71°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The federal minimum wage increase is a drop in the ocean that is inequality

Ron+Unz%2C+millionaire+conservative%2C+has+advocated+for+an+increase+in+minimum+wage+to+%2412
Ron Unz, millionaire conservative, has advocated for an increase in minimum wage to $12

Using his platform at the recent State of the Union address, President Obama advocated for an increase in the federal minimum wage, for federal contractors  from $7.25 to $10.10. The president stressed the fact that he plans to use his executive authority, as well as endeavor to work hand in hand with congress, as a tool to bridge the abysmal gap that is economic and income inequality in the US, as well as work unilaterally whenever necessary.

Make no mistake about it, the ramifications of this wage increase could significantly affect the general US economy. This federal minimum wage push could lead a large number of the working poor over the poverty line, and in doing so it would stagnate, however briefly, the ever rising levels of inequality faced in the states.

Though undoubtedly a step in the right direction, this is barely scratching the surface of what needs to be done to reduce income inequality to fathomable levels. According to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston, in a report conducted for Tax Analysts, incomes of the bottom 90% of Americans grew only $59 (adjusted for inflation) from 1966 to 2011. Contrastingly, incomes for the top 10% rose by $116,071. Which means that between 1966 to 2011, the incomes of the top 10% grew at about 2000 times the rate of the bottom 90% … incredible.

The reasons for the drastic levels of inequality in the nation span from racial discrimination, to workplace sexism, to plain old “top favoring” policies.

According to Robert Lord of the Institute for Policy Studies, the billionaires that comprise the Forbes 400 list, have as much wealth as the entire African American population of the US. President Obama aptly described the discrimination faced by women in the workplace, to tumultuous cheers: “You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”

In terms of political meanderings contributing to inequality, ITEP’s “Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States” reports that the tax rates of the poorest 20 percent of families is 10.9 percent, more than double the effective tax rate on the richest 1 percent of the population.

By unilaterally moving to increase the federal minimum wage, to much protestations from the conservative sector, the president took a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, in the same speech, the president managed to take another step backwards. By merely imploring mayors, governors, firms, and business owners to increase the wages they pay on their own accord, as opposed to holding a much firmer stance, the president was weak.

While the leader of liberals was beseeching firm executives to do with wages as they pleased, Ron Unz, a staunch conservative from the rightest of right wing backgrounds was unequivocally quoted as calling for an increase in the minimum wages to $12 an hour, while citing all the economic positives that would be associated with it.

If all it took to increase minimum wage levels in the country was merely asking nicely, the federal minimum wage by now would surely be at least $17. I say $17, because, in keeping up with the levels of productivity in the nation, that is ideally what the minimum wage should be by now.
Like the comedian Chris Rock so aptly phrased it, by paying you minimum wage, your boss is saying to you, “Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.”