Wages, Jobs and Color - The Missourian: Opinion

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Wages, Jobs and Color

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Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2014 3:00 pm

The debate over the merits of and disadvantages of raising the federal minimum wage continues ad infinitum. There is considerable agreement that it needs to be higher. How much really is the question.

To begin with, there are many, many businesses that do not have minimum wage workers. Their starting pay is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or Missouri’s $7.50 mandate. Companies will tell you they can’t hire a good worker for the minimum wage. Also, company owners that do have some minimum wage workers would like to pay more but the consequences would harm them. If they paid more, their prices would be higher and they would not be competitive.

There are many ramifications of a higher minimum wage. One is that it would have a ripple effect on other wages paid that are higher. And, of course, there is the long-standing argument that raising it would lead to more unemployment. The Congressional Budget Office, which is supposed to be a nonpartisan agency, recently came out with a report that concluded there would be a job loss with a higher minimum wage. The Democrats disagreed. The Republicans said it confirmed what they have been saying. The president and the Democrats have proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

There are different numbers being tossed around as to how many people would lose their jobs with a higher minimum wage. The report gave an estimate of 500,000. Nobody really knows except most agree there would be a job loss. There are numbers that differ also as to how many people would benefit. The report said 16 million. The report also said 900,000 people would exit the poverty level with the raise.

There is disagreement also on how many of the jobs that would be lost would affect teenagers with part-time jobs, and how many adults would be affected. Estimates given were 90 percent are adults who work full time and 56 percent would be women. No one knows how accurate those estimates are.

President Obama reportedly is going to introduce an initiative that would give more jobs to African-Americans and Hispanics. That’s the goal. The program is called My Brother’s Keeper. What about My Sister’s Keeper also to be politically correct! At any rate, it would create jobs for them. The president will ask foundations, businesses and community groups to develop plans to help men of color reach their full potential. The jobless rate for black men is about double that of white men, 12 percent compared to 6.6 percent. For Hispanic men the rate last month was 8.2 percent.

The goal of the program is to provide education and job training opportunities. How much support will be given to the initiative is unknown.

We must face the fact that many jobs are gone forever. Many were shipped out of this country. Some will come back in time. Another fact is due to technology advances, not as many workers are needed. 

The proposed minimum wage of $10.10 by 2016 probably won’t fly in Congress. A smaller rate may be approved.  What’s fair? For some work, the minimum rate in effect is considered fair by some people and unfair to others. There’s no agreement as to what is fair.

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