Earlier this year, the Illinois Senate passed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $9 and, by 2019, to $11. Governor Rauner proposed an increase to $10 over 7 years. It still remains to be seen whether the Illinois House will pass the bill and whether the governor will sign it. Many protesters are saying that the minimum wage should be $15 an hour.
What do you think? Should we raise the minimum wage to $9 or $10 an hour? What about $15 an hour? Should the federal government set the minimum? Here is the problem with many who answer this question and other political questions: they tend to base their answers on emotion and feelings, rather than facts and sound judgment. If raising the minimum wage is better overall, we should do that. If not, we shouldn't. It's that simple.
Many young people (18-25) tend to believe that raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do. So I was pleased to see an opinion piece by Gina Flammini, 21 (she will be 22 this month), in the Zion-Benton News this past April. In her article, Gina, a recent graduate of EIU, gave her thoughts about the "Fight for 15" campaign. She said that the protesters expect the government to force employers to pay them double the current federal minimum wage. She said, "a jump to $15 an hour minimum is not only unfair, but is unreasonable and will destroy the economy" and the protesters "don't seem to care". She's right, but will it destroy the economy? No, but it would certainly cripple the economy for years. And I agree that it seems like the protesters don't care about the big picture; they seem to only care about what they want. But many don't know what is best; they rely on feelings rather than facts. Too many people make decisions based on apathy and/or ignorance.
Some proponents of the huge increase say that it would boost the economy and help people who are in or near the poverty level. So, will it really boost the economy? Sure... just temporarily and artificially, until the crippling effect happens. Every time there is an increase in the minimum wage, there is also an increase in unemployment. If the minimum wage was increased to $10, roughly a 1/2 million workers would be out of their jobs. If it was increased to $15 an hour, millions would be added to the unemployment line. No joke. Businesses would be forced to close up or move out of state, leaving Illinois for Wisconsin, Indiana, or Iowa (states that have the lower federal minimum of $7.25, and less taxes). Higher-quality workers (ones with experience or college degrees) would be replacing some of the lower-quality workers. Many more businesses would have to let go of thousands of workers. So how does that help out low-paid workers?! It doesn't. It won't. It can't.
Workers that were making more than the minimum wage prior to the increase would have additional pay increases. There would also be an increase in prices for goods and services, an increase in the cost of living, an increase in foreclosures, and an increase in crime. How is that better? More people would be out of work, struggling to survive, and more would be turning to crime. There would be a decrease in morale, charity, and in the value of the dollar. The decrease in the dollar's value alone could be devastating to the economy - at home and abroad - for years to come.
The title of Gina's article, "Flipping Burgers Not Meant to Be a Career", brings up another point. "Minimum wage" jobs are not intended to support a family. They are only a starting point. With hard work, the right attitude, and experience, you will be moving up, no doubt, and sooner rather than later. When I was 18, I got a job as a dish-washer in a restaurant, making $2.30 an hour (the minimum wage in 1977). I didn't care; I worked hard and proved myself. Within a month, I was promoted to cook. Within three months, I was promoted to assistant manager. And within a year, I was promoted to manager, making a significant amount more than when I first started!
So what is best? Increasing the minimum wage does help the economy, but only when it is raised slowly and sparingly. The marketplace should set the standard, not the government. Let the pay increases happen naturally and don't use force. Not only could the marketplace do a better job, but the economy would be more robust and healthier. Many goods and services would be more affordable to more people. More people would have jobs. More workers would strive to get promoted, without feeling a sense of entitlement.
But we're stuck with big government, whether we like it or not. We can only hope they don't mess things up too much by raising the minimum wage drastically. Instead of looking for the government to "come to the rescue", workers should do what they can to bail themselves out... out of poverty and into a better place!