Over the labor day weekend, I was involved in a spirited debate about whether or not it was good for the poor to lower or eliminate the minimum wage. It all started after reading an article on PolicyMic called: Teenage Labor Isn’t Worth the Minimum Wage. The premise of the article is about teenage labor being worth less than the MW and therefore MW policy is bad.
The real fun started in the comment section. I would encourage everyone to read the article and the comments. The comments ranged from agreement to attacking unions to disagreement. Most of the debate was less about the article and more about whether a lower or elimination of the MW was good for the poor. The arguments for this focused on the MW causing increased unemployment for poor and unskilled workers, because if their skill level was not worth the MW then you won’t get a job. Therefore this bad policy is bad for poor people. Instead companies should be able to set the market and not have an imposed wage floor. By paying a lower wage more people can be employed, thus more people are helped.
My argument focused on with no wage floor what separates us from other countries with no floor and families living on pennies a day. I understand the issue of lower wages can increase employment, but at what cost? Minimum wage is already not enough to support a family, how can a lower wage be a true benefit. What good is having everyone employed, but only making $2/hr if they still can’t afford housing, food, clothes, and transportation? Increasing poverty to increase employment is not a positive gain in my book. The cost of food and clothes won’t go down, neither will transportation. The cost of housing could go down, but with lower housing costs comes lower housing standards.
I am interested in what other people think about this. I know what my friends on PolicyMic think. While I did not agree with everyone, I respect their thoughts on the issue. I also think they make some valid points about employment, but I can’t agree with increasing employment while increasing poverty.
Let me know what you think on the issue.