If you have been exposed to the media at all this year, many topics have been brought up during the Presidential Primary Season. One of those topics has been the debate on increasing the minimum wage. Currently in the United States, the federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr. There are many states that have their minimum wage set higher than the federal minimum, but many states have it set at $7.25/hr.
The basic issue with the current minimum wage is that it is simply not a living wage. People who are paid at $7.25/hr and even a little more than that, cannot afford to pay rent, buy food, take care of their families, etc. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), to afford a one-bedroom apartment and two-bedroom apartment requires you to make $16.35/hr and $20.30/hr respectively. Even with the proposed increases, you will still struggle to afford a standard apartment. Many groups are being affected by the low minimum wage and it is not just the groups you would expect. You have adults, both young and old, without a college degree who are struggling due to the low minimum wage. You have adults, with college degrees that are struggling. You have those who are living in impoverished areas that are struggling.
With the proposal of an increase, comes big debate between the last three 2016 presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump. For the most part, each of them have differing views on the idea of increasing the federal minimum wage. Sanders proposes that we increase it to $15/hr; stating that nobody should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty. Hillary Clinton supports the idea of increasing it to $12/hr while supporting the efforts of the “Fight for 15” to increase it to $15/hr. Donald Trump (as flip-floppy as he has been) believes that wages are fine where they are; stating that competition on wages is good.
The biggest question now is: Is increase the federal minimum to as high as $12 or $15 feasible? We are all arguing on what is feasible or not. I think we can agree that it can be increased, but will come with some varying consequences, based on the thoughts of some. Increasing it will place employers in difficult spots with handling the forced increase in wages. Options that have been brought up for them is: cutting hours or jobs and also increasing the prices of their products. Some argue that this negative effect of the increased wages would actually harm those who need the increase in wages more than it would help them. They would be in a position where they would have no job or will still not be able to afford the necessities that they need.
In my opinion, this is honestly a tough problem to figure out. We do have to be realistic and understand that an increase in minimum wage may cause some people to lose hours or to lose their jobs; while not increasing it will keep people stuck in the same situation of not being able to afford the basic necessities of living. I would understand keeping the minimum wage as is if many of the people with these jobs do not have major responsibilities, such as bills, housing, families to take care of, and more. But honestly, the people that would more than likely would fall into this category are teenagers and college students. I know there is the thought that if you do not like how your job pays, then you should go to college or a trade school to become qualified for higher paying jobs. I might sound a bit biased here, but as a millennial, I do not think a person has to go into debt to get a degree or qualification that does not guarantee them a higher paying job anyways. It would open doors to jobs that will pay well more than the current minimum wage, but it is still not easy out here to get a job. We still see many college grads stuck at home with mom and dad because finding a job is difficult. But, enough of that rant.
I believe that minimum wage should be increased because it is just too low for anyone. However, we need to look into other ways to make living more affordable. For example, housing is very expensive nowadays, and if you are not working full time and making at least three times the federal minimum wage, you might be able to afford your own place. That does not even factor in if you have a family to take care of. Also, even with more jobs being created in this country, we need them to be more accessible because many people are not feeling that new jobs have been created in this country. If the argument is made that an increase is not a good idea, we need ways to help those who are stuck in those jobs. Remember, do not assume that everyone that has a minimum wage job does not have any skills, qualifications, or degrees.
All in all, if we can increase the federal minimum wage in a way that will not cause more harm than good, let’s please do that. If not, let’s put more focus on addressing the high price of living that is making the current minimum wage an issue in the first place. People want alternatives, not a just simple “NO” if increasing is not feasible.
Those are my thoughts.