For the last two years, President Obama has used his State of the Union addresses as a chance to advocate for a federal increase in minimum wage. Feb. 12, President Obama signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for a few hundred federal contractors in what some hoped and others feared was the first step toward Obama’s ultimate goal: pushing legislation for a federal wage increase through Congress. Most recently, Congress approved a raise in minimum wage on a federal level in 2007. Originally set at $6.55, national wages were set to increase slowly, through the proposal’s three pre-determined stages. Gradually, new legislation drove up hourly wages and didn’t hit the modern-day minimum until its final increase on July 24, 2009. Obama has thrown his support behind congressional Democrats’ proposal to raise the minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $10.10. Here’s how our Editorial Board responded to a potential $2.85 hourly minimum wage increase.
Ensure a recovery for all
If America wants an equitable economic recovery, one thing is plain and simple: we must foster an environment in which profits aren’t concentrated at the top and working class families aren’t struggling to make ends meet.
Years of economic downturn have left shareholders hungry for dividends. And now that national and global markets have reached all-time highs, executives and shareholders are eager to reap the profits to which they feel entitled.
But a minimum wage increase would impose some self-control on those companies and industries, ensuring they don’t ride the recovery on the backs of their workers. It’s time we accept that the current minimum wage isn’t livable, and a recovery with no regard for equity is bound to hurt us down the road.
Charlie Megenity ’14
Could do more harm than good
No, I don’t think that this is a good idea. While it’s not as catastrophic as some right-wingers would have you believe, raising the rate will certainly not help the unemployment rate. Long-term joblessness is one of the major economic problems this country is facing and minimum wage hikes will only make it harder for those who have been unemployed for, in some cases, years to get back into the workforce. It certainly puts more money in the pockets of those who have jobs, but I would rather the money be spread around to more wage-earners than leaving some with more money and some with pink slips.
Matt Barry ’14
Uncertain about the economics of change
As a liberal, I’m a huge fan of raising minimum wage. But as someone who’s also trying to educate herself about economics, I’m not sure it should be done. In my introductory course we learned why price ceilings are bad, using the example of Manhattan’s rent-controlled housing. Minimum wage acts in the same way.
If it were to be raised nationally, employers would hire fewer people. And if they still needed to account for the extra costs of a higher minimum wage, they would make cuts elsewhere: Businesses would offer less of their goods or services, or the quality of they could offer would suffer.
Everyone, no matter what their job or pay rate, should have the right to make a living and, at the very least, get their basic needs met. But maybe there are different and better ways to help this happen.
Chelsea Embree ’14
This drastic increase will come with major ramifications
The arguments surrounding minimum wage have persisted for years, and minimum wage cannot be debated without acknowledging its political and economic context. In the wake of economic instability, minimum wage remains controversial. President Obama’s order to raise minimum wage will not come without ramifications – the job market will be affected, taxes will fluctuate and employment may waver. Still, Obama’s order is valid. The current minimum wage is far too low to pay workers, and an act to increase the federal minimum wage is fair. It’s not the increase of minimum wage that raises an issue, but instead the drastic $3 increase that is troubling.
Kate Mishkin ’16
Guarantee the right to a living wage
Everyone has a right to a living wage and minimum wage isn’t cutting close. In a recent survey, the National Employment Law Project found that out of every 10 government contract employees earning less than $10 an hour, approximately four of those workers depend on food stamps or Medicaid. Refusing to raise the minimum wage will not do the working class, middle class or government any favors.
Inflation, a struggling economy, and a tough job market won’t disappear in a year or two. Minimum wage was first established in 1938 for 25 cents. Over the course of 76 years, it has been raised 22 times. Last year, Obama’s State of the Union address recommended a $9 minimum wage.
That number jumped $1.10 in a year. Not only do we need to make this adjustment for inflation, we need to change our system to automatically adjust for inflation and other economic expected economic changes.
Samantha Paul ’14