President Biden and lawmakers in Washington D.C. are pushing to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of the new stimulus package. As it currently stands, the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 an hour, and the last time it was increased was in 2009 when it rose from $6.55.
Both parties have expressed interest in raising the minimum wage as they agree that the current rate is not livable and is not enough to support and raise a family. Democrats support a $15-per-hour pay while Republicans support raising the wage but at a lower rate.
Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders is leading the charge for the Democratic Party as a vocal supporter of the minimum wage increase. He is looking to secure the support and will face a huge test in doing so. He argues that the people who gave the Democrats the majority in the Senate want additional pandemic relief and changes, and that this stimulus bill will give the people what they need during these tough times.
Supporters of the dramatic increase argue that a higher minimum wage will reduce poverty rates, reduce the dependency on welfare and government benefits for low-income workers, and reduce gender and race inequality while opponents believe that raising the minimum wage will force companies to lay off workers, and that it will cause an increase in the cost of living.
In my opinion, raising the minimum wage to $15 could devastate the U.S. economy and do more harm than good. Companies will be forced to lay off workers, and this will cause the unemployment rate to skyrocket. Small businesses could especially be impacted by the increase, and it would force many of them to close as they would likely lack the funds necessary to cover the increase while also attempting to turn a profit at the same time. We could see the increase of self-checkout services at supermarkets and convenience stores as companies will turn to technology to look to save money.
The cost of raising the minimum wage would be passed onto the average consumer. The cost of living for the average American would skyrocket as companies will be forced to increase their prices as a result of dramatically increased wages. While we will have more money in our pocket as a result of the increase, we will have to put out more money for necessities. Food prices at restaurants will be virtually unaffordable and will only cause problems as customers look for quality food at an affordable price.
Teenagers will be affected by the increase, and it will become increasingly difficult for them to find jobs. According to the Pew Research Center, teenagers and young adults ages 16 to 24 account for 50.4% of minimum wage earners, and 24% of teenagers earn a minimum wage at their place of employment. Companies may be unwilling to commit to paying a teenager with minimal experience and job skills $15 an hour. Since they have to pay more money to their workers, they would likely rather hire workers with experience and an impressive resume.
There is no denying that it is difficult for the average American to live on the current minimum wage, which is set at $7.25 an hour. I suggest raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour as this will increase the average household income and may not be as devastating to employers.
Erick Klambara is a first-year student majoring in media and cultures. EK924666@wcupa.edu