Bridging the Gap

People protesting minimum wage

People protesting minimum wage

Mike Houle, Writer

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The conflict between rich and poor has always been on the forefront of people’s minds. From the “Occupy Wall St.” movement to the more recent fast-food strikers, it has been made clear that more and more Americans are tired of the ever-widening gap between the classes. Just recently on December 5th, fast-food workers in 130 cities came together for a simultaneous strike in demand for the raise of the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

A recent poll by the Washington Post and ABC News shows that it’s time for a change, with the number of citizens thinking that government policies favor the wealthy over the poor reaching record numbers. Fifty-seven percent even go as far to say that the government should not just rethink their policies, but also take an active roll in closing the gap between rich and poor. Over 65 percent think that this ‘active roll’ should include a minimum wage increase.

The problem with simply increasing the minimum wage is that while it would put more money in the pockets of the workers, it would also force many businesses to lay people off due to the increased expenses per individual worker. While this would technically bridge the gap between middle and upper class that people have been longing to close, it would be at the expense of millions of people who would no longer have a way to provide for themselves or their family.

The other side of this is the fact that, when adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage has been on a steady decline over the years. The $1.60 an hour minimum wage of 1968 is equivalent to $10.56 an hour today, showing a net loss of $3.31 in 45 years. This shows that people working at minimum wage now are significantly worse off than those working at minimum wage years ago, but would the extra funds provided by raising it be worth the lost jobs as a result? Apparently the general consensus to this question is “yes”, as more and more people make it known that they want higher pay and they want it now.