Law debate on minimum wage

By Natalie Orr, Writer

Last Tuesday, Nov. 17, The University of Akron’s law school hosted a debate that posed the question of whether or not raising the minimum wage would be helpful or hurtful to the American public.

The debate was between Curtis Dubay, a research fellow in tax and economic policy at the Heritage Foundation, and Emeritus Professor Wilson Huhn from The University of Akron’s law school. Both speakers are internationally recognized— Dubay for his testimony for the Supreme Court and appearances on Fox news, and Huhn for the publication of several of his novels.

Although raising the minimum wage seems as if it is a simple economic issue to argue, both opponents were able to extrapolate the possibilities and risks on both sides of the argument.

Dubay gave the argument against increasing minimum wage. He began his presentation by addressing the fact that automative technology is starting to dominate the fast food industry.

“The threat of automative technology replacing workers is becoming increasingly acute,”

Dubay said. “Companies including McDonald’s, Panera Bread, and Amazon are choosing to use automative technology in place of workers for efficiency purposes.”  

In Dubay’s opinion, this method of technology is risky because of supply and demand. In our growing economy and era of technology, companies are constantly trying to become as efficient as possible for future gains.

The current minimum wage in Ohio is $8.10 an hour; if we were to raise that, “…not only would inflation occur, we would not be benefitting the lower class,” according to Dubay.

“In fact, only four million Americans work minimum wage jobs,” Dubay went on to say. “The majority of them are between the ages of 16 and 24 and live in middle-class families with a yearly household income of $66,000 per year. Two-thirds of those people are in school and only 4 percent of them are single parents,” Dubay said.

This misconception of minimum wage workers not being able to support themselves on a yearly basis is highly over-exaggerated in the eyes of Dubay.

“There are other ways to help the poor that will not hurt those making minimum wage,” Dubay said. “In the United States, 45 million people are currently living in poverty. If we were to raise minimum wage, we would only see a 2 percent benefit for those living in poverty. At the end of the day,  minimum wage is not the issue causing poverty when the economy grows 5 to 7 percent each year.”

Huhn presented the opposing side of the argument. He began his speech by discussing the different groups of people who would benefit from raising the current minimum wage.

According to Huhn, more than half of all people earning minimum wage are 25 or older —and nearly two-thirds of all people earning minimum wage salary are women.

“If the minimum wage were raised to $12 per hour, more than one-fourth of the workers who would receive a raise would be parents and 40 percent of working single mothers would receive a raise,” Huhn.

Huhn complimented his presentation with a PowerPoint of visual charts as well. One of the charts shown was a bar graph of the minimum wage of countries all around the world. The United States had one of the lowest dollar amounts.

Huhn also spent a majority of his presentation discussing income inequality and the distribution of wealth. According to the professor, since 1968, the purchasing power of minimum wage has declined by 32  percent. If the minimum wage had kept pace with the earnings of the top 1 percent, it would now be over $22 per hour.

Kuhn’s arguments also centered around the idea of morality. He ended his presentation by posing a question that he asked the audience to ponder: “Is it ethical to make money by employing another person at less than a living wage?”

After both professors gave their presentations, they let the audience ask them several questions. They did a cross examination of each other as well.

Dubay went on to reflect on why companies like Wal-Mart change and raise their minimum wage. He explained the fact of recycling money.

“When money is taken from shareholders, they take dollars from the saver and give it to the spender,” Dubay said. “Regardless of how you view it, someone is still spending money.”

Another point of discussion between the two debaters was the idea of automative technology. Dubay gave several examples of jobs that in the future he believes will be replaced by machines, such as recorders, pharmacists, drivers, cashiers, retail assistants, and even lawyers — which came as a shock to many audience members who are currently in law school.

“We will always need lawyers,” Kuhn responded. “No machine can ever replace the tasks they perform on a daily basis.”

“At the end of the day, the pie continues to get bigger, people care less and less about equality and more about efficiency,” Dubay responded.

After the debate, several students voiced their opinion about the debate.

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