Minimum Wage Machine

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Though the general climate of Philadelphia was much less spirited than that of Cleveland, there were pockets of excitement where the true character of the Democratic Convention flourished.  For example, the Truth to Power exhibit featured pop up art that addressed the most pressing issues that today’s young people face.

As someone who has never wholeheartedly believed in a drastic raising of the minimum wage―I think it ought to be chained to the Consumer Price Index and adjust annually according to inflation―there was one work at the exhibit that really moved me.   There was a penny-filled glass box perched on top of a wooden stand with a hand-sized crank on its right side.  On the wall adjacent to this contraption a placard read:

“Minimum Wage Machine.  This machine allows anybody to work for minimum wage.  Turning the crank will yield one penny every 3 seconds, for $7.25 an hour, or Pennsylvania state minimum wage (2015).  If the participant stops turning the crank, they stop receiving money.”

Turning this crank was not only boring and tiresome, but it also put a temporal frame on the bleak picture of how underpaid some of our workers are.  To hear the clank of a copper coin falling down a wooden chute, imagining that as a portion of my salary was eye-opening.

I don’t support the idea of raising the minimum wage to twelve or even fifteen dollars because I believe it would lead to economy-wide layoffs due to increasing production costs, but I don’t see much of a case for keeping it at seven dollars and twenty five cents for full-time workers.  It is simply too low.

Nick Boney

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