$15 Minimum Wage and the Race to Poverty

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Monday, March 11, 2019


You may not have noticed the new movement gaining steam among those in the Democratic party: the push to raise minimum wage to $15.

To most, the popularity of this movement is understandable. If you’re a younger millennial who’s trying to pay for college with your cashier job at McDonald’s, $15 an hour sounds great. Unfortunately, the costs of such a pay raise far outweigh the benefits.

To see the costs of the $15 minimum wage, one can look to Seattle, who raised its minimum wage in 2014, with a total increase to $16 an hour going into effect this year. As one of the first major cities to implement such a change, the city was labeled a “guinea pig” for a potential federal minimum wage increase at a later time. Unfortunately for proponents of the minimum wage increase, the results coming from Seattle have been less than ideal.

According to a study by the University of Washington, the minimum wage increase has made a significant, negative impact on Seattle’s economy. Employers have “cut their payrolls, [put] off new hiring, [reduced] hours, or [let] their workers go.” In fact, the negative costs to benefits ratio is “three to one.” Clearly, raising the minimum wage has had a disastrous effect on businesses in Seattle, forcing them to fire workers, cut hours, and raise prices in order to make ends meet. Small businesses failed to make a profit with the increase, as many closed their doors due to their inability to hire enough staff while making a profit under the increase.

Despite the negative impacts of the minimum wage increase, it still puts more money in the pockets of a lot of Americans, right? Despite the messaging of the proponents of the increase that make that case, the claim fails to hold water when looking at recent labor data.

In 2016, a total of 701,000 workers in the United States made exactly the minimum hourly wage of $7.25 an hour. A closer look at the data reveals that about 6% of part-time workers made minimum wage or less, with that number shrinking even further when looking at those who work full-time jobs as only 2% of those workers made minimum wage or less. With such statistically insignificant percentages of workers making minimum wage, increasing it fails in its stated goal to help the poorest among us, instead hurting the working and middle class by inflating prices unnecessarily.

As a college millennial who used to make minimum wage, I can sympathize with those who desire to make more than they do at their current stage in life, but raising the minimum wage will not get us there.

Despite making more per hour, most of us would lose our jobs outright, have our hours cut, or be forced to pay increased prices for goods and services for businesses to sustain that wage increase. Those negatives would put us in a bigger hole than the one we were in before, instead of getting us out of it. Unfortunately for us, states like Illinois and Delaware have already passed minimum wage hikes of their own, condemning us to those very consequences. The sooner we can realize the harmful effects that raising the minimum wage has and focus more on providing better paying jobs through the free market instead of government intervention, the sooner we can help the young people that are struggling instead of hurting them.

Adam Burnett is currently attending Western Illinois University, seeking a major in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. Adam has future plans to be a political correspondent/columnist for a major newspaper, but wouldn’t rule out a career in politics.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Adam Burnett

Western Illinois University

Adam Burnett is currently attending Western Illinois University, seeking a major in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. Adam has future plans to be a political correspondent/columnist for a major newspaper, but wouldn’t rule out a career in politics.

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