Economic Solutions to Social Issues
In recent years, the United State has had an easily visible increase in activism and interest in social causes. This interest has brought new life and energy into the American left, and this energy is what will help transform this country into a place that works for all peoples. In incorporating social activism with liberal politics, it is important to see the connection between what are typically social issues, and solutions that are based in other liberal policies, some of which may have connections to social issues that are not as easily apparent.
The fight for 15 has invigorated the debate for raising the minimum wage, but the minimum wage is not as popular of a topic to discuss as some of the mainstream social issues out there. But this does not mean that it should be ignored. A very well-known social issue is that of the wage gap. In a recent study conducted by the American Association of University Women, it was shown that the average income of a woman in the united states is 20% less than that of a man. The quick response by many social justice activists in that to combat this, we need a law that guarantees equal pay for equal work. This is an obvious solution, and it would seem crazy if a law like this had not already been passed. As it turns out, that actually is not the case. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 put equal pay for equal work into the law. Not only that, but the National Conference of State Legislators has reported that the 45 states have already passed laws regarding pay discrepancies based on gender. What this means is that while those laws absolutely helped to reduce the difference between male and female incomes, there is still more work to be done.
When most people think of the minimum wage, they do not associate it with being an issue that is related to women in particular. It is viewed as an obscure afterthought that is not entirely relevant in the social justice conversation. By far the most popular solution given by women’s rights activists for the wage gap is another equal pay act. Very rarely, if ever, will you see the minimum wage being given as one of main ways to fix the injustice. However, some of the veteran groups in the fight for liberal policies have already identified raising the minimum wage as a tool for helping women.
The Center for American Progress put raising the minimum wage as its 1st of 7 steps to closing the wage gap. In 2012, nearly ⅔ of all workers earning minimum wage were women. Were you to raise the minimum wage, the net income of women in the United States would rise slightly more than the income of men, as more women have minimum wage jobs, and this in turn would reduce the size of the wage gap.
Getting involved in social issues is extremely important. It is these movements that lead to true and lasting change in our country. This new wave of energy and activism will be able to push for and achieve changes that progressives have spent years fighting for. However, this can only happen if the deep and inseparable connection between progressive politics and social justice is not only accepted but embraced. Raising the minimum wage is not a new idea, and there is once again a labor movement, the fight for 15, that is trying to make a lasting change in the lives of millions of Americans. It is not by coincidence that progressives have been the ones fighting for liberal economic policies as well as social justice, and it is because the two go hand in hand. It is great that people are taking an interest in social justice, now it is time to bring that interest to the other areas of politics that will make social justice achievable.