Written by: Nicolas Miller
For almost 12 years, the federal minimum wage has sat at $7.25. For tipped workers, this is even lower, having stayed at $2.13 since 1991. Thanks in part to the financial struggles caused by the pandemic, one of the hottest issues right now is raising the minimum wage to $15.
The United States is a nation with enormous privilege, but with that privilege come certain drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is that the price of living anywhere in this nation is quite high. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, the lowest wage one can live off of in Washington, D.C. is $19.97 — that is without taking into consideration children or other dependents. This means that with either the current federal minimum wage or a $15 minimum wage, it would be impossible to make ends meet living in D.C.
Since Washington, D.C. is known as a rather expensive place to live, I decided to take a look at one of the most affordable cities in the United States: McAllen, Texas. Even in McAllen, where the cost of housing is below the national average by 45%, it would be impossible to live off the federal minimum wage. A single person living alone would need to make at least $12.63 to make ends meet. It is not reasonable to keep a minimum wage that one cannot even live off of in the most affordable city in this country.
The Raise the Wage Act of 2021, which was just recently passed by the House of Representatives, is not a cure-all to poverty or financial struggles in this country. But it will certainly help millions of people, especially during the pandemic.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the act would help 900,000 people out of poverty and raise over 17 million people’s incomes. This accounts for about 10% of the workforce in this nation. Such a change would be a massive help to those near or below the poverty line.
This act is not only going to affect high school and college students as some opponents of the $15minimum wage argue. Teenage workers make up only 10%of the people who would get a raise from this. In fact, workers ranging in age from 25 to 54 make up a majority of the people who would be positively impacted by the Raise the Wage Act of 2021. This, along with the fact that families increasingly have a single parent, cements the importance of an increase to the federal minimum wage.
The idea of raising the minimum wage to $15 is not some ludicrous notion. It is an effective solution that would help millions of people cope with the current financial struggles worsened by COVID-19. While not a perfect antidote, The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 is certainly necessary.