President Obama’s State of the Union in January emphasized the need to raise the minimum wage, and planned action related to raising the aluminum wage, including signing executive orders as needed. On January, 28, 2014, Obama signed an executive order raising the minumum wage of federal contractors in the future1. This is a relatively small step in the federal government, and it was preceded and followed by states who considered and passed laws that would raise the minimum wage. States that have passed minimum wage hikes include Maryland,the District of Columbia, and Connecticut, among others2.
Seemingly many Americans support the idea of a minimum wage hike–seventy-three percent of Americans support raising the minumum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, with a little over half of Republicans, who traditionally do not support increases in “government aid”, also supporting the idea3.
However, fifty-seven percent of Americans would oppose raising the minimum wage if it costed jobs, including a significant portion of Democrats4. The potential increase in the unemployment rate due to the minimum wage was outlined by the Congressional Budget Office in a recent study–potentially no one to possibly half a million Americans could lose their jobs. However, at the same time, a little less than a million Americans could see their livelihoods increased significantly.
The economy is a beast that perhaps no one could truly understand (we trust the Feds and Congress to create policy to affect the economy, but as clearly seen in history and as recently as 2008, these experts cannot guarantee anything either), and it’s remarkable that people make sweeping judgemnts about the minimum wage. On one side, people say that the minumum wage would elevate the lives of thousands, and on the other, people say that too many jobs may be lost.
With only twenty-two states in the United States requiring economics as necessary to graduate high school, it is a fair question to ask whether citizens of the United States are informed enough to be making economic decisions such as the minimum wage5. Furthermore, most members of Congress did not major in economics or business. While they may have taken classes that allowed them to have a deep knowledge of economics, it is fair to say that most of them probably did not do so6.
More importantly, members of Congress have no reason to vote in a way that is informed with regards to economics and beneficial to the United States if their constituents do not follow the same agenda. Constituents often want what’s best for themselves, and not for the whole nation. This, combined with a lack of knowledge of economics, can lead to opinions on aspects of the economy such as the minimum wage being shaped exclusively by one’s personal background, rather than a clear-sighted idea of how the economy works.
The minimum wage has been discussed by so many who have a less than fluent knowledge of economics. While not suggesting that everyone has to have a degree in economics to be able to discuss policy, perhaps nationwide mandates for high school economics are in order to at least guarantee a minimum knowledge.