The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Davis Clipper.
Working my first steady job as a teenager, I was paid 75 cents per hour. Working about 15 hours a week, I brought home the princely sum of about $45 each month. With gasoline priced at 25 cents per gallon and a fast-food burger at about the same price, I was often flush with cash.
I didn’t care about the minimum wage. My objective wasn’t to earn a “living wage.” I was only concerned with putting gas in my Ford Falcon and buying popcorn at the movie.
Republicans and Democrats seem to constantly quarrel over an increase in the current $7.25 hourly minimum wage. Democrats sympathize with low-wage earners and claim that taxpayers only subsidize them through welfare and other social programs. Republicans usually argue that hiking the minimum wage results in less jobs and higher prices for consumers.
Both are right to a degree. The problem with raising the minimum wage for the lowest-paid workers is that a company may reasonably have to increase the pay for all of its hourly staff.
If the $7.25 workers get a one dollar boost, the company would naturally have to raise the pay for their co-workers making $9 an hour. On the other hand, studies don’t show that a buck here or there is a “job killer” as Republicans say; and Pres. Obama makes sense when he declares that a person working full-time (and maybe even working two jobs) should not have to live in poverty and feed his or her family with food stamps.
The President’s directive to immediately mandate an increase for federal workers and contract employees has little effect. I assure you that NASA employees or workers expanding I-15 or a manufacturing staff in Air Force missile plants are not earning a paltry $7.25 per hour. But his attention to the issue has a certain appeal to Americans and paints objecting Republicans as Scrooges.
It is probably time to raise the minimum wage Р but not to the $15 per hour mark many Democrats are urging. Furthermore, future increases should be indexed to the cost of living to avoid continual political posturing.
Studies in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and San Francisco show that a buck or two raise didn’t result in job loss or business upheaval. Prices may go up slightly, but businesses also benefit from a workforce being able to spend more Р even buy its own products Р as well as a reduction in employee turnover.
At the same time, however, teen workers may be helped by a lower introductory-level training wage. When I earned my 75 cents per hour, I wasn’t supporting a family or paying school tuition. A different standard might be used to ensure that teens could still get lower-paid summer employment.
I’m not sure how much the minimum wage should be increased. But at $7.25 per hour, a man or woman working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks of the year would barely earn $15,000 in an entire year Р and that’s before taxes.
It’s difficult to have a thriving economy when this man or woman is a consumer and your potential customer.