The debate over minimum wage has been going on since the rise of capitalism in the late 19th early 20th centuries. While there is a debate as to what it should be, there is another as to whether or not there should even be a minimum wage.
Those who support raising the minimum wage say it will grow the economy through an increase in economic activity. Because, people get paid more, they will buy more. It’s a self sufficient upward spiral. Allegedly, raising the minimum wage will lift people out of poverty, increase productivity, and reduce income inequality. The current federal minimum wage is not considered a livable wage, as many people in big cities can’t even pay rent with what they are making. Income inequality will reduce because those higher up who make more money will have to give it to lower level employees. The federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) has not increased proportionally with inflation. “The federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009, and its value has been decreasing with inflation over the last 10 years,” according to the Pacific Standard.
Why then, hasn’t the minimum wage been raised to $15 and hour? Those who oppose the raise say that doing so would severely stifle the economy. Many businesses would not be able to pay $15 and hour, and would have to let people off to keep making money. More people being laid off would raise unemployment and poverty. Also, “increasing the minimum wage reduces the likelihood of upward mobility,” -procon.org. In America’s capitalist economy, upward mobility is a large component of why people work. They work hard for better pay and positions. If they are unable to move upward, their quality of work and productivity decreases.
But what do I think? I think that looking at the issue of minimum wage on the federal scale is too myopic. There is no great federal economy that large scale policy can fix its issues. Instead there are thousands of small city economies that make up the nation, and each city’s economy is good or poor. Raising the federal wage will see some struggling families rise out of poverty in one city, but will completely destroy the workforce and economy in another. Each city’s economy has its own needs. Some can do great with $7.25 an hour, others need $15 to thrive. The issue of minimum wage should be decided by local governments based on the community’s needs. Maybe even the state government. All a federal minimum wage does is cause issues for many businesses and towns and limit potential.