Letter to the Editor: $15 minimum wage would not damage economy

By Kristina Kroger

I was troubled and disturbed by a column run on Tuesday, titled “Raising minimum wage: troubles for businesses, workers.”

First off, Ms. New begins by quoting a very reliable source, Robert B. Reich, former secretary of labor, as saying that a hike in wages will not cause a rise in the price of goods. Then she counters by saying “I would say it’s safe to assume the price of the product would go up as well,” without offering any evidence as to why Mr. Reich is wrong and she is right.

Economics does not work the way it is portrayed in this column. It is a very complicated system, and just because the hourly wage goes up does not mean that the price will necessarily go up as well. For instance: Since 2000, the price of gasoline has more then doubled; it would be “safe to assume” that, because food needs to be moved on planes, trains and automobiles that use gasoline, the price would have doubled. This is simply not the case.

Also troubling to me is the portrayal as all people working in the fast-food industry as being in “starter positions;” numerous people work in fast food for more then five years without ever seeing a raise. Also ignored is the fact that a whopping 60 percent of people working in fast food are not teenagers, but mature adults, many of whom are supporting a family.

Ms. New mentions that these positions should be starting points for people to better themselves. Yet, how can they better themselves when they make so little and cannot afford an education, either in time or money? These men and women must work two jobs in order to feed their families because they make so little; they simply cannot take time off to go to college, and they cannot afford the tens of thousands of dollars of debt that go with higher education.

The fact that these multibilllion dollar industries pay their workers poverty wages is not just a problem for said workers; most Walmarts actually rely heavily on their local tax base to support their workers.

Walmart pays their employees so little that most rely on food stamps and Medicaid. When Walmart has huge profit margins, and can afford to pay its workers more, why should we taxpayers shoulder the burden?

There were once many white-collar manufacturing jobs in America from which people could afford to feed their families. Those jobs were not initially good. They were horrible and time-consuming and extremely dangerous. Yet unions rose up and gave us an eight-hour work day and a weekend. Yet those jobs have been shipped overseas, where cheap labor is plentiful.

Fast food is the new manufacturing industry. Without people to rise up and improve conditions and wages, the gap between the impoverished and the rich will continue to rise.