DENNIS SEID: Maximum effort made to increase minimum wage

DENNIS SEID

DENNIS SEID

The White House and labor groups are waging an all-out effort to get the federal minimum wage raised.

And naturally, those opposed to those efforts have rallied their supporters, too.

So on which side of the argument do you fall when asked, “Do you support raising the minimum wage to $10.10?”

Currently, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, so the bump would be a 39 percent increase.

President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats said the increase would affect 16.5 million people by 2016. But at the same time, employment would be cut by about 500,000 jobs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO said a $10.10 minimum wage would lift 900,000 people above the federal poverty level. About 45 million people currently live at or below that level.

There’s also an argument to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, pushed by Council of Economic Advisers chairman Alan Krueger and Berkley economist David Card. They point to studies that showed raising the minimum wage in the past did not raise unemployment levels.

But, as the Washington Post pointed out, those studies were written for their book published in 1995.

Some studies since then have shown an increase in unemployment with minimum wage hikes, while other studies have shown little impact either way.

Paying a fast-food worker $15 an hour is an outrageous move, many people would argue.

Don’t get me wrong – there is no shame in working at a fast-food restaurant. But those jobs tend to be entry-level positions.

In a supervisory/upper management role, $15 an hour at a McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s doesn’t seem too unreasonable, however.

Putting more money in the hands of lower-paid workers would mean they’re less dependent on government assistance, some say.

But how much more money is the issue. Certainly, it’s a higher cost for business owners to pay employees more, and to recoup that money, the expense will be passed on to customers.

Ultimately, customers are the ones who will determine the economics of increasing the minimum wage.

Consumer behavior studies have shown there is support for higher pay for workers who struggle to make ends meet. But in the end, the Chicago Tribune recently pointed out, consumers “will take care of their own needs.”

Combined with increased costs from the Affordable Care Act and a call for a higher minimum wage, businesses have every right to be concerned about their futures.

And as consumers face higher prices at the grocery store and the gas pump, how will they handle more businesses passing on their higher labor costs to their bills?

We may want everyone to get paid more – but are we really willing to pay more ourselves?

Something to think about.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.