5 Common Misconceptions About The Federal Minimum Wage In The US
Minimum wage has been a hotly contested topic since it was first introduced in Washington in 1912. It started as a state-by-state initiative -- until the first federal minimum wage was instituted in 1933, at 25 cents per hour.
The federal minimum wage was quickly ruled unconstitutional until 1938, when Congress passed a law allowing for a federal minimum wage, again setting the minimum at 25 cents per hour.
That figure equated to just over $4 per hour in today’s dollars. The minimum wage was originally meant to protect workers from being taken advantage of and to create a minimum standard, which no company could fall below.
As with most socioeconomic issues, though, it is easier to get elected if you hand out money, so the federal minimum wage has ballooned to $7.25 per hour, with many new “progressive” efforts aiming for above $10 per hour.
These minimum wage increases have been pushed forward in the name of fairness, since they are meant to help poor families enter the middle class, furthering many progressives' income-equality agenda.
However, the minimum wage arguments that are frequently thrown about contain much misinformation that is used to make minimum wage opponents look cruel and heartless.
As a states' rights advocate, I am perfectly fine with states choosing their own minimum wage, so long as the debate centers on facts, rather than fiction.
That being said, as 13 states plan to increase their minimum wage in 2014, there is no better time to debunk five of the most common minimum wage increase arguments used today.
All data within this post is from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and is free for anyone to view and debate.
Myth #1: “Tons of families are affected by raising the minimum wage.”
How can you be against raising the minimum wage when poor workers are trying to satisfy their children's needs? The imagery in the argument is enough to paint opponents as heartless people who hate poor children; however, the argument is light on facts and heavy on inaccurate imagery.
Fact: Only 1 percent of hourly-wage workers in America are married people making minimum wage.
Myth #2: “Most minimum wage workers are working two jobs, tons of hours and can’t make ends meet.”
This is another constant image. Progressives like to paint minimum wage workers as having multiple jobs and working a combined 70 hours per week just to feed their hungry children.
However, upon analyzing the actual data, it's easy to realize that this is just another false image, portrayed by minimum wage proponents who are trying to skew the argument in their own favor by painting their opponents as cruel, rich politicians who don’t care about hard-working, poor people.
Fact: Only 2.6 percent of minimum wage workers are working more than 40 hours per week.
Myth #3: “Young workers make up a tiny part of total minimum wage workers.”
Once again, if you look at the data, it is clear that this is a nice sound bite for debates, but it's not true at all.
Fact: People younger than 24 make up more than 50 percent of all minimum wage workers
Myth #4: “Minorities are hurt more by low minimum wages than white people.”
The facts show that the minimum wage is colorblind, as politicians should be when discussing the issue.
Fact: White people make up 79 percent of hourly-rate employees and 78 percent of minimum wage employees. This indicates that they make up almost exactly their fair share of minimum wage workers.
Myth #5: “More than 3 million people make the minimum wage.”
This is another great talking point, since 3 million people sounds like a huge number and most people have no idea how many people live in the United States. When you look at the facts, you'll see that about one-half of 1 percent of the US population truly makes the federal minimum wage.
When compared with the costs incurred on the business community, that number is far more accurate than the 3 million people figure (which, of course, turns out to be false).
Fact: Only 1.6 million people actually make minimum wage; the rest make tips on top of their wage, but are included in the minimum wage numbers that many love to quote.
Regardless of your beliefs on whether the minimum wage hurts the US economy through the pain it inflicts on our businesses, shouldn’t we at least have open, honest debates about it?
Please, do our country a favor and step in to counter misinformation when you hear it. Allowing people to form their own opinions (whatever they might be) with accurate facts will make our country a better place to be.
Photo Courtesy: Nick Laham/All Sport