Minimum wage is a hot button issue in this year’s election. The two main political parties have vastly different opinions on the issue, and for good reason. Liberals would say that it is impossible to survive on a wage of $7.25 an hour (which is around what a common minimum wage would be). Conservatives would say if you raise the minimum wage then the people getting paid that wage would lose their jobs. Both are right, and both should work together to come up with a good compromise (I know crazy, right?) to solve the problem.
The fact is that it is nearly impossible to live off of the minimum wage if that is your only source of income. And if you add in any kids or dependents to the equation, it is impossible. I do not think any good-hearted conservative would try to make the argument that it is possible to live off of that low of a wage. People at the bottom of the income ladder do need help to get themselves out of poverty.
A key part of that process of getting out of poverty is a job, and conservatives are right when they say that raising the minimum wage would cut jobs among people working at the minimum wage level. Businesses need to make up for the increase in the wage by cutting those type of low paying jobs. This isn’t just a theory, this is backed up by economists across the world.
But something needs to be done. A 40-year-old mother of four cannot raise a family on a minimum wage job, but does a 14-year-old high school student working at the local Heinen’s really need to make $15 an hour? In my opinion, no they do not. Especially because that is the kind of worker that would probably be let go if minimum wage were raise up to $15 an hour.
My proposition is that we add simple age brackets to the minimum wage. Let’s make it so that if you are between the ages of 14 (or whatever the legal age to start working is) and 21, you get the normal base minimum wage. Let’s make it $7.25. If you are 21 or older, you should get paid more than someone who is just learning how to drive or taking a college 101 class. Let’s make their wage $10.10 an hour.
Frankly, I am no expert, so I do not know what the age brackets should be or the dollar amounts, but drastically raising the minimum wage will hurt the minimum wage worker. So we have to do something that will help the worker, not something that seems like it would help but actually hurt them.
Another conservative option would be to institute an earned income tax credit which would let a worker keep more of the money they earn in their pay check, rather than taking so much out for taxes.
The bottom line is this: something needs to be done about poverty in America and both sides should come together to fix it. We all agree people need help, so let’s figure out a way to help the people who need it most.