What's Wrong With Higher Minimum Wages?

Joe Biden has stated on multiple occasions that he supports raising the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. Many states have already taken this step, so what is wrong with the minimum wage being raised on the federal level as well? As is so often the case, the problem is not in the idea itself, but in the implementation of that idea.


The fact is, minimum wages have no positive effect in the long-term, and they can actually be quite damaging to businesses and employees alike in the short-term.


Let's begin by asking the question - what's the point of a minimum wage? Those in favor of a higher minimum wage argue that it will bring everyone currently working a minimum wage job up out of their low-income circumstances. It would stimulate the economy by encouraging the purchase of consumer goods, and in turn, it would give businesses increased income. The problem with this argument is, of course, the fact that we live in a real-world, with businesses and individuals who, in the end, are simply looking to advance themselves and look after their own well-being.


In a capitalist economy, businesses require consumers. The majority of consumers are employees of one business or another. If the businesses were to pay their workers too low a wage, there would no longer be consumers to purchase their products. This is why businesses pay generally fair and reasonable wages. Employees with certain skills can often expect to receive more compensation if their skills are in demand, such as plumbers, electricians, accountants, and doctors. Unskilled manual laborers often bring in lower salaries, as their skills are not unique, and could likely be easily replaced were the need to arise. All of these things are true in a capitalist economy, without the need for a minimum wage.



When a minimum wage is introduced (especially when it's a high one), suddenly, unskilled laborers are being paid exceptionally higher rates than they were previously. Business expenses skyrocket, and they are forced to raise the price of their products, they begin laying off the less-essential workers and reduce the hours of those they are required to keep on. Businesses begin looking away from the unskilled labor and toward the skilled workers. After all, if they are going to be paying these enormous wage increases, they might as well get their money's worth.


These conditions lead to the buying power of the minimum wage decrease drastically. People find that milk costs a dollar more than it used to, and eggs are no longer the cheap, affordable commodity that they used to be. Soon enough, people find themselves in the same situation they were in before the minimum wage - barely able to scrape by. Meanwhile, they find that their hours have been decreased, and younger, less experienced workers trying to enter the workforce find themselves in a waiting line that they are at the back of.


Eventually, the economy normalizes. The status quo returns, and wages, employment, and the price of goods have all regained some normalcy. But what was the point? Eventually, the economy recovered, but the main goal of raising the minimum wage was not accomplished, and it only increased the stress put on those that the minimum wage was put in place to protect.


This is not merely speculation. This has indeed happened before. Though is not a large amount of evidence surrounding this topic in general, what little evidence we do have nearly all points to the scenario I have set before you above. Though higher wages will always sound appealing at first, it is important we remember that nothing in life is free, and we should first evaluate the potential costs that could come along with something as seductive as a higher minimum wage.

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Sources:


Foundation for Economic Education: https://fee.org/articles/5-reasons-raising-the-minimum-wage-is-bad-public-policy/

The pros and cons of a minimum wage as argued by their supporters: https://minimum-wage.procon.org/

Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2019/07/10/the-unintended-consequences-of-the-15-minimum-wage/?sh=588fd2b6e4a7





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