"For those scraping by on minimum wage, an increase sounds good." That was the Einstein-brilliant headline for the February 25 Metro section article by Washington Post staff writer Michael Laris, which looked at how a "Young Pr[ince] George's [County] father finds little money left to advance dreams."
Laris's 44-paragraph story began with the plight of 24-year-old father Tyrrell Brown, who "makes minimum wage as a cashier at the Family Dollar in Forest Heights," Maryland, a town just outside the District of Columbia. "[E]ven with the job, the income of his girlfriend, Janise Creek, and support from their parents, they can't afford to get their own apartment with their daughter Jayla," Laris noted, quoting Brown in the next paragraph complaining, "Who can live off this little bit of money every week?"
Laris then moved on to Democratic politicians on both the federal and state level looking to raise the wage floor. "The value of the minimum wage shouldn't be eroded, and it has been," Maryland State Senate Majority Leader Robert Garagiola told the Post. "If we're going to have a minimum wage in this country, or the state of Maryland, it needs to be a wage people can live off of," the Montgomery County Democrat insisted.
To his credit, Laris did include the perspective of a beleaguered, hardworking small businesswoman, Michelle Kwon, a 50-year-old Korean immigrant who employs Brown's girlfriend. But Laris waited until the 15th paragraph to get to that perspective. And even then, Laris downplayed the onerous nature of government regulation on Kwon, suggesting the businesswoman is ready to roll with whatever punches the politicians may send her way:
A major study by economists at the University of California at Berkeley compared adjacent counties that have different minimum wages across the country, focusing on restaurant jobs. It found higher minimum wages did not prompt job cuts.
But other studies have shown other changes can result. Employers may cut hours or benefits or raise prices or accept lower profits. Employees may work harder, or stay in their jobs longer, saving their bosses money.
Kwon said she will do what’s necessary, whatever comes.
“Even though I don’t make good money, I do money management,” Kwon said. “When the economy’s slow, whoever will do money management well will win. That’s my business philosophy.”
Laris closed his article by suggesting that a hike in the minimum wage as government policy that can help Brown stop relying on his parents:
Brown doesn’t want to keep reaching out to his parents for assistance.
“I look at it as I’m the man of the relationship. I should work for mine,” he said.
What he wants is a job that makes more money. Upping the minimum wage would be a start, he said.
He hopes to become a special police officer, a security officer with a gun, and get a place for the three of them, a place with freedom, space and privacy.
“I mean, it’s a dream,” he said. “I know I’m going to get there someday.”