The Great Minimum Wage Debate
If a fast food worker worked 40 hours per week at the rate of $7.25/hour, will he have enough money to pay per month $500 in rent, $100 in utilities, $100 in gas and $200 for groceries?
Before taxes, a worker working full-time at that rate will make $1,160 per month, which totals out to about $13,920 per year, again without taxes being taken out. His bills add up to $900/month, plus whatever emergency expenses he may accrue over the course of that month.
Wait, no. That can’t be right.
Although I majored in English, the math is sound. It’s the system that’s fucked up.
Maybe you’ve seen The Blaze’s article entitled “Fast Food Workers: You Don’t Deserve $15 an Hour to Flip Burgers, and That’s OK” circulating your Facebook newsfeed.
The article is a response to fast food workers in 230 cities across the country walking out of their jobs and demanding a pay increase to $15/hour.
Extremely blunt title aside, the article makes a few interesting points that warrant further discussion.
Minimum wage in our country is $7.25/hour and in Florida it is $8.05/hour, just to give you a little perspective. It should be higher. It’s disgusting that there are people who work very hard and still have to choose between food for their kids or keeping the lights on. Our president believes it should be higher, too, suggesting at one point that it should be raised to $10.10/hour.
So if the workers think the minimum wage should be raised and President Obama thinks the minimum wage should be raised, why in the hell do we still have one of the lowest minimum wages in the developed world?
One word: Congress.
I’m going to restrain myself from ranting about my personal feelings of our current Congress, but it is important to note that the main opponents of the raising of minimum wage are mostly Republicans. It’s not because they’re preternaturally evil, though. Many of them just believe that the minimum wage should be decided by the states, rather than the federal government. And the others are protecting the interests of big business.
However, what irks me about that whole situation is that once you take office in Congress, your duty is to speak for and represent the American people. If your constituents want a higher minimum wage, then sack up and give the people what they want.
Damn, I was going to be so good about not introducing personal feelings into this. Eh, I’m only human.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that keeping the minimum wage low also violates the tradition of the American Dream. For those of you who were sleeping through your entire K-12 educational career, the American Dream is essentially that if you work hard, you can improve your station in life. By keeping the minimum wage low, we are keeping the dividing lines between the classes thick and impossible to cross. Is that really what we want to be?
As a country, we are being shamed by the international community for our horrifying appreciation (or, lack thereof) of the working class. We are behind most other developed countries in the way of minimum wage. If you compare the minimum wage and cost of living for other countries to those of the United States, you’d see that we are severely lacking in terms of keeping up with the Joneses.
For example, in Germany, the minimum wage is about $11/hour when converted to USD. The cost of living is also, on average, much lower in Germany than it is here in the U.S. This means they are making more money and spending less money on things like rent and food and life in general.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has essentially told us to get our ass in gear regarding economic growth and development.
According to the IMF’s 2014 forecast of U.S. economic growth, the minimum wage needs to be increased in order to raise the income of millions of impoverished Americans. Although they didn’t give a monetary suggestion as to what the minimum wage should be, the IMF makes some pretty compelling points about the fact that the minimum wage is embarrassingly low for a country of our size and standard.
In fact, if the minimum wage were to keep up with the rate of inflation, it would be at $10.90/hour, according to the National Employment Law Project. Moreover, if the average wages were to keep up with the rate of productivity, the minimum wage would be more like $22/hour, according to a study conducted by the Center for Economic Policy Research in 2012.
Okay, so what does all this have to do with us? Most of us are well-educated and are looking beyond the restraints of being a fast food worker for the rest of our lives, so why does it matter how much money someone behind the counter of McDonald’s makes?
Well, as a human being, you should be slightly concerned that there are people who have to make difficult decisions of whether they can afford gas or food. As a young citizen, you should understand economic decisions that could affect your future.
Every decision that is made with the economy in mind has a direct effect on us. The idea of Social Security, what tax bracket we fit into or even the price of the newest iPhone is directly determined by decisions made by Congress about our economy. In this regard, you should absolutely care about the idea of minimum wage.
So back to The Blaze. The writer of this article wasn’t necessarily wrong in his reasoning behind why fast food workers shouldn’t make $15/hour, but that doesn’t mean that he was right either. The fact is the minimum wage in our country sucks. It needs to be higher. Frankly, it needs to at least keep up with the rate of inflation because that’s just basic economic good sense. Let’s not get too stuck on the number 15. Sure, it makes for a good social media campaign, but it’s not exactly realistic in terms of winning favor in Congress.
So the next time you roll up to the drive-thru at Taco Bell, ask yourself how much money you would want to have to deal with your obnoxiously drunk ass while you order an obscene amount of junk food. Because I’m fairly certain that $7.25 wouldn’t even be close to the magic number.
Feature photo courtesy of: Vanessa’s Money