Increasing wages will boost prosperity

Amelia Bothwell, Community Editor

Imagine working for 60 hours a week, nearly double the average 34.4 hours worked in the U.S., and barely staying above the poverty line. Now imagine doing this while supporting a family. This is the case for many minimum wage workers in America, with some earning as little as the hourly federal rate of $7.25. Raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 will improve the quality of lives of these individuals, helping them pass the poverty line.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, there were 2.2 million hourly paid workers in the U.S. earning at or below the minimum wage. These 2.2 million workers comprise nearly 2.8 percent of American workers that are paid at an hourly rate.

Assume that these individuals work 60 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year without any breaks, only earning the federal minimum wage. In this case, they are earning an annual salary of roughly $22,620, while the average annual income is almost four times this amount, about $81,400. In 2017, the poverty line for a household of three resides at $20,420, and $24,600 for a household of four.

Supporting and raising a family on low income creates an extensive list of issues. For starters, the prices of food continue to increase. While minimum wage remains stagnant, food prices have dramatically increased since 2009. According to the Huffington Post, as of 2015, the price of apples has increased 16 percent, the cost of bacon rose 67 percent, and milk went up 21 percent, with many other commodities following suit.

With the prices of food increasing, and minimum wage remaining the same, individuals experiencing poverty not only rely on the support of the government, but also on the support of other citizens. They are struggling to provide the basic human right of food for themselves and their families. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 53.1 percent of individuals relying on public assistance are low-wage workers.
Catholic Social Teaching explains that each person has the right to necessities such as food, shelter, and water as taught by Jesus. If this is so, then why are individuals often subjected to the harsh effects of low-income?

Many believe that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will cause a collapse or decline in the economy, but this is not factually supported. In fact, after 23 minimum wage increases in the U.S. since 1938, there are no accounts of economic collapse or significant job loss, a chief concern among those opposed.

In addition, many people fear the effects that an increase in minimum wage will have on inflation. Past increases of minimum wage show no direct correlation between the two. In fact, following the 2009 increase in minimum wage from $6.55 to $7.25, inflation decreased by 4.2 percent and later increased only by 2 percent. Prior changes to the minimum wage follow similar courses, fluctuating between minor increases, decreases, or freezes of inflation, but overall no substantially significant change.

By increasing minimum wage, a worker’s salary is raised, improving his or her quality of life. For some, this includes the ability to support a family, while for others, it provides opportunity for higher education and personal growth. Individuals raised in poverty are not only limited in terms of resources, but they are often denied the chance to become educated, limiting their personal ability to escape the cycle of poverty.

Each working U.S. citizen should be granted the same ability to live life knowing that they are being compensated in a way that reflects the time and efforts they are expending, or at least are earning enough money to put food on the table. That being said, the minimum wage should be raised in order to support the lives and dignity of those struggling to stay out of poverty.

Amelia Bothwell is a Community Editor for The Patriot and