Friday, January 05, 2007

Thoughts on the Proposed Minimum Wage Increase

So Congress is going to try to push through an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25. We Ohioans just passed an increase in the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 an hour. It looks great on the surface. A raise of $1.70 an hour is usually pretty good thing and I suppose for a teenager putting gas in his or her car or saving for college, it's a godsend. However, for those souls who depend on it for their livelihood, it's a mixed blessing. If this raises a question in your minds, gentle bloggers, I'd like to share my own questions with you as well as some of the realities of what will happen. Don't get me wrong -- living on minimum wage is a stuggle but raising it, most likely, will not change a damned thing for the poor. The welfare system in this country is an unforgiving entity as illustrated by the following true story:

I was talking with a young single mother I know after the election in November and she was excited about the minimum wage increase having passed. I hated bursting her bubble but I reminded her that she would have to notify Human Services and Metropolitan Housing of the increase and her food stamps, rent, and any other subsidies would be reduced. She grimaced and asked sadly, "Then I'm no better off than I was, am I?" I just shook my head.

And that, my friends, is the truth. What I didn't mention is that the cost of of the non-grocery items like soap, diapers, and clothing for her two small children will increase as well -- thus maintaining the status quo and, possibly, making matters worse. That might have been too much reality for her to digest. And yes, the Goodwill Store does increase its prices -- they pay their store employees barely above minimum wage. The system is not designed to help the poor escape it; it's designed to keep them there. This is the harsh reality of being poor in this country. Yeah, there are those who "work the system" and earn "under the table cash" but for most it's an exercise in survival. I don't know about other States but, in Ohio, welfare fraud is a felony.

My questions to you are: Do you honestly think that all those here in Ohio earning from $5.25 to $6.85 an hour are going to get a $1.70 an hour raise? Think again. Do you think those above them on the wage scale are all going to get a $1.70 an hour raise? Think again. Are the elderly and handicapped on Social Security going to get a comparable increase to offset this? Think again. Where do you think the employers -- those who provide goods and services to all of us -- are going to get the money to pay these increases? If you're having trouble with the answer to this last one, just go look in the mirror.

That's right! It's going to be ALL of us!!!!! It's called inflation! And all raising minimum wage is really going to do is raise the cost of living so the poverty line will remain the same with a different number attached. Can you say, "We're back to square one."? I knew you could. Yes, we need changes in this country to improve quality of life for our citizens but raising minimum wage is not the answer. I'm not certain what the answer is -- if I knew it, I'd market it and retire a millionaire. What I do know is that some creative thinking and solutions are sorely needed and I don't think our Congress Critters are going to provide it.

Kay Dennison

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