Thursday, February 26, 2015

How to respond to “Let’s just raise the minimum wage to $100 an hour!” -- A reference guide

Arguing on extremes in minimum wage debate makes no sense (or cents)

In the debate over raising the minimum wage, invariably someone who opposes raising it will make an irrational point. It goes a little like this:
“If raising the wage is SO GOOD for us, why should we stop at $10.10 an hour? Why not raise it to $20 an hour? Or $100 an hour? Huh??”
I’ve been dumbfounded by this question on many occasions. Not because it’s too complex for my mind to comprehend (though that opinion has been offered many times) but rather because it’s too simplistic to warrant an answer.

OF COURSE raising the minimum wage to outrageous levels would be a dumb idea. Admitting that point, however, seems to give these opponents a certain level of satisfaction. But the argument doesn’t stop there. There’s another side to the debate that these irrational naysayers are unconsciously making.

In arguing over raising the wage to these unheard of levels, these individuals are choosing to use an extreme argument. So go to the OTHER extreme -- argue about the hazards of having NO minimum wage. It would be ludicrous and detrimental to our society to get rid of the minimum wage completely, and no rational person would say otherwise (coincidentally, if the person argues in favor of eliminating the minimum wage, you know you’re arguing with an irrational person).

Use that as a starting point, or if needed, as “reset button” in your argument: you both agree that extremes in either direction are bad. So the argument isn’t about the extremes -- it’s about finding that common ground in the middle, where workers get paid a fair wage and employers aren’t overwhelmed paying it.

Once you agree to those terms, you can return to the original talking points. Show that the minimum wage isn’t just for teenagers. A raise in the minimum wage would primarily affect older workers, with 88 percent of those benefiting from a wage increase being over the age of 20. Most small businesses also support raising the wage as doing so would mean that more consumers could purchase their goods (it’s the Henry Ford effect -- he paid his workers a salary that allowed them to purchase his own product).

And of course, you can’t forget this one: the minimum wage, if it had kept pace with inflation since 1968, would presently be around $10.75 an hour. That means workers today are earning less than what their counterparts in the 1960s earned. How is that fair?

It’s true that some political debates warrant arguing in extremes, but the minimum wage debate isn’t one of them. A thoughtful dialogue on the merits of raising the wage to a reasonable rate requires both sides to argue earnestly. As much as opponents to a wage increase think they’re making a profound point, no one is arguing in favor of an extreme and unmanageable minimum wage.

So don’t let that talking point gain steam -- step on the brakes when someone makes that argument, and bring them back to reality.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. if you are going to delete comments, why should anyone bother to make any comments on your site?

    mark sevelis
    Germantown wi

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mark. I generally have a very open policy about comments on my site. I don't like to do too much to interfere with the discourse between myself and my readers. The comment that was deleted, however, contained suggestive language that wasn't suitable for the debate. You can use your imagination -- suffice it to say, it wasn't appropriate.

      I reserve the right to remove material like that, from any side of the political spectrum, because I don't think it's necessary towards the overall debate. I hope that makes sense.

      Again, thank you for your comment. -Chris