Federal minimum wage raise, to happen or not to happen

“Raising the minimum wage is a simple, direct way that we can improve the incomes of low-wage workers, pull many poor families out of poverty and pull many children out of poverty,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center for NewsBerkeley.edu. 

As of late, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam has made the monumental decision to raise the minimum wage for the state; moving from $7.25 to $9.50 an hour, it will be the first increase since 2009. In fact, Virginia has become the first southern state to raise it’s minimum wage above the federal minimum wage.

Because of such a monumental decision, Americans are once again starting to question whether or not the $7.25 federal minimum wage is one that is livable. Thousands of Americans take on physically grueling jobs in the hopes of feeding themselves and their families, and also providing shelter, but the current minimum wage that these workers make in a year’s time suggests that those hopes just aren’t realistic.

According to Convertunits.com, if a worker makes $7.25 an hour, works 40 hour work weeks, and takes zero time off, they would only be making $15,080 a year, which is shockingly low for one living in a first world country and working themselves to the bone.

The price of living in a first world country has always been high, but the reason America’s minimum wage is so low is because the minimum wage has not been rising with inflation.

According to CEPR.org, if the minimum wage rose alongside productivity growth since 1968, the minimum wage would be about $24 dollars today. This would equal an annual income of about $48,000.

This would clearly be a huge jump in income for possibly millions of Americans, but slowly raising the minimum wage isn’t such a fantastical idea when compared to other countries.

According to CNBC.com and professor of Economic Geography and Regional Planning at MIT Amy Glasmeier, people are not surviving on the minimum wage.

In 2019, Australia raised their minimum wage to $12.60, while France’s is $11.66. The country with the current highest minimum wage is Luxembourg, which is $13.78. The U.S., however, does not even make it on the top ten list.

For the past few months, Democrats in Congress, and especially in the House of Representatives, have been pushing to pass a $15 dollar minimum wage that would be reached by the year 2025. The Senate, however, has been denied their attempts.

According to the Guardian.com, Senator Bernie Sanders stated that what concerns him as much as anything else in the country is that at least half of the American people are living paycheck to paycheck and millions of people are trying to survive on starvation wages. Sanders went on to state that it’s morally imperative that the minimum wage is raised to a living wage that’s at least $15 an hour.”

The House is currently more confident than ever about raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, as  President Joe Biden has supported this idea heavily during his 2020 campaign and is continuing his fight. Although Biden hasn’t actually pushed this through as the Senate continues to shut down the House and many of their bills.

Senate Conservatives argue, however, that raising the minimum wage could have dangerous effects on the economy, and could hurt small businesses, especially during the pandemic. Moreover, Conservatives fear that if small business owners have to pay all their employees  higher wages, they would lose money and possibly go bankrupt.

They also worry that raising the minimum wage could cause massive inflation across the country. Raising the minimum wage now, they believe, is just not realistic at the current time. Especially since the country’s economy is still trying to mend itself from COVID lockdowns.

However, there are studies that show that small businesses could actually benefit, and if the minimum wage is raised slowly, there should be no real worries about inflation.

According to Americanpress.org, because more workers will have more disposable income than before, they will be able to use their money to spend it on small businesses and directly benefit the economy. These businesses could also benefit from a more productive crew, as workers would make a more livable wage. And, as for the minimum wage, according to Investopedia.com, when looking back at the history of raising the minimum wage, there is only a very loose association with it and overall inflation. There just is not enough evidence that proves that slowly raising the minimum wage will have massively damaging effects on the economy, and will more than likely benefit it instead.

There are millions of Americans today living in extreme poverty, with seemingly no way out. Even if they were to get a minimum wage job, they still wouldn’t be making enough to actually support themselves and live a semi-decent life. There is seriously no reason why any American should be living like this, and it’s time for something to be changed, even if done incrementally.