Proposed minimum wage increase is necessary step

In his Feb. 13 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama advocated a national rate hike for the federal minimum wage, from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. Though nineteen states including California, “…have chosen to bump theirs even higher,” an increase of this nature could make a big difference in the lives of students and families struggling to make ends meet, in spite of full-time employment.

Not everyone is in favor of the President’s proposal. In an interview with Fox Business following the address, research director for the Employment Policies Institute Michael Saltsman asserted that wage increases “including the one called for by the president, lead to job loss, not job creation, as well as fail to reduce poverty or stimulate the economy.” The prevailing sentiment from this side of the issue seems to be that paying employees more would negatively impact employers’ ability to retain their current staff.

There seems to be a widely circulated misconception associated with this school of thought, that employers hire their employees for altruistic, humanitarian reasons, rather than financial ones. As though layoffs were the only cost-cutting measure available to any executive.

Not everyone agrees that paying minimum wage workers more would spell destruction for those teetering just above the poverty line. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry said that the President’s proposal would “lift up millions of families.” Many labor unions and senators, including Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. have been critical of the President’s proposed increase for not going far enough. “We’re encouraged, but we think the wage is too low,” one D.C. labor official told Huff-Po.

It’s difficult for the average minimum wage employee to feel as though their job is being held hostage by corporate interests. Harder still to feel sympathetic for the plight of America’s ultra-wealthy. Almost everyone has worked at or near minimum wage, or at least knows someone who has. Others have worked multiple jobs just to keep their loved ones clothed and sheltered. With the number of billionaires in America approaching an all time high and towering over our closest competitors, maybe we can stop playing violin for these alleged job “creators,” and spare just a bit of compassion for the job “doers.”

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