Raise the bar on minimum wage

Jessi Devenyns

Whether it’s to purchase groceries out of necessity or a Tyler’s sweater out of indulgence, most Longhorns know what it’s like to cringe when reaching for their credit card. We are, after all, college kids, renowned for the financial desperation epitomized by meals of ramen noodles and wardrobes full of free T-shirts. This “college student” label, however indicative of limited financial means it may be, is our ticket to a more affluent future. Most college students attend school under the premise that when they graduate, they will be rewarded with a high-paying job and the ability to support themselves.

Unfortunately, many never get the chance to hope for a more prosperous future. What if the financial stress you feel in college haunted you for the rest of your life? This is a reality for more than four million people in the United States. These men and women earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or sometimes even less. According to a Sunday editorial in the New York Times, minimum wage earners who work 40 hours a day every day of the week earn only enough to keep a family of two slightly above the federal poverty line.

Students can relate to this tragic reality, especially if they shift from fully financially supported in high school to fiscal independence in college.

This sudden shift away from economic privilege can provide a window through which we become privy to the plight of families that survive on a salary akin to what a single UT student lives on.

The difficulty of living on the minimum wage jars even more harshly when considering inflation in recent years. If you account for inflation, the value of the minimum wage has decreased by 30 percent since 1968, according to federal statistics. It is absurd that we should be asked to function in a world where we only have 70 percent of the purchasing power that our grandparents did.

Many politicians argue that increasing the minimum wage would perpetuate unemployment. However, according to studies cited by the New York Times, several cities such as San Francisco and Santa Fe have recently raised their minimum wages, even drastically, above state and federal levels without an impact on employment.

It is our generation’s responsibility to inform the government and citizenry about the positive effects of implementing higher wages rather than allow those who preach about the adverse effects of a reasonable minimum wage continue to dominate the discussion.
As college students, we must consider the future and strive to change today what could have ramifications later in our lives and the lives of others. If we are laid off, or if there’s another recession, we would certainly like the security of knowing that when earning minimum wage, we can at least support ourselves.

<em>Devenyns is an English junior.<em>