By Sarah Mummert
Perhaps what comes to mind when you think of minimum wage is flipping burgers at your local McDonald’s. Raising wages has become a topic of debate. The major supporters of raising the federal minimum wage generally have one concern on their minds: giving everyone the ability to obtain an equal standard of living. How to meet that goal? Raise the minimum wage, easy fix, right?
People get paid more, and everyone’s happy. But life isn’t easy, and we should be wary of solutions that present themselves as “easy.” The problem isn’t the goal, as seeing the end of poverty would be a wonderful thing. But it seems that raising the federal minimum wage presents other issues.
Equality comes to the forefront of nearly every major issue. Raising the minimum wage will help level the economic playing field. But in a free society, we just won’t have the type of equality people are calling for.
Dr. Wheeler, a professor of Economics at Cedarville University, said, “We could quit being free and then you could have more equality, and everyone would have less, but we would be equally having less.”
He said that with individual freedom, which we enjoy here in our nation, we need to have individual accountability and responsibility. We need to put in the work we need to achieve the standard of living we want.
“We can’t just wave a wand and make that happen,” Wheeler said.
Proponents of raising the minimum wage would argue that that isn’t fair. They’re right; it’s not. But you want a free society? Then we need a free market economy, regulated by buyers and sellers, not the government.
Companies won’t be able to maintain an artificially high pay rate without repercussions of some kind. The money must come from somewhere. Their profits could take a hit, but they will be more likely to pass the costs along to customers in increased prices or to their employees by cutting pay—or positions. Companies hire people based on what they deem their individual productivity to be worth. But if kiosks are cheaper than employees at, say, McDonald’s, some companies will make the trade. Those people will be out of jobs.
However, the wage is not all we look at when considering a job position. We look at other benefits as well, such as health care plans and perhaps the employer’s flexibility. Artificially setting a higher minimum wage could cause employees to lose out when it comes to the other benefits their employers provide.
Dr. Haymond, a professor of Economics at Cedarville University, said, “An employer only has so many resources to pay toward the employee, and there are other margins [other than wages] that they can decrement”
A company doesn’t have to lower wages but could cut other benefits instead. Employees, then, would be negatively affected even if they don’t lose their jobs and their pay stays the same. Both professors expressed concern about what would happen if the United States, as a whole, adopted “one wage”.
Haymond said. “If we set a minimum wage for the highest cost of living area and make that mandatory across the whole nation, you are making cruel punishment to rural Mississippi and Appalachia.”
Haymond then explained that these places are typically lower-income, where it’s difficult to get good-paying jobs. Thus, if the minimum wage were increased to suit the needs of New York City and then mandated across the country, companies in rural America will struggle to sustain that. They won’t be able to afford to pay the people who need jobs, making it impossible for them to find jobs.
Thus, in the best interest of the diverse regions in this large nation of ours, the states should be the ones to set the minimum wage as they see fit, rather than having the federal government set a wage that panders to the needs of the area with the highest cost of living.
It would be ignorant to say that no one will benefit from a raised minimum wage. There are those who remain employed that will definitely benefit. We may not see a huge number of people unemployed, but we may see some of that. But weighing the potential benefits of a raised minimum wage against the potential harm seems to lean in the direction of the latter.
“The idea that you would have the same minimum wage across the country is beyond absurd,” Haymond said.
Sarah Mummert is a freshman Professional Writing and Information Design student and an off-campus writer for Cedars. She loves cats, Dutch Blitz, languages and word origins, and random bits of trivial knowledge.