In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.
As a person whose post-graduation plans will probably involve flipping burgers and scrubbing toilets (hopefully never at the same time) while looking for a better job, I fully support the president’s plan.
Moreover, according to CBS News, increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour would almost allow a family of four with one minimum wage worker to get over the poverty line. Hooray for almost reaching the bare minimum.
But, as can be expected whenever a scary liberal proposes anything even remotely resembling wealth redistribution, Republican leaders are already trying to discredit the idea.
Speaker of the House John Boehner uses an asinine ladder analogy, saying that taking away the first few rungs of the economic ladder makes it harder for people to get on said ladder. Apparently, climbing this metaphorical ladder leads to the American dream.
Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that many people get stuck on the bottom rungs of the American dream ladder and stay there for life.
Republicans love the myth that the American dream still exists. It’s a pretty cool myth, too, so I can understand why. I’d love to get a minimum wage job at McDonald’s and be rewarded for my Big Mac-making savoir faire by becoming a manager and eventually Ronald McDonald’s personal assistant/make-up artist.
But there’s no room for advancement in most minimum wage jobs. Unfortunately, acquiring skill through college or trade school costs money, so workers become stuck in a cycle of poverty.
The other main Republican argument is that raising the minimum wage would hamper the hiring ability of small businesses. However, what makes the plight of a small business owner any more tragic than the plight of a minimum wage laborer? Using some cold-hearted ultra-capitalist logic, shouldn’t a small business that isn’t profitable enough to pay an increased minimum wage be allowed to fail?
In case Republican leaders haven’t noticed, everything is getting a lot more expensive (actually, I bet a lot of them haven’t noticed, since they probably have people to take care of these things for them). Obama simply wants the minimum wage to keep up with cost of living.
People can’t spend money on consumer goods or services if they don’t have it. If minimum wage workers made more money, they’d be able to support those at-risk small businesses that Republicans are worried about.
Once again, this entire situation boils down to empathy. In most cases, legislators have no experience living below the poverty line. Therefore, it’s easy for them to look down upon those of us hanging on to the bottom rungs of Boehner’s ladder.