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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Students, experts weigh Obama’s minimum wage proposal

David Denslow didn’t think much about President Barack Obama’s State of the Union proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.

Denslow, a UF economist, said the people who would be most affected by this raise are high school dropouts, college students and women with small children.

“The big problem in our society is that young men are getting less of an education than our women,” he said. “The displacement of less skilled workers by young college students and women will have a negative effect.”

The current minimum wage in Florida is $7.79 an hour.

The typical person works 2,000 hours a year, which translates to about 40 hours a week. In Florida, the average person working for minimum wage would earn about $15,600 a year before taxes.

UF student Conor Munro works 16 hours a week at Moe’s Southwest Grill on UF’s campus to pay off his student loans.

“Right now, people working on campus work about 20 cents above minimum wage,” the 21-year-old history and economics junior said. “The real minimum wage accounts for inflation.”

Munro said minimum wage wouldn’t affect college students two to three years after graduation.

“Hopefully, we’ll be competing for jobs above minimum wage,” he said.

Lawrence Kenny, a UF economics professor, said federal wages tend to remain constant for a period of time before it increases.

From 2000 to 2006, federal minimum wage was $5.15 and increased to $5.85 in 2007, according to the 2012 Florida Department of Economic Opportunity wage history report.

“The solution to minimum wage is to acquire skills and not be dependent on minimum wage,” Kenny said.

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Historically, he said, minimum wage has had the greatest impact on minorities.

Tahiri Jean-Baptiste said raising wages would create setbacks for low-income families.

“You can’t raise a family on $15,000 a year, but if you raise minimum wage, everything will go up with it,” the 20-year-old English and anthropology junior said. “If consumers have more spending power, your products will cost more.”

Denslow said the focus should be on the salary of the top 1 percent billionaires who are exempt from ordinary income tax rates.

“Instead of paying more for groceries and hamburgers, I’d rather be taxed for prepaid education, which would help low-income families,” he said.

Munro said students shouldn’t take raising minimum wage for granted.

“If you support raising minimum wage, you have to pressure President Obama and make sure he follows through,” he said.

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