Is it necessary to raise our country’s minimum wage?: We must enact measures due to our current economic state

Sean Parsons, Contributing Writer

On April 1, 2015, a new piece of legislation went into effect in the busy city of Seattle. This bill, signed by the city’s Mayor back in 2014, called for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and will slowly be carried out in the coming years. This is part of a growing movement to enact a $15 minimum wage across the nation for all working Americans.

The fight for a higher minimum wage is extremely important. The current federal minimum wage, set at $7.25 an hour, is unlivable. A single person working 40 hours a week on this would make only $13,900 a year. Living on this puts workers just narrowly above the federal poverty line. Since the Seattle minimum wage bill was passed, Mayor Murray was delighted to report that the city’s unemployment rate dropped to levels never seen since the crash in 2008. Raising the minimum wage is much needed in our struggling economy and would have enormous benefits that would put our nation back on track.

One of the biggest reasons why the minimum wage must be raised is because Americans were actually paid more back in the 60’s than workers today. The minimum wage back in 1968, is equivalent to $11.16 in today’s dollars. On top of that, the average hours Americans worked in 1968 was 41.7 compared to the current average of 46.7 hours by today’s workers, according to a new Gallup poll. This means that Americans back then worked less, and were paid more. If a higher wage worked then, then why won’t it work now? This proves that our economy can handle a wage increase and that it is rightfully deserved.

One obvious but still crucially important benefit of raising the minimum wage to $15 is that it would reduce poverty by putting more money into the hands of people who have low wage jobs. A 2014 Congressional Budget report states that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would pull 900,000 people out of the struggles of poverty.

Meager wages by employers are also the reason why so many Americans are dependent on welfare and government assistance. Americans work some of the longest hours per week compared to other modern nations and yet a large majority still don’t have enough money to get by. Companies like McDonald’s and Walmart are called the biggest “welfare queens” since their workers rely so much on government assistance and it’s American taxpayers who are subsidizing these massive corporations. An increase in the minimum wage to $15 would help tackle this major problem in our country.

One main opposing argument to not increase the minimum wage is the fear that it will hurt small businesses who won’t be able to pay the new wage. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 60% of small business owners say that raising the minimum wage would hurt most small business owners. But this has been proven wrong.

After Seattle increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour, the major loss of businesses that was expected never happened, and in fact, quite the opposite occurred. A Puget Sound Business article titled “Apocalypse not: $15 and the cuts that never happened” reports that restaurants, said to be the ones hardest hit by a minimum wage hike, continued to open. Even chain owners who criticized raising the minimum wage and said that it would hurt their businesses proved themselves wrong after they issued hundreds of more permits to open more food establishments in the area.

And to put this on a more national level, Robert Reich who served as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton in 1996 said, “We raised the minimum wage, business predicted millions of job losses; in fact, we had more job gains over the next four years than in any comparable period in American history.”

Even Henry Ford, one of the most successful businessmen in the United States, created a list of principles he believed made a business successful. His third principle deals with wages. It states that workers should be paid high so that they can buy products they make, essentially becoming customers creating a cycle of never ending economic success for everybody. And looking at the facts, his Model T eventually comprised 40% of all cars sold at the time.

A higher minimum wage will also reduce our horrible income inequality. The United States has never seen such a wide pay gap since the 1920’s. A study done in 2013 by the University of California has found that 95% of all new income from the years 2009 to 2012 have all went to the top 1% of the U.S. population. Other studies have shown that economies that have high income inequality will also have bad economic growth. Just hoping that the money from the top will just trickle down does not work. A higher minimum wage must be put in place to actually close the income inequality gap in our country and improve the economy.

With these facts in mind, the importance of raising the minimum wage to $15 is undeniable. America has had a sluggish recovery from the 2008 crash and more money in the pockets of Americans is just what is needed to pick it back up. It’s a small step that will go a long way towards economic prosperity.