There has been much talk lately about the need to raise the minimum wage.
The argument supporting such a raise is simple: People can’t survive off of $7.25 an hour, especially if they have children. Such people will, as a consequence, seek government assistance for basic needs: food, housing, health care and education. Basically, the taxpayers are subsidizing companies’ profits; instead of Wal-Mart or McDonald’s paying their employees a living wage, the American people pick up the slack. Moreover, those making minimum wage have no disposable income which, in a consumer-based society such as ours, is bad for the economy in general.
The opposition argument is widely known: Raising minimum wage will kill jobs. If they have to pay employees $2 or $3 more an hour, they’ll have to lay people off. Really? Let’s think about this for a minute. This argument is based on one or more of the following premises.
The first is that, currently, companies have more employees than they need. Otherwise, how could they lay people off and still function? Anyone who’s ever been to a Wal-Mart and seen massive checkout lines while half the aisles remain unstaffed might disagree that there are simply extra expendable employees lingering about that will need to be laid off if they are paid $9 an hour.
The second premise is that while companies might not have “extra” employees, they might be forced to find a way to downsize in order to protect profits.
As if this was a new trend. Companies have always and will always do this, no matter what the minimum wage is. Similarly, companies will always hire the fewest number of employees and pay them the least they think they can get away with. Raising the minimum wage won’t change this.
The third argument is that increased labor costs will lead to outsourcing of American jobs. Well, in case everyone hasn’t realized, this has already happened. Basically any job that can be outsourced already has been. Jobs that can’t be outsourced — cleaning, manual labor, service industry, retail etc. — are the ones that pay minimum wage. There’s no reason to expect that $2 or $3 per employee would cause more outsourcing.
Would companies have to raise prices in order to compensate for having to pay their employees a living wage? Perhaps. But considering that tens of millions of working Americans would have more money to spend each month, an increase in prices would be manageable. Plus, an uptick in the minimum wage would likely have a modest effect on all wages, as employers who want to be viewed as competitive would raise wages as well.
No one can survive off of $7.25 an hour, and certainly no one can thrive off of such wages. It’s time we stop subsidizing corporations’ profits at the expense of their employees and the national debt. It’s immoral, and it’s bad business. The time to raise the minimum wage is now. And once we do it, we should tie further increases to the rate of inflation so we don’t have to keep having this debate every 10 years or so.
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