Midterms serve as convenient time for minimum wage legislation

By Dan Travers

If you turn on CNN anytime soon you may catch a brief break in the coverage of Ebola and ISIS to observe some reporting on polarizing issues facing our nation. One such issue is increasing the minimum wage from its current national level of $7.25 to $10.10. “Giving America a raise” is a goal our President made a legislative priority. Advocates claim that increasing the minimum wage will support impoverished Americans by raising their standard of living without sacrificing US jobs; however, those who support this legislation either willingly ignore rudimentary economic principles to gain votes, or they are simply ignorant of the economic impacts of minimum wage. The proposed increase would be a detriment to impoverished Americans and our economy overall. This direct contradiction illuminates a larger issue overall: that our politicians are willing to sacrifice what is best for our nation for personal political capital.

One of the primary adverse affects of minimum wage is the resulting increase in unemployment. The direct relationship between minimum wage and unemployment is an established economic principle. It is fundamentally wrong to slightly increase the standard of living of one unskilled worker if we know that it will result in the unemployment and plausible impoverishment of another unskilled worker. American unemployment is currently at its lowest level since before the Recession. It would be a mistake to forfeit this impressive economic accomplishment for the sake of politicians’ careers.

Additionally, increases in minimum wage prove to encourage teenagers to drop out of school due to the incentive of earning a higher income. In the long run, these teens lack education and end up sacrifice lifelong financial security for minimal short-term benefit.

Perhaps the biggest problem with increasing the minimum wage is that it is a poorly targeted policy. Many politicians argue that increasing the minimum wage will help to lower our poverty rate; however, a large majority, nearly 70 percent, of minimum wage workers live in households with an annual income above the poverty line. By the early 2000s, only around 17% of low-wage workers were classified as impoverished. In fact, 34% of low-wage workers lived in families that earned more than three times the poverty line! Paying a higher wage to these people will not make an impact on poverty, as many of them are likely teens working jobs for spending money.

Although an increase in the minimum wage would be a mistake, minimum wage legislation serves an important role in our society. Minimum wage laws are one way to protect impoverished families from exploitation. Any sort of repeal of our current fair-employment laws would result in widespread exploitation of the lower class.

For those of you who are unaware, midterm elections are about to officially open after a year of hard campaigning on both sides of the isle. Conveniently, an increase in the minimum wage is strong political capital to gain the favor of lower to middle class Americans. This increase is a legislative priority for the president because it is exactly the kind of liberal policy that could help Democrats maintain Congressional seats in a difficult midterm election year. This increase will not support poverty stricken Americans. In order to bolster the impoverished members of our nation we must make education and job training more readily available, create fiscal policy that supports domestic business and avoid leaders who are willing to do anything for votes.

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