Valley Voices

Don’t panic: Raising minimum wage makes sense

By 2023, California will have a $15 minimum wage. Thank God. It is time for minimum wage to become a livable wage.

There are many criticisms floating around about this measure. Some of them have merit. Others are just ignorant. So let me put some of the ignorant ones to bed.

If you compare those who flip burgers with other careers and say, “Their work is lesser, and therefore they deserve lesser,” you are playing into the politics of poverty. No one deserves to go hungry. No one deserves to have basic necessities of life deprived of them because they do not make enough money.

Asking that people who make burgers work for less than a livable wage is hateful and tortuous. Do they deserve to live in squalor because you have deemed their work lesser or unnecessary? No. Get off your high horse and stop attacking poor people because you do not think it is fair. Believe me, they don’t think going to bed hungry while feeding children on minimum wage is very fair, either.

Do not attack the workers and whether they “deserve” better pay. Attack the corporations who do not pay their employees a livable wage. These are the real crooks in this situation. Wal-Mart can afford to pay its cashiers enough to have housing, transportation and food.

The problem is that not all businesses are corporations. Some are small and claim that raising the minimum wage would put them under. But the fact remains, if your business model relies on paying people unlivable wages, then your business is broken and needs to either remodel or fail. That is free-market capitalism. Adjust.

Another argument I hear: Minimum wage workers are lazy because they do not go get “real” jobs that would pay them more. I hate to break it to you, but there will always be a need for unskilled labor in America. We cannot all be doctors or lawyers. We cannot all go to school and further our education.

Some of these things are matters of privilege. Some are matters of location. And you know what? We don’t all want to become high-income earners. If people find joy in manual labor and are good at it, why should we ask them to change their path in order to make enough money to survive? All people at a base should be paid enough to survive.

No argument could convince me that people who work full time do not deserve to support themselves without government assistance.

Another myth is that minimum wage jobs are only meant for kids, like high schoolers who are between careers. So the idea here seems to be that we give this work to kids in an effort to motivate them into getting better jobs. We force members of our young, lower class to survive off low pay in order to pit them against each other in a job market. I believe Suzanne Collins made a lot of money off this notion. It was called “The Hunger Games.”

A big fat “also” in this scenario is that these jobs are not just for kids. People of all ages work for minimum wages – those without higher education, those who have no work experience because they were stay-at-home parents or those who move around too much to work up in a company. Many circumstances put people in need for whatever jobs they can find. It is not fair to penalize them with unlivable pay for circumstances out of their control.

People complain that raising the minimum wage will make the cost of everything else go up. Yeah, that is a possibility. There is not really a way to get around inflation. But I would gladly pay an extra 50 cents for a gallon of milk so that the people who slide my groceries across a scanner can afford the copays on their medication.

The positive thing about putting money in the pockets of the poor is that it will cause these same people to begin consuming again. Everyone seems concerned that this money will somehow disappear, and the value of the dollar will tank. In reality, the lower class will just contribute more than they do to the economy. They will begin spending and put that money right back into the economy.

People could afford to get off government programs. If we pay our citizens a livable wage, we will be able to cut back on government assistance, and that money can be used for something else, like building better roads or channeling it into education.

The government cannot afford to sustain so many programs. The American lower class cannot survive in this state. The private business sector needs to step up its game and pay its employees what they deserve.

Megan Bronson is a senior at Fresno State majoring in English and is the opinion and politics editor for The Collegian, where this first appeared.