Debate over minimum wage continues

Claire Rudinsky, Features Editor

One of Biden’s campaign promises was to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Every president since FDR has increased the minimum wage, with the exception of Ford, Reagan and Trump. The current hourly rate of $7.25 was set in 2009. Since then, 30 states have instituted higher state or local minimum wages, going up to $15. Oregon established a schedule of yearly increases to minimum wage through 2022, after which subsequent increases will be tied to inflation. 

The subject of minimum wage remains contentious today, both in political and academic settings. Economic studies support both sides of the argument, remaining subjective to location, time period, focus and method of data collection. Proponents of raising the minimum wage to $15 argue that the influx of money would help the economy grow, as well as bring people out of poverty and reduce the need for welfare spending. Additionally, the Economic Policy Institute released data that shows Black and Hispanic workers would be affected at a higher rate compared to white workers, with wages rising by 31 and 26 percent compared to 20 percent for whites. However, other economists argue that the increase would pose a larger threat to those in poverty than help, as there is the possibility of hour reduction or even job loss. 

Furthermore, the cost of raising the minimum wage could be felt largely by small businesses, allowing multi-billion dollar corporations like Amazon to flourish. The solution would be to ensure that the pass-up happens, where the cost of raising the minimum wage is felt by the consumers by raising the price of products; however, this raise would contribute to inflation and could affect lower income people more because they are more likely to buy the products that would be affected. 

There was an attempt in the early months of 2021 to include raising the minimum wage in the last of the COVID-19 relief bills that passed, but this amendment was vetoed by a vote of 42-58 in the Senate with eight Democrats voting in opposition. Currently, several bills relating to minimum wage have been introduced by both Democrats and Republicans (separately). The Raise the Wage Act 2021, introduced by House and Senate Democrats, would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2027. The High Wages for American Workers Act, introduced by Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton, would increase hourly pay to $10 over the course of five years, and then every two years thereafter pay would increase to match the rate of inflation.