Home > Uncategorized > Minimum Wage and Student Debt are Linked… Loans Would be Lower or Non-Existent if Workers Earned More

Minimum Wage and Student Debt are Linked… Loans Would be Lower or Non-Existent if Workers Earned More

February 26, 2021

A light bulb went on when I read this article on the minimum wage controversy by Kenny Stancil. In the article Mr. Sancil calls out GOP Senator John Thune for sharing an anecdote on his work as a teenager:

A story of the $6 wage he earned working in a restaurant as a kid blew up in the face of Sen. John Thune overnight after economic justice advocates pointed out that the powerful Republican’s personal anecdote only goes to show that, adjusted for inflation, that seemingly low wage would now be somewhere north of $24 an hour—helping solidify the case that increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 is the very least Congress should be doing.

“I started working by bussing tables at the Star Family Restaurant for $1/hour and slowly moved up to cook—the big leagues for a kid like me—to earn $6/hour,” Thune, who represents South Dakota and is the second-most powerful Republican in the Senate, tweeted Wednesday night. “Businesses in small towns survive on narrow margins. Mandating a $15 minimum wage would put many of them out of business.”

Several progressive critics quickly pointed out that, depending on the exact year when Thune, born in 1961, started earning $6 an hour, the seemingly modest wage he pulled in as a teenager would be equivalent to roughly $25 today.

This resonated with me, because I worked de facto minimum wage jobs throughout my youth: mowing lawns; delivering newspapers; and several bona-fide part-time minimum wage jobs as a painter, a mover; and a factory worker. I was not raised in poverty. Rather, my father encouraged me to work part-time so that I could pay for college and learn the work-ethic at a grass root level. I DID pay for my freshman year at Drexel University with my earnings and covered the costs for the balance of my college through the co-op jobs I worked. But there is no way I could do that with today’s prevailing wages for two reasons: the wages today are too low and the cost of college has gone up. This creates a gap that can only be filled by having a college student take out loans or working throughout their college careers— either of which compromise the experiencing college in the same way as a student whose tuition, room and board is fully funded.

If our country is serious about creating a world where equal opportunity is real we need to pay higher wages for entry-level and part-time work and pay higher taxes so that state colleges can be more affordable. We need to reinforce that part of our humanity that is willing to make sacrifices for others instead of feeding our selfishness.

%d bloggers like this: