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The two major parties in the US, the Republicans and the Democrats, while debating various issues may be an important source of information about the current political life of the country. However, even though sometimes the arguments they provide might be rather reasonable, in other cases they are not. In this paper, we will analyze two currently popular political issues: raising the minimum hourly wages, and abortions. We will see that, while in one situation both parties provide quite valid arguments (even though they are not deprived of ideology), in the other case the arguments of both parties are inappropriate, which means that one should not rely on the opinions of any of the parties, but attempt to seek valid information oneself.
The Minimum Hourly Wages
Raising the minimum hourly wage is a problem that is often debated nowadays. A minimum wage is the lowest amount of money that a company is allowed to pay to its employees for one unit of time of work. Currently, there is a federal law establishing the minimum wage in the whole country, and there also exist state laws establishing it locally (National Conference of State Legislatures n. pag.).
The offer to raise the minimum wage is supported by the Democrats. Their official website advocates this proposal, stating that the bill increasing the salaries would be beneficial to the poor, that increasing the wages to $10.10 per hour would “lift nearly 5 million Americans out of poverty”, and that surveys show that 73% of the population support the raise (“It’s Time to Act on the Minimum Wage” par. 1-2). The Democrats also argue that the workers who earn minimum salaries have not seen any increase of their earnings for years; they state the Fair Minimum Wage Act should be adopted (“The Fair Minimum Wage Act” n. pag.). Importantly, the bill offers not only to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 but also to index the wage to inflation every year afterwards.
The Republicans, however, oppose the offer. The representatives of the party state that increasing the wage will lead to a decrease in the number of jobs, therefore raising the unemployment rate (“RNC Response to GDP Growth” n. pag.). It is also stated that “raising the minimum wage won’t do anything for those without jobs,” and that the level of poverty, in particular among women, has been increasing over the last years (“Minimum Wage” par. 1-7)
A literature review shows that indeed, increasing (or introducing) minimum wages could lead to a decrease in the number of jobs offered in the market. It is explained that should a minimum wage be adopted, the people whose productiveness is below that wage have a risk of unemployment; e.g., a person who can only produce an amount of goods or services the value of which would be 10 units of money per hour will face unemployment if the minimum hourly wage is 11 units of money (Schuldt, Woodall, and Block 258).
On the other hand, this should not be a problem. No one offers to set the minimum hourly wages to e.g. $100, or even to $20; it is proposed to increase them to $10.10, which is not a large amount. Even of there exist jobs where an employee’s work yields less than $10.10 per hour (or slightly more), this job does not appear likely to exist for long. Besides, another study provides an example of a similar situation; a minimum hourly wage raise which took place in China in 2003 did lead to a rise in unemployment, but this increase was insubstantial and thus could be neglected (Wang and Gunderson 860).
It is reasoned that a similar situation will occur in the US should the wages be raised to $9; there will be a slight decrease in the number of offered jobs, but this decline will be insubstantial in such a large and growing economy as the US (Hamermesh 131).
Given that the article is dated 2013, it is possible to suppose that today the raise of minimum hourly wages to $10.10 would not yield significantly different results. Besides, Hamermesh also argues that increasing the wages will not lead to a situation when a number of new jobs will not be created, but no old jobs will be closed (131). So, hardly any person will lose their work due to the minimum hourly wage decrease. On the other hand, Hamermesh stresses the importance not of increasing the wages, but of the yearly indexation of wages to inflation (a variant of indexation is offered in the Fair Minimum Wage Act) (131-132). This would guarantee that workers do not get underpaid, and relieve the public of the tiresome debates about the wages increase that last for long years (Hamermesh 131-132).
Thus, in our opinion, it is important to increase the minimum wages. Even though some jobs might not be created, these jobs would probably be exactly the ones where workers would be severely underpaid. We see little point in creating vacancies where people would barely make a living. Instead of trying to preserve or create low-paid jobs, it appears more effective to attempt to create other vacancies, perhaps ones that require skilled workers. Larger demand for workforce in any industry would still lead to higher demand for workforce in many other areas.
Another problem we would like to discuss is the issue of abortions. The debate about whether they should be legally allowed or criminalized persists in the American political life for decades.
On this issue, the Democrats are known as mostly being against the prohibition. They usually state that it is a woman’s right to choose whether to have a baby or not, and to be able to get medical help should they decide to. The Democrats are known for blocking a number of anti-abortion laws, such as the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, 2003 (“House Votes on 2003-530” n. pag.), or a bill to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy (Kelly n. pag.).
On the other hand, the Republicans state that abortions violate the unborn children’s rights to life, and are disrespect for “the traditional family values.” The party often introduces bills proposing to ban abortions and supports them with the majority of its votes (Kelly n. pag.; “House Votes on 2003-530” n. pag.).
Our review of scholarly materials shows that there is much literature giving arguments based on ideology or emotions; the arguments are often similar to those given by the two parties. There are also materials that try to tie the issue to the existing legislation, saying that abortions should be permitted or criminalized because of this or that law. However, the most interesting findings are the statistical ones. It has been found out that the ban on abortions does not decrease the number of abortions; instead, the women tend to have a termination illegally, which significantly lowers the quality of care or even deprives them of medical care, greatly increasing the risk to their health and life; see, e.g., van Dijk et al. (S89-S90).
In our opinion, the number of illegal terminations in the situation when abortions are prohibited is even greater than any statistics suggest, because one of the features of illegal operations is that they are not documented. It is possible to assume that many women who took such great risk were rather desperate in their intentions. In any case, the fact that the ban does not decrease the number of operations, but makes them much more dangerous, clearly shows its meaninglessness and harmfulness.
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We also believe that legal or ideological speculations like those that the American parties or some literature provide (“the right to choose,” “family values,” etc.) should play a minimal role in the issue; what matters most is the preservation of health and lives in as large quantities as possible. Therefore, terminations should be allowed, but e.g. school education programs elaborating the issue should be implemented. Besides, it would be productive to conduct research and find out the exact reasons why the abortions are performed, and then to launch social programs and take other kinds of action in order to eliminate the causes of abortions.
To sum up, it is important to pay attention to issues raised by the political parties to keep up with the political life of the country. On the other hand, while there is truth in both major American parties’ arguments about the minimum wage, when it comes to the problem of abortions, the parties mostly tend to use abstract speculations instead of providing meaningful and scientifically correct reasons. Thus, it should be kept in mind that the arguments of both parties can be aimed at distracting citizens from other issues, and should always be checked; alternative arguments and opinions should also be sought.
Hamermesh, Daniel S. “President Obama and the Minimum Wage – A Politico-Economic Bargain.” Intereconomics 48.2 (2013): 131-132. ProQuest. Web.
House Votes on 2003-530. n.d. Web.
It’s Time to Act on the Minimum Wage. n.d. Web.
Kelly, Erin. Senate Democrats Block Bill to Ban Abortions after 20 Weeks. 2015. Web.
Minimum Wage. 2014. Web.
National Conference of State Legislatures. State Minimum Wages | 2015 Minimum Wage by State. 2015. Web.
RNC Response to GDP Growth. 2014. Web.
Schuldt, Robert, Davis Woodall, and Walter E. Block. “Drowning the Poor in Excessive Wages: the Problems of the Minimum Wage Law.” Humanomics 28.4 (2012): 258-269. Emerald Insight. Web.
The Fair Minimum Wage Act (H.R. 1010). 2015. Web.
Van Dijk, Marieke G., Armando Ahued Ortega, Xipatl Contreras, and Sandra G. García. “Stories behind the Statistics: A Review of Abortion-Related Deaths from 2005 to 2007 in Mexico City.” International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics 118.2 (2012): S87–S91. Science Direct. Web.
Wang, Jing, and Morley Gunderson. “Minimum Wage Effects on Employment and Wages: Dif‐in‐Dif Estimates from Eastern China.” International Journal of Manpower 33.8 (2012): 860-876. Emerald Insight. Web.