Opinion: Closing the income gap, one step at a time

In almost every history class I have ever taken, the teacher has at some point said, “The reason we learn about our history is so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes we made in the past.” In my U.S. history class, we are learning about the Gilded Age of America, a period of the late 1800s in which the United States experienced a vastly unequal distribution of wealth. From what I have learned thus far in class about this time period, it seems that we are repeating the same mistakes we made in the late 1800s.

When looking at the issue of the unequal distribution of wealth, it is difficult to choose a side because there is so much gray area. If you do not make enough to live on, does it mean you are not working hard? Do people have the right to preach about working hard for their wealth when they simply inherited it? The answer to both questions is no.

One of the main causes of the income gap is that majority of minimum wage workers are not paid a wage they can live on and fall below the poverty line.

A popular debate with the minimum wage issue is that businesses, especially small ones, will suffer. However, when Henry Ford started his car business, his philosophy was that he wanted to pay his workers enough so that they would be able to buy one of his cars. Due to this system, Ford became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in his time because so many people could afford to buy his cars. While it is true that businesses may initially struggle, paying higher wages will ultimately attract more jobs, and give people enough spending money to put some business back into the place they work.

I also take issue with the fact that some low paying jobs are considered almost worthless to society. There is no doubt that we need doctors and lawyers and engineers in the world, and the more people who pursue these jobs, the better. However, we also need lower paying jobs, such as teachers and food industry workers and janitors, and to think that people shouldn’t be paid for working hard is completely ridiculous. Our country was built on freedom and opportunity, and until people are paid a wage they can live off of, they cannot pursue their dreams or even support themselves, and their sense of freedom is inhibited.

If the minimum wage was raised to a reasonable amount, people who do work hard will be fairly paid no matter what their job is, and people who are not willing to work now might be more motivated if they know that they will be paid a decent amount for their job. The minimum wage issue is just one of the many problems our country faces today, but raising it would be a huge step in closing the United States’ extreme gap between the rich and the poor.