We Need To Raise The Minimum Wage
If you look at the first twenty-five or thirty years of the minimum wage being in effect versus the average living expense at that time respectively, it is obvious that the original intention was to ensure that no matter what job one worked they would not have to fall behind if they were single and worked forty hours a week. True, the cost of food has changed proportionately equal to the change in the minimum wage, for the most part. However, some other expenses have become proportionately greater to the minimum wage than they originally were. Some expenses that used to be considered "luxury" are now standard and the price of housing has grown exponentially far more rapidly than the minimum wage has. Therefore, over the years, the original concept of minimum wage was lost, as a forty hour week at minimum wage currently would not even come close to being enough as a sole source of income, especially with the health care reform bill (this essentially forces most people to purchase benefits). Why can't the minimum wage workers take government assistance? Because it would ruin their future. There is, unfortunately, a growing disparity between white collar jobs and blue collar jobs due to the loss of the livable wage manufacturing jobs. One usually cannot get a job in the financial industry if they have taken government assistance (as I know from personal experience) in the last seven years, which makes the minimum wage workers who would be forced to take government assistance ruin their futures for nearly a decade - possibly longer if their situation remains difficult and need to continue receiving the assistance. True, many minimum wage workers don't have the college education to get a job in the financial sector in the first place. But after the recent massive downsizings, there are many minimum wage workers right now who are college graduates and may even have been employed in the financial sector "before."
>Would raising the minimum wage hurt employment rates?
Not so much. Minimum wage jobs are rarely downsized but hard to fill. If these people had to be paid a higher hourly rate, the companies employing them would have to suck it up. Who cares if they end up paying American workers more per hour? All it would really do is make a small nick, barely noticable, in their profits. Also, they won't try to make fewer minimum wage jobs, even if there is a rate hike, because they know what a raw deal their workers are given.
>What should be done?
We really need to drastically raise the minimum wage. However, this time around, we should be proactive and not apply this uniformly across the country. Rather, we should base the computation on the average cost of living in a state - but in some states with extreme discrepencies between geographic areas, based on regional cost of living. Yes, this would make commuting to higher wage district advantageous but things need to placed in such a way that we don't burn the system. So what should the minimum wage be? Well, figuring for taxes, the now essentially mandatory health benefits, housing, car/public transportation expenses, food, utilities, etc. (even with occasional overtime @ time and a half) you are looking at around $8.75 to $10.00 per hour, depending upon the region. The minimum wage would be twenty-five cents per hour lower (for mid-sized companies) than the going rate in the region and seventy-five cents per hour lower (for small businesses) than the going rate in the region, but a dollar lower until it lis determined that the economy has shown a reasonable recovery. This would stil be a relatively livable salary but would give a competitive advantage to mid-sized, and especially small, businesses over large corporations. Disclaimer: This hike would not apply to baggers and others who are under 18, because they typically live at home. For almost all of New England, urban sections of the mid-Atlantic (specifically the megalopolis regions from Washington to New York), parts of the West Coast, and perhaps Chicago and other metropolitan areas, the minimum wage should range from $9.50 to $10.00 per hour ($10.50 for New York City, maybe). This way the original intention of enacting a minimum wage will be fulfilled - thus ensuring a more livable wage for all.
>The One Problem
Though the practical thing to do is a federally enforced hike in the minumum wage, unfortunately, it is unlikely that it will ever happen. The reason is because in the recent seventy years or so the Supreme Court has given control of the minimum wage legislation to the individual states (West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 1937). Therefore, there cannot be a federaly regulated minimum wage. However, the federal government could encourage states to adhere to the aforementioned plan by regulating state aid to force all states to adopt a minimum wage hike plan. Some may call this bullying, however, as far as I see it, any rule that helps the common worker and gives small businesses an advantage (for the most part) over large corporations is a bill that, though protested initially, will someday become just another rule on the books that all accept - and like (except for the fat cats who probably organized the protests anyhow).
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