increase in other ways, such as boosting productivity or trimming raises for other workers. Furthermore, being able to keep workers on the job longer reduces the costs associated with training new employees.  

The minimum wage hike is also imperative because it helps those in dire need. Perhaps you and I do not understand what it is like to live in poverty, but we do understand improvement, and that is exactly what raising the minimum wage could bring about. According to a CNN report, “more than 5 million Americans” will be raised out of poverty should the minimum wage be increased and “14 million children [will] see a boost in their family income” (“Why Raise Minimum Wage?”).  It would also elevate those 9 million people who don not even make enough money with the minimum wage to match the federal poverty line.

Raising the minimum wage would help women and minorities substantially; according to the CBO’s report, nearly 60% of the population affected by this raise in minimum wage are women. A report issued by the White House titled “The Impact of Raising the Minimum Wage on Women and the Importance of Ensuring a Robust Tipped Minimum Wage” also estimates 3.5 million people of color could be raised out of poverty levels should the minimum wage be increased.

To keep up with today’s inflationary levels, I believe the minimum wage should increase to $10.10 from $7.25.  If the statistics do not fully convince you of the potential benefits of such an action, consider this: according to a Gallup Poll last year, about 75% of Americans support increasing the federal minimum wage. As a nation, we see the benefits of this increase. Let the majority rule, and let’s raise the minimum wage.

—Dominic Kang studies Political Science at Baruch College


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