Minimum Wage

During class a few weeks ago, we played this game called SPENT, where we simulated living a month with minimum wage, which was around $8-9. Over the course of the month, the player would have different lifestyle choices such as paying for health care, fixing a damaged car, whether to send your kid to a birthday party without a gift, etc. As the days went on, your life suffered. Root canals, being fired from your job, having to take loans from your friends because you couldn’t afford your rent, were all choices that had to be made. Depending on how well you did when playing SPENT, you would end up with x amount of dollars at the end of the month; but rent was due the very next day which would mean you would be broke. This is a harsh reality for many people all over the world. So many people are unemployed or earning minimum wage, and they still have families to feed. For people like us, we get to go home with a stable roof over our head and food on the table, not having to worry about bills to pay and the fact that we make minimum wage.

The topic of minimum wage is a widely discussed issue that has both negative repercussions and positive. Kevin Hassett, an Economist at the American Enterprise Institute and former advisor for John McCain and Mitt Romney believes that raising the minimum wage to $15 would change the wealth gap even more; making workers receive bigger checks and some workers losing their jobs. Even though the unemployment rate is already so low, giving people more money may be beneficial to some, but to others it would be detrimental.  “If wages are

higher, employers are less likely to take a chance on people with less experience because it’s a big investment. Fewer people would get a shot at proving themselves” (CNN Should the Minimum Wage be Raised?). Being paid more money creates a bigger responsibility for the worker to do well in his job. It is more risky to hire someone who is less qualified if they would be earning $15 per hour rather than $9 per hour.

Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and economic adviser to Vice President Biden believes that, “The ‘simple textbook prediction’ that raising wages results in job loss had been proved wrong and too simplistic. There are various ways in which the higher wages are offset that don’t include losing jobs, including redistributing profits and adapting prices”(CNN Should the Minimum Wage be Raised?). It is commonly believed that raising the minimum wage would lead to a higher unemployment rate, but Bernstein thinks that a possible redistribution of wealth and prices would change to accommodate the change in wages.

Regardless of what you believe the minimum wage should be, there is an obvious problem in poverty rates around the country. Some people have to take loans from their friends and even donate plasma for spare cash, like what happened in the game spent. Fifteen dollars an hour may be too high of an increase in minimum wage, but a slightly higher increase such as $11 or $12 may suffice. Playing the game SPENT was fun, yet it was sad realization that people are struggling to survive with minimum wage.

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START Treaty

During the course of the Ignite Presentations, I was surprised to find out how informed that I could be on many topics while only listening to a 5 minute presentation. Even though our time was limited, using this method of presenting forced students to not waste time and get to the important parts of our presentation. In regards to creating my own presentation, it was hard to confine my information down to a 5 minute presentation, since there was still a lot of information that I would have like to have talked about. In my presentation, I tried and discuss all of the most important parts of my topic, but due to the time limitation, I was unable to talk about a few topics. For instance, I wish I had gone into more detail about the SDI, Strategic Defense Initiative, and what the impact of creating an SDI could have had on nuclear defense. The Strategic Defense Initiative was a proposed defense system that would protect the United States against nuclear missiles. The SDI would have had ground based lasers and lasers stationed in space to provide safety to the United States from future attacks. President Ronald Reagan had proposed this idea to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev at their summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, but Gorbachev wanted to stall the initiation of the SDI to 10 years in hope that Reagan wouldn’t implement it. This could have been a huge step for the United States in their defense against nuclear weapons, but was never developed.

Gorbachev and Reagan’s summit in Reykjavik was an important landmark in our relationship with Russia.  Although nothing was exactly accomplished at the summit, the two leaders still had a long discussion about reducing the nuclear arsenals of each country, the proposal of an SDI, and discussions about eliminating all nuclear weapons in order to have peace.

Something else that I would have liked to talk about if I had more time would be to discuss the New START treaty signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, or the SALT treaties, otherwise known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, and other START treaties that have been signed in the past. All of these treaties are important in our growing relationship Russia, and is also important to promoting world peace. The first START treaty was signed after the Cold War, and this treaty completely changed our relationship with the Soviet Union. If I had more time I would have gone into more detail about these treaties, but I thought that this style of presenting was efficient and led to more succinct presentations.

Immigration and the Delano Grape Strike

While doing the primary source project, I started to understand more of what a day in the life of an immigrant was really like. For example, during the Delano grape strike in the mid 1900’s, migrant workers were put through poor working conditions, earned low wages, and struggled daily with putting food on the table to eat. The average migrant worker during the 1900’s made on average $1600 a year. Workers had to give up a meal once in awhile in order to have food for their family to eat. The pesticides that were used at farms were proven to be dangerous to the migrant worker’s health. Most immigrants that came to America had jobs as farmers, construction workers, any occupation that required physical work to be done. Due to legal issues, the immigrants were unable to get other jobs.

No one should have to work double digit hours a day with very little breaks, not to mention very little pay. These immigrants had to put stress on their bodies from their jobs on a daily basis. As well as the physical pain that the immigrants dealt with, they also faced issues concerning their health. While the people that worked on the farms were struggling to survive, the people that owned the farms but did no work were driving fancy sports cars and living luxurious lives. A day in the life of an immigrant was one of the worst lives to live in regards to the working conditions and the low wages. 

Immigration Emotional stress

Before the start of this unit, I didn’t know all of the struggles that undocumented immigrants faced emotionally while in America. Watching the movie I Learn America and reading the article about Monique Ngombo gave me better understanding as to what emotional problems they faced on a daily basis. Monique Ngombo was a refugee from the Central African Republic, and attends a local public school called Patterson High school. She is the only one that speaks her language at her school, has no friends and doesn’t even know which bus stop to get off in order to get to her own house. In the movie that we watched in class, the students all went to the International School in Brooklyn.

Since Monique lives in an area familiar to me, it puts her situation into a perspective that I can see easier than someone from out of the state. The area of Patterson High school isn’t the best place in town, and even though I don’t know where she lives, she lives in the Baltimore City district, which can be a hard place to live. Being an immigrant, she doesn’t have the most luxurious life. Although I will never be able to experience the emotional stress and pain that she goes through on a daily basis, her living in Baltimore city as in immigrant puts her life into better perspective.

Brandon, a 16 year old from Guatemala, left his native land and walked in the Mexican Desert for three days, and came to America on Christmas. Brandon has a lot of pressure from his parents because he is not doing very well in school, never doing his homework and only playing soccer in his downtime. His parents take him out of school and make him get a job, but at the end they give him another chance to do something with his life that his parents never got the opportunity to do. With many undocumented immigrants like Brandon, there is constant pressure put on to themselves to do well because if they don’t succeed they will end up with a low paying job just like their parents. Even though we were only given one example of an undocumented immigrant that failed and had to go back to working in a low paying job, I’m sure that many people are in the same boat as Brandon. One bad choice can put you in the same shoes as their parents, or even sent back to their native land. Brandon was scared of being deported back to his country, since he came here illegally. Every time someone knocked on his door at his house he was scared that someone would take him away.

Just living with the fear of being sent away and losing everything that you have worked for is scary and something people like us will never have to experience. We are so blessed to be able to go to a private school like Friends School, and have a safe roof to sleep under and to always have a meal on our table to eat evernight. A lot of these kids have to worry about these things daily. I knew before this unit that just from an emotional standpoint, life is harder being an immigrant than a documented citizen in America, but I didn’t know that emotionally, being an immigrant is as hard as it is.