Staff Editorial: Minimum Wage


Cody Owen and Ellis Fontana

Staff Question: Do you support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 across the state of Iowa?
Yes: 21 No: 0

Money is a useful thing. One can use it for food, water, clothes, medical expenses, maybe the odd rhinoceros here and there. That’s why we all, for the most part, will probably spend most of our lives trying to get more of it. Odds are a fair number of City alum did exactly that over the summer; the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the employment rate was around 60% among young people (age 16-24) in July of 2015. Most students who have a job, especially in the food or entertainment business, probably get paid at or near the Iowa minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour. Which, as anyone who makes that knows, is not very much.

It’s a common misconception that raising the minimum wage is bad for a business. Increasing the purchasing power of low-wage workers increases the quality of life for those making minimum, and putting more money into the pockets of minimum-wage workers leads to those same workers putting more money back into the economy. With the majority of the biggest spenders in America (young people) on minimum wage, they lose the ability to, well, spend. Which means that many companies cannot sell the products that they’re trying to sell. Which means that they don’t get as much money as they normally would. Which means that they can’t afford to pay their workers as much money as they normally would. Which means they might have to lay off many of their employees. And who is most likely to be laid off in this situation? Low importance, minimum wage level employees.

On top of that, another misconception that is thrown around is the idea that if you raise minimum wage then inflation will just rise with it, making the change irrelevant. To be fair, part of this is true. Inflation will rise if you raise the minimum wage. However, the problem with that is that inflation will do that anyway. Inflation always rises, it’s risen since the concept of currency began, it will continue to rise, and it won’t stop rising until the fall of human civilization. But that’s for another day. But you know what doesn’t rise, and will continue to not rise until we make it rise? Minimum wage will.

This creates the problem that while $7.25 an hour makes sense as a living wage for when it was created in 2007, however by 2015 $7.25 has risen to $8.33, but people are still paid $7.25 an hour. Which means that the minimum wage can no longer operate as a living wage due to it being a whole dollar behind the inflation rates. Which is absolutely ridiculous when you consider the fact that this means businesses are not paying their workers enough to put food on their table.

Another unfortunate belief about minimum wage is that most people making $7.25 an hour are not valued enough workers to warrant raising their wages. That just about every worker on minimum wage is a deadbeat, pot-smoking, good-for-nothing that will amount to basically nothing or just some lousy, great-for-nothing teenagers. Well this simply isn’t true. According to Forbes, the average age of a minimum wage worker is 35. They also state that 88% of workers affected by minimum wage are over 20. This means that despite views that many hold about minimum wage is that minimum wage workers are average people that are a necessary part of the workforce. Without them, many businesses would not have the manpower to be successful in today’s economy. So we have to treat them like people and give them the ability to feed themselves and their families when they come home after a 40 hour work week. In order to do this, all we have to do is raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and pay attention to it by raising with inflation, keeping everyone at the same level.

An important thing to consider in this debate is the situation where minimum wage was created, the Great Depression. And without the implementation of minimum wage by FDR, poor and middle class people wouldn’t have the money to put back into the economy which would raise this country out of the greatest economic crisis since Mansa Musa screwed over Cairo. This quote by FDR himself neatly summarizes the problem with minimum wage today and why it needs to be changed: “No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”