Facing poverty: raising the minimum wage

Jon Crowell, Opinion Editor

“Michigan voters decided a number of years ago to raise the minimum wage above the national level, and the news this week tells us that it is likely again to be on the November ballot,” said Fred Upton, U.S. Representative, Michigan’s 6th district. Whether or not to raise minimum wage has been the subject of debate ever since President Barack Obama brought up the idea of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in his State of the Union address. I had the opportunity to discuss the matter with Rep. Upton via email in February to discuss the possible outcomes of raising the minimum wage.

The first problem that businesses would face with a raised minimum wage would be trying to fit all existing employees into their budget. “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed that this week with their analysis that 500,000 jobs would disappear,” said Rep. Upton. Companies have a limited budget to offer to employees, so with a raised minimum wage, companies would in turn have to lay off workers to provide other employees with the new raised wage. With hundreds of thousands of Americans unemployed, now is as bad a time as ever to make a move that could potentially cut even more jobs. Being able to pay many workers at a lesser wage is more valuable to the economy than paying a slightly higher amount to a smaller work force.

“It’s supply and demand,” said Ryan Hoover (12). “If you raise the minimum wage, prices will go up. It would hurt the middle class the most. Even though their salaries don’t change, other prices would.” The effect on the middle class is one of the biggest concerns. As wages for low paid workers increase, so do prices of these businesses, yet middle class workers’ wages would go unchanged. The middle class would then have a tougher time supporting themselves or a family with increased prices.

This brings us to the second problem: the effect of supply and demand. The best case scenario would be temporary relief to low income houses before prices inflate and end up bringing minimum wage workers back where they started, and leaving the middle class in a worse position than before.

While raising the minimum wage is not the answer, we should not ignore the problems facing poverty. Defeating poverty should not involve raising the minimum wage, but rather focus on creating jobs that are at a higher standard than flipping burgers. “No one has suggested that one can raise a family on a minimum wage salary. You can’t,” said Rep. Upton. Fast food restaurants are not made for adults trying to provide for a family, they are for high school students trying to save money for college or college students looking for spare hours to make enough money to get by. “[Minimum wage jobs] are for high schoolers. Adults making minimum wage should go to college and get a better job,” said Lewis. Collin Hall (11) agreed that “people who go to college should be rewarded with a better wage. If you don’t have a college degree, they should expect to make less money.”

While everyone wants a few extra dollars, it is important to realize that raising the minimum wage may end up causing more harm than good. “There is ample proof that yes, with an increase, there is the distinct possibility that a good number of entry-level minimum jobs will simply not be offered,” said Rep. Upton. For the sake of America’s economy, the minimum wage should not be raised.