by Russell Contreras
The dream to raise the minimum wage from $4.25 an hour to $5.15 came to a rapid halt as Senate Majority Leader and presumed GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced they would not allow a vote on the measure to reach the respected floors. This came after a coalition of Democrats and Republicans got together to draft up legislation for the increase.
Both Dole and Gingrich argue that a minimum-wage increase would be counter-productive to the economy, citing the old argument of small businesses laying off workers to keep to their budget. The Democrats say the many people who work and support a family on minimum-wage incomes need an increase in order to survive. And both sides agree that the pros and cons of the debate come from each respective party's political base, which is the determining factor in the debate.
But aside from politics and the heated rhetoric, an increase in the minimum wage looks like a good idea when all the facts are considered. For one, 60 percent of minimum-wage workers who are the sole breadwinners of the family are women. That means these presumably single households are grossing only about $8,840. Second, the cost of living has been skyrocketing so much in all aspects of the people's lives that many people need two incomes in order to stay above the poverty level. (A good example of this rise can be directed toward the gas prices and the rising rent.) And third, the majority of those who are constantly on minimum wage are those under 25 -- people like you and me.
Now, an increase in the minimum wage will not solve all the immediate financial woes of those who fall in this income level. But it is a start to help these families keep up with the rising cost of living. It will help in putting more cash in people's hands whose every paycheck is a survival document that cannot go down anymore.
Contrary to what Congressman Tom DeLay, R-Sugarland, said in a memo to his Republican pals, which stated that families who live off minimum wage "don't really exist," these families do exist and are growing in number every year. It is hard to imagine the hardships of that struggle when we middle-class people try to see the world through the eyes of a minimum-wage worker supporting a whole family. But it is even harder to imagine a congressman such as Tom DeLay (who makes in the high $100,000s a year, not counting lobbyist funding) believing and trying to persuade others that these families are fictitious.
It is a shame that Dole and Gingrich refuse to put this measure up for a vote, especially during a presidential election year. Their "counter plan" of giving tax breaks to people in this income level is a joke in itself, considering there isn't much money for them to work with. And it is a shame that these two, along with Tom DeLay and a bunch of others, might be looking for a job pretty soon.
Contreras is a senior English and