Obama should drop current minimum wage

In recent months, President Obama has campaigned to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Given the dismal employment landscape, though, it’s unlikely that the new minimum wage would deliver the benefits he touts. In fact, for every American earning minimum wage, seven Americans cannot find work at all. Increasing the wage of those who have jobs would, at best, do nothing for those who do not.

This simple reality not only demonstrates the futility of raising the minimum wage, but illuminates the need for a solution that benefits all Americans, both employed and unemployed. That solution lies on the opposite side of the income-expenditure equation. That is, if we can’t increase wages, we should at least try to decrease the cost of living. Therefore, the president should adopt a strategy to bring down the cost of energy.

Americans living on fixed income, and especially those with no income, are most vulnerable to high energy prices. What good is a $10 per hour minimum wage if gas prices spike to $5 per gallon? And while we all directly feel the price of energy when we pay the utility bill or fill up the gas tank, the indirect cost of energy deals an even greater blow to our wallet.

To better grasp the full impact of energy costs, consider the life cycle of a gallon of milk. First, an electric heat exchanger pasteurizes the milk. Next, the milk is poured into a petroleum-based plastic carton. Finally, a diesel-burning truck transports the milk to a grocery store with around-the-clock refrigeration. The milk incurs an energy cost at each stage of the process, and ultimately the customer pays for those costs at checkout. Since energy plays such an integral role in the production and distribution process, reducing energy costs would create cascading savings in every area of consumer spending.

In the spirit of Ben Franklin’s “penny saved” axiom, I would even venture to characterize cheap energy as a sort of nation-wide pay raise. Even if this is a stretch, the potential for economic relief cannot be denied. Therefore, the president should seize every opportunity to lift the burden of unnecessarily expensive energy.

For starters, Obama should approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Better yet, he should expedite it. He should then take a hard look at the EPA’s proposed carbon emission guidelines, all 625 pages, and eliminate every regulation that could potentially increase the price of energy. And if he gets bored, he should pick up his phone and call any business owner or industry expert to ask how to help reduce utility bills – they’ll have plenty of suggestions.

Any of these actions would send a clear signal to the energy industry that it’s safe to double down on American energy development. By embracing policies to make energy more affordable, the president would enhance the economic security of all Americans and pave the way for a genuine, bottom-up recovery.

Cruise Hall is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

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