Minimum wage in America has become a hot button topic. Minimum wage workers have usually been comprised of students who are part time workers; however, with the recent economic downturn and loss of regular jobs, more former professionals have been forced to make ends meet by taking positions that only pay minimum wage. Furthermore, some of those workers have had to take more than one or even two minimum wage jobs in order to provide for their families and stay even with the poverty line. This is unacceptable in a land of abundance like America. The minimum wage should be raised in order for people to maintain an adequate standard of living, to reduce income inequality, and to help get people off of food stamps.
By maintaining an adequate standard of living, people are able to afford adequate housing and food. For the minimum wage earner, the dream of owning a home is just that: a dream. Someone who only makes $7.25 an hour cannot afford the necessities in life, much less the luxuries. Even though some people say that owning a home is a luxury, it is still something that is inherent to the American Dream and something for which people strive. A minimum wage earner cannot afford to make a monthly mortgage payment on even a $70,000 home. Moreover, if he could afford a payment on the home, he would have to forego other necessities such as food, gas, car, etc. Some minimum wage workers have a family to support, and it is very difficult for them to afford the extras that their children want or need such as: extracurricular sports, dance, music, or lessons of any sort. It may even be difficult for the parent to give the child lunch money, and in that case the parent may receive free or reduced lunch benefits for his child. In other words, making ends meet for even the most minute expenses can be extremely difficult on a minimum wage salary.
Income inequality has become a new buzzword recently. Essentially, this involves the inequality of workers in terms of their income. Nowhere is this more readily evident than in the case of the minimum wage earner. If someone makes $7.25 an hour and works a forty hour week, his gross income is only $290 per week. After taxes, his paycheck may only be $203. If he has any other deductions such as medical or dental insurance, his take home pay is even lower. Some minimum wage workers have to exist on less than $200 per week. Compare this with the number of Americans who are making six figure salaries and one immediately begins to see just how unequal we are. Some people may say that each individual has the right to choose for himself to go to college or community college to try and get out of the minimum wage cycle, but that is extremely difficult to do when one is working a forty hour work week and can barely scratch out an existence. Furthermore, paying to go to school is oftentimes well outside of the grasp of the minimum wage worker of being able to afford.
Food stamps have become a way of living for a lot of people. People with minimum wage jobs have to rely on this subsidy in order to eat. Who provides for this subsidy? The American worker provides for this subsidy in the form of taxes. Would it not be better to raise minimum wage and use fewer of our tax dollars to go into subsidies like food stamps. That seems like a perfect solution: raise the minimum wage and cut the number of people who are eligible to receive food stamps. Our taxes could then go towards something else that is needed by the American people.
There are no easy answers for easing the cycle of poverty in the United States. However, by raising the minimum wage, the workers are at least provided a way to ease the burden of poverty. Raising the minimum wage will enable people to live at or above the poverty line, decrease income inequality, and will even get some people off of food stamps. Raising the minimum wage is a solution that bears more research and then eventual implementation.