Gains for some don’t have to losses for others

Photo courtesy of Fibonacci Blue on Flickr
Protestors in Minnesota fight for $15 minimum wage.

Robert Beiler

Associate Opinion Editor

A new campaign kicked off at Millersville University on Wednesday Feb. 8 to attempt to instate a five-year tuition freeze and raise the minimum wage to $15.

Detractors were quick to tear down the movement. Comments on LancasterOnline called protestors “annoying children” and that the students were only looking out for themselves with the five-year ban and not students that would come after them.

Saying the five years only effects the people asking for it would assume all or even most of them are freshmen or sophomores. In many instances, juniors, seniors, and graduate students tend to have more interest in wages and politics. If that’s the case, a majority of them may be out of school for a few years before it ends, thus benefiting those after them.

Within that five years, there would then be time to evaluate the system to find additional efficiencies, consolidate departments, etc, as well as adjust to the wage increase. Theoretically that could even allow the freeze to continue. Five years is could be a short-term placeholder. Start talking about 10 or 20 years out and it becomes harder to predict how things may change. For example, no one a decade ago could have predicted the immense effect smartphones would have on everyday life.

While it may not be the conventional case for it, a $15 minimum wage should be enough for someone who works full time and budgets well to live decently without government assistance. If anything, a business that relies on hiring people full time but those full-time workers must live on government assistance are robbing the public and profiting from it.

The counter to this is that different places have different economies and cost of living. The benefit of the federal level increase is it at least puts all states on the same starting field as one another. So maybe the solution will be a federal increase of something more like $12, then allow states with higher cost of living to raise it. But like any sales negotiation, better to start high and get something lower.

Now one option would be to remove public assistance, thus requiring the market to make up the difference. This could have a devastating effect, particularly on people who aren’t able-bodied or suffer from a handicap.

At the end of the day, capitalism should not require people on the bottom to have to suffer. The capacity exists in the richest country on Earth to create a quality minimum standard of living. It’s going to be a question of how to make this a reality.