Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10 — The Debate

On November 20th, 2017, The Student Political Alliance (SPA), organized a debate on raising the federal minimum wage at Howard Baker Jr. Center’s Toyota Auditorium, involving the University of Tennessee Speech and Debate Society debaters.

Before the debate began we discussed that proponents of a higher minimum wage state that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is too low for anyone to live on; that a higher minimum wage will help create jobs and grow the economy; that the declining value of the minimum wage is one of the primary causes of wage inequality between low- and middle-income workers; and that a majority of Americans, including a slim majority of self-described conservatives, support increasing the minimum wage.

The Debate

Denizhan Pak, Affirmative | Photo taken by Wanjiru Gatau

Denizhan Pak, Affirmative | Photo taken by Wanjiru Gatau

On the Affirmative, debater Denizhan Pak, Senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and former UT Speech and Debate Society President took the stance. Pak opened up with setting a solid foundation on the affirmatives case. “This is one of the most important issues in U.S. domestic policy. It’s incredibly important from a political standpoint, from an economic standpoint and a social standpoint” — Pak

The main arguments that Pak mentioned was that the $7.25 minimum wage that is currently in place is simply not enough. He mentioned that the minimum wage should be able to support the lowest standard of living, and that this is shown to be at $10.00 an hour. By raising the minimum wage, it would give the opportunity to raise people out of poverty.

On the Negative, debater Mickayla Stogsdill, President of the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society, began with definition analysis of the debate. she stated when looking at the debate of the minimum wage, you have to look at the costs effecting weighing mechanisms and net benefits.

“If one side of the debate has more costs then the benefit is also going to decrease.”

She mentions that the pay of productivity is actually based on location — productivity of someone who in Manhattan, New York will be extremely different to a worker in Cosby, Tennessee — so we have to instead look at the differences in standard of living due to the distinctive differences.

“I believe that no worker should be underpaid and that we shouldn’t have people in poverty; however, $10 an hour is simply too much for some cities within the United States.”

The federal minimum wage should reflect the wage floor, defined as the lowest legal wage a business can pay its employees, reflecting the lowest cost of living in the U.S. or else we risk unnecessary inflation, Stogsdill said. As the minimum wage increases, the cost of goods will inherently increase as well.

One of the affirmatives last contentions within her speech included the harms of raising the minimum wage. These harms were included under 3 subpoints

  • Will hurt small businesses by squeezing profit margins through inflation and unemployment increase

  • Will lead to inflation due to higher priced goods

  • Will force unemployment

Mickayla Stogsdill, Affirmative | Photo taken by Wanjiru Gatau

Mickayla Stogsdill, Affirmative | Photo taken by Wanjiru Gatau

Mickayla Stogsdill, Affirmative | Photo taken by Wanjiru Gatau

Pak went back to the stage for his second speech rebutting the idea that $10 would be too much to raise the minimum wage to. He stated that this is simply not fair to the people that are work and you see that majority of people effected are adults which are 80% and 88% have to take care of their families. As American citizens, we are expected to save a part of our wage every time we receive a salary. He stated that the expectation is so we can save it for our retirement later on, and maybe buy a house one day. “We call that the American Dream,” Pak said.

The whole purpose of raising the minimum wage is to give this equal opportunity to every individual. Additionally, Pak stated that as inflation increases we should be raising the minimum wage to overcome the increase in the cost of goods sold; however, the U.S. has failed to do so.

Pak went into stating that $10 and hour is actually the ground floor. “2/3 of minimum wage employees work for businesses that have more then 100 employees,” and that “business profits have grown 73% for upper level management.” He stated that this all means that yes profit margins have increased and that they may have to take cuts; however, this is the only way Americans can have equal opportunity and a fair chance to succeed.


Photo taken by Wanjiru Gatau

Photo taken by Wanjiru Gatau

Debater Stogsdill essentially closes with the statement that the argument to raise the federal minimum wage ignores fundamental economic theory. It will force businesses to cut employee benefits or lessen staff. These costs will not be absorbed by the CEOs that make higher salaries.

Either it will cause inflation or raise unemployment. Raising the minimum wage will hurt small towns that cannot support paying a higher wage and can support workers that currently earn $7.25/hr.

Denizhan Pak stands behind the fact that “we do not have economic theoretical arguments for this as there is empirical evidence that proves the positive effects of raising the minimum wage.”

Stogsdill noted that “on a very idealistic view, what needs to happen is we need to increase a standard of living, through typically education, and typically healthcare.”

The minimum wage is both an impactful and timeless concern that many of us have our own preconceived options on.