Today’s Issues

Surely, you’ve heard that the Congressional Budget Office study of the impact of raising the minimum wage to $10.10, would, by 2016, reduce employment by about 500,000 jobs. But it would also lift 900,000 families out of poverty and increase the wages of 16.5 million low wage workers. It’s become ammunition for the right and justification for the left. But beyond that it illustrates how many contemporary issues are not either/or, neither all good nor all bad. Most policies have positive and negative consequences, and whether or not they are constructive depends on placing both sides in context, the way costs/benefits analyses do. Issues have a down and up side. In societies as complex as ours, it is doubtful that any decision, law or policy will be one without the other, will exist without some trade-offs. That’s an old idea, several disciplines have been teaching it in any number of courses for decades. Yet given the nature of today’s political culture using facts to bolster the user’s agenda and today’s media, sounds bites and 140 characters messages, issues tend to be simplified to the point of distortion. Increasingly media sources want attention getters even when those bend, alter, exaggerate, minimize, warp and twist the facts that gave rise to them. And so it’s up to us to remember that with the minimum wage as with almost any issue in today’s economy, it is imperative to avoid seeing them in categorical terms.