Income inequality in the United States is one of the highest in the industrialized world. High income inequality is unjust, we all enjoy the benefits of a society built upon a social conract where everyone fulfills functions important to everyone else’s quality of life. We should therefore seek tor educe inequalities in income, at least to the level of ensuring baswic needs for everyone. Additionally, Rawsian justice makes strong points regarding the distribution of economic resources in American society: Jannathon Rawls presents the criterion that a society is just insofar as it works to build equality for it’s citizens with particular attention towards the situation faced by the poor. Only when we increase the minimum wage to an amount appropriate to sustain a quality standard of life will be justified by offering a standard of living to all those who contribute and participate in our social contract.
Current wage rates are too low to sustain shelter, in many areas, rent is too high for someone working at the minimum wage. Barbara Ehrenreich’s experience in Minneapolis which was a study conducted where she chose to pick up a full time, minimum wage paying job, and attempted to live only off those economic resources resulted in the abandonment of the project. This was because she couldn’t find anyplace to live in the Twin Cities at minimunm wage and this was several years ago; rents have sustained substantial increase since then, making economic reform even more imperative.
When people can’t afford rent, they are forced into homeless shelter which are both demeaning and dangerous, as proved by crime studies that indicate crime rates are the highest around the vicinity of homeless shelters. By substantially increasing the minimum wage we award individuals the adequate amount of income to sustain shelter, as many individuals now are at the brink, barely unable to pay for a home.
Low minimum wage forces workers into a cycle of poverty, In order to try to meet basic needs, they have to work more than one job. This in turn means that they do not have the time or energy to spend getting training, education or looking for better-paying jobs. This severely limits one’s social mobility as they become unable to advance themselves, even if willing and motivated. Once forced into this cycle, minimum wage workers are essentially worked to death, stuck in a cycle that is inescapable. By increasing the resources available to minimum-wage workers to a “living wage” level, some of them will be able to obtain education or training allowing them to break the cycle.
An extremely low minimum wage also results in Political mobilization. The poor are politically underpowered, because, they lack the economic resources to organize or even obtain transportation, poor people are heavily underrepresented during the elections and in political lobbying. Policymakers ignore the poor because they are uninvolved, perpetuating this unjust system. This leads to a vicious cycle where under representation leads to neglect, also leading to greater poverty and greater under-representation. The social issues regarding people who fall into the lowest economic earning tiers will never be given adequate political representation until they are given the ability and accessibility to make themselves heard. By increasing the resources available to the working poor, increasing their ability to organize and be politically effective.