A decrease in compassion

Matthew White

“To hell with the elderly! To hell with the poor! To hell with the small business owner, who we don’t like anymore!” is a fictional but painfully truthful cheer of the campaign to raise minimum wage.

Raising minimum wage hurts – rather than helps – the most vulnerable members of our society. This may seem awkward, because those who seek to increase the minimum wage often use compassion as their argument. But, like most things, compassion isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds.

Lets dispel some myths: Everyone working a full-time job deserves the opportunity to earn a living wage, to have nice things for his or her family and the opportunity to better him or herself. The people against raising minimum wage, mostly conservatives, are not out to take these things away from the working poor.

Conservatism, by definition, is not about merely recognizing the plight of others (as liberalism does), but is about aiding and relieving that plight; conservatism is about lifting people up rather than holding them at the same level.

Increasing the minimum wage will force small business owners to do two things: laying off employees and not hiring entry-level workers. Both of these things will contribute to job losses for significantly vulnerable members of society.

Teenagers and those without much job experience will find it much harder to gain the sort of skills and experience that will allow them to move up in the working world. Remember when you had that after-school job that allowed you to have a car and hang out with your friends? If we increase the minimum wage, it’s likely your little brother or sister will be bumming rides off of mom and dad.

The elderly, many of whom receive small pension checks and even smaller Social Security benefits, will be paying more for their groceries and other staples of life because the owner of the local grocery store has to pay his or her stock person more. The costs of increasing the minimum wage will be passed on to the consumer, meaning Grandma and Grandpa will be getting a government-mandated pay cut.

Then, there’s the working poor, who depend on their minimum-wage jobs to survive. For them it’s even worse. The increases in prices will negate the increase in wage, leaving them with even less money than they had to begin with.

Whether the working poor is even the group affected by raising minimum wage is debatable.

According to the Heritage Foundation, an conservative policy institute, 54 percent of those earning minimum wage live in families with incomes two or more times the official poverty level for a family their size.

So, even if the minimum wage is increased, the working poor make up a small majority of the people earning more money.

Also, according to the Heritage Foundation, 53 percent of those earning minimum wage are under the age of 23. These people often rely upon older family members to supplement their income. The point is, the picture of a struggling family that drastically needs an increase in the minimum wage isn’t really accurate.

Increasing minimum wage is really just liberal “doublespeak” for a decrease in compassion.

Matthew White is a senior magazine journalism major and point/counterpoint columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].