Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 10, 2014

Stumptalk: Should the minimum wage be raised?

By Jim Sykes
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — There is no constitutional authority for the federal government to establish a minimum wage for workers in private industries. Of course, not having the authority doesn’t seem to stop the federal government from violating the constitution. Minimum wage laws can legally be established by individual states and, if regulated, the rate should be set to help the economy in that area. If the economy is strong and the unemployment rate is low, then the rate of pay could be higher. If the area economy is bad and unemployment is high, then the rate of pay could be lower. Some states already set the minimum wage of workers in their state.

The current stated reason for increasing the minimum wage is to benefit the lower paid workers. In 2012, the total number of workers earning at, or below, the prevailing federal minimum wage was estimated at 3.6 million, or 4.7 percent of all hourly-paid workers. What if we could find a way to benefit ALL hourly paid workers without penalizing the employers or employees?

If the cost of living could be reduced then everyone would benefit, especially those who are unable or unwilling to improve their skills to the point where their skill level would warrant a higher hourly wage. Additionally we would no longer need the federal wage enforcement employees, thereby saving even more money. We could remove the sales taxes on ALL necessities like food, medicine, and clothing. If employees who are paid by the hour were no longer required to pay taxes on the necessities of life, the cost of living would be drastically reduced. After all, supporters of an increase in the minimum wage claim that it would increase the standard of living, reduce poverty, reduce inequality, and boost morale. Opponents say it increases poverty, unemployment (particularly among low productivity workers) and is damaging to businesses. Reducing the costs of living does none of these things and would benefit ALL citizens.

It doesn’t matter which side you support, you can find numerous studies that support your side of the argument. Maybe we should change the subject to an issue that can be properly analyzed for a beneficial result for everyone and stop allowing the politicians to dictate what we discuss. My experience shows that politicians choose issues that will improve their chance of getting re-elected whether they improve the life of their constituents or not. Recent studies reviewed show that about 70 percent of workers favor an increase while more than 70 percent of economists say it will hurt the economy, raise the cost of living and cause a loss of jobs.

The truth of increasing the minimum wage does not change the future buying power of the citizens that it is designed to help when it simply causes an increase the cost of everything they have to buy. With the increase in the cost of living that we are experiencing from the increase in the federal government spending, the only benefit from increasing the minimum wage will be the benefit to the politicians.

Since 1938, the minimum wage has been increased 22 times. Over that period of time, the increase in wages to the low-income workers has not improved their life. The increases have only resulted in a periodic reduction in buying power caused by the increase in the cost of living. We need to stop letting politicians indoctrinate us and stop allowing them to control our lives. Stop letting the politicians benefit from “sound good” proposals and require them to identify the long-term benefits to you and our country’s economy of every proposal they make.

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Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Jim Sykes at