Being Right: What About the Middle?

Olivia Detato

On February 12, President Obama signed into law legislation that increases the hourly minimum wage. This policy is only pertinent to about two million workers, a small portion of the American workforce.

President Obama proceeded to urge the divided Congress to pass broader legislation that would apply to all minimum wage workers. This is not the first time that the President has called upon Congress to enact legislation calling for a higher minimum wage.

When questioned about the new legislation, President Obama stated, “This is the right thing to do.”

In reality, is this really the right thing to do though? The issue of the minimum wage has recently been linked to economic mobility and gaping income inequality, two ideas which have been at the forefront of political commentary especially as the country continues to climb out of the economic downturn.

The nation is facing a crisis in that upward social mobility is becoming harder as time progresses. Data undoubtedly point to the fact that the top earners are pulling away from the middle and lower classes and economic mobility is in fact falling. Upon close inspection, this phenomenon can be attributed to the shrinking middle class.

“Raising the minimum wage is good for business, it’s good for workers and it’s good for the economy,” President Obama explained. Unfortunately, however, economic analysis does not support any of these statements. While raising the minimum wage for contract workers seems to be a great idea on the surface, meaningful and sustainable economic success comes from job creation, an issue that the President’s policies have habitually failed to address. Strong and vigorous job creation gives rise to a powerful and self-sufficient middle class. Economic mobility cannot be attained through the catch-all blanket of raising the minimum wage.

To respond to President Obama’s first quote, it would appear that the right thing to do is to support sustainable and meaningful job growth, not simply sign into law wage increases. Again, President Obama’s policies have goals aimed only at trying to alleviate the stresses of the lower class and minimum wage workers, as opposed to helping those in the middle classstrained by the recession. While this bill does help some of the lowest income earners, the policy neglects to help the hurting middle class.

Unfortunately, it seems that this has been the norm for policy during the Obama administration. Furthermore, this policy only benefits those currently employed, not those looking for work. The simple action of raising wages in response to complicated problems, such as income inequality and lack of social and economic mobility, is not the solution. As always, the effects of policies enacted today will be revealed with time. Hopefully, it’s not too late to get things back on track by then.

Contact Olivia Detato at [email protected]