Political parties continue to debate minimum wage

By Jamie Hufnagle
February 1, 2007

Meghan Hurley

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Democratic leaders have been pushing for this raise, which will be the first in a decade.

The vote was 315-116, approving legislation to increase the minimum wage over two years from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour. The last increase was in 1997.

“You should not be relegated to poverty if you work hard and play by the rules,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.

Democrats made a promise to increase the minimum wage as a part of their campaign in which they gained control over the U.S. Congress from the Republicans in last year’s election.

“This is the day for the people who empty the bed pans, change the bed linens, sweep the floors and do the hardest work of America,” Rep Rob Andrews, D-N.J., said.

Lauren Mattioni, a sophomore social work major, agrees with the raise and feels like it is long overdue. “I think the increase in minimum wage is a necessity in the society that we live in today,” Mattioni said.

Republicans have spoke out against this proposal on the basis that it will hurt small businesses and ultimately slow the economy.

The bill will now go to the Senate. It is there that the possibility remains for Republicans to block the bill if they do not get tax breaks for small businesses. The tax breaks on the small businesses will balance the effects of the higher payrolls. President Bush supports the bill along with help for small businesses.

Bruce Josten, a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, “Any minimum wage increase will significantly affect the bottom line.” Many critics say that this raise will cost millions of people their jobs.

Josten continued, “This bill completely ignores that fact, and as a result small businesses may be forced to eliminate jobs, reduce hours, and cut employee benefits.”

Dr. Mary Harris, assistant professor of business administration, conducted a debate on the minimum wage in her honors economics class last semester.

Harris said, “Our class decided that minimum wage should not be abolished and we agreed that there should be an international living wage as well.”

Harris continued with the different theories that are surrounding the minimum wage raise. Included is the theory that the increases in minimum wage will result in unemployment. Also included is the theory of inflation in which the rise in minimum wage will lead to higher prices.

“The other part of the story would be the social justice piece,” Harris said. To make it simple, our economy will be helped because people will be making more money, in turn, consuming more goods.

Because the raise affects such a large amount of people, 6.6 million to be exact, there are many different views. While the raise may have a positive effect on some workers, others may not be so fortunate. However, The White House seems to have this in mind as demonstrated in a statement that they released.

“The administration looks forward to working with Congress to maintain a flexible labor market and provide a complete package that helps both workers and small businesses,” the statement said.

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Jamie Hufnagle

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