Lowering the minimum wage would end in disaster

Illustration by Parker Wilhelm

When I first heard the pitch for this story, I was shocked. Lower the minimum wage? That makes about as much sense to me as leaving the cast of the TV show “Buckwild” in charge of running our country.

Some suggest the minimum wage is a burden on businesses, but there are so many reasons why the minimum wage is vital to employees and should not be lowered. First, the cost of living increases every year. If it is constantly getting more expensive to live in the United States, should we really make it harder for people to do just that?

Also, if people have less cash in hand they will be less willing to spend it to end our ongoing recession. Finally, workers who don’t feel like they are well-compensated probably don’t work as hard as those who are happy with their wages.

The only outcome I can see from lowering the minimum wage is the imploding of the American workforce, and anyone who wants that to happen would probably support Shain from “Buckwild” in a bid for presidency. That, for anyone who is unsure, is not OK.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which for someone who works 40 hours every week, translates into $15,080 a year (before taxes). According to city-data.com‘s information on Manhattan, Kansas, the median gross rent in Manhattan was $712 a month in 2009, which turns into roughly $8,500 a year.

Assuming a person lives alone and works only one job, they have already eaten through more than half of their pretax income just to put a roof over their head. That leaves a little over $6,500 to take care of all other expenses for the year including groceries and transportation.

The minimum wage should not be decreased not only because it would make it even harder for people get by, but also because if it was decreased people would have less money to put into our already struggling economy. Lowering the minimum wage, in my opinion, would extend the recession in the United States for much longer than we would want.

The lowering of the minimum wage would also lead to worker backlash. Taking away a portion of someone’s wage, regardless of how minute, is like saying, “Your time is not worth as much as we thought.” Who would want to work as hard as they had before, after they are basically told that they aren’t a valuable asset? I know that I would decrease my productivity by the same percentage that my wage had decreased, just to be fair.

The simple fact of the matter is that the minimum wage is not what it used to be. According to raisetheminimumwage.org‘s Question and Answer page, in 1968, the minimum wage was $1.60, which translates to about $10.27 in 2011 dollars with inflation factored in.

The minimum wage has increased by $2.10 in the last 10 years, which is a step forward. Lowering the minimum wage in any way would be like saying that workers in America are not worth the money. This would, in turn, make Americans think twice about where they spend their decreased wages, possibly deciding that it’s not worth their hard-earned dollars to save the American economy.

It’s a vicious circle that starts with lowering the minimum wage and ultimately ends badly, no matter how you look at it.

Zach Foley is a freshman in education. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.