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Devils' Advocate

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Massive debt and “Heat or Eat” decision

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75 years. Since the minimum wage was established in 1938, people have been arguing whether minimum wage is beneficial for America. For 75 years, critics have claimed that the minimum wage increases unemployment and that the minimum wage does not truly help support a family.

Getting rid of the minimum wage will reduce consumer purchasing power, reduce spending, and hurt the overall economy. Also, studies by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, show that minimum wage does not increase unemployment, even in bad times. The minimum wage helps businesses, people of all ages, and the economy.

According to the Business For A Fair Minimum Wage, many companies, both large and small, are fighting for a minimum wage of at least $8.75 an hour. Companies ranging from Costco and the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce to ABC Home and Buffalo First. Even very rich Americans who employ thousands such as Eileen Fisher and Mr. Warren Buffett support a higher minimum wage.

By increasing workers’ take-home pay, families can gain both financial security and an increased ability to purchase goods and services. Greater purchasing power will then help create more jobs for the American people and allow family spending to increase.

The state minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 while the national minimum wage is $7.25. Both of these wages are too low to be able to afford all of life’s everyday necessities. When these wages were originally put into effect, prices of supplies for normal living circumstances were much lower. Yet, today prices have reached their highest levels in 8 years. Many adults that are paid minimum wage not only have to care for themselves but for their families as well. This cannot be achieved with a current hourly wage just above eight dollars. However, lower income families and primary breadwinners are not the only ones who rely on a living wage.

It’s frightening to learn that college tuition and fees have gone up 119% in the last 30 years. Simultaneously, as Holly Sklar writes in Social Justice, the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage has dropped 25%. This impacts any young person hoping to attend a postsecondary institution, because they often work low wage jobs to pay for higher education. Many will ultimately be left with the choice of massive debt or to continue a low-wage job that cannot truly sustain them.

Low wages will not only affect the young people of our generation, but also the young of the next generation. Minimum wages should be increased so that families don’t have to make the “heat or eat” decision. It is extremely unfair that the average CEO in 2007 made as much as 1,131 times as a minimum wage worker does per year.

Whether it be teens, adults, companies, the economy, or even people in poverty, the minimum wage is there to help make our country better and more successful. It has been a great 75 years. If the minimum wage continues to grow with the realities of our day our future will be even brighter.

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The news site of Hinsdale Central High School
Massive debt and “Heat or Eat” decision