When I was assigned this research paper, I immediately came up with my proposal. I have a very good friend that is an extreme supporter of Andrew Yang, and another that is an extreme supporter of Elizabeth Warren. I’d always get caught on the fence about the two politicians because I value the opinions of both of my friends greatly. Every time either of them would talk to me about their desired candidate I’d be sold almost immediately on voting for them. As I have just recently decided to learn about politics, it’s hard for me to choose who is the better of the two. Although prior to my friends’ persuading, I had already established a few of my own personal views that agreed with both Yang and Warren.
I find that these candidate’s views on federal minimum wage, border control, and electoral college are very important because they disagree on them. While these aren’t the only issues that need to be addressed, many policies that both Yang and Warren plan to implement are influenced by their views on those three things. This is important to me because I know that I will be voting for one of the two in the 2020 presidential election. Therefore, I’ve decided to research the history of federal minimum wage, the electoral college system, and border security as well as Yang’s and Warren’s policies. It would be nearly impossible for me to learn every aspect and have a perfect understanding of everything in such a short period of time, but I will use this research as a foundation for furthering my knowledge of today’s society and possible future presidents.
To start, over 80 years ago, what we know as the federal minimum wage was established in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The Fair Labor Standards Act ensured that all employees in the U.S. were paid fairly and documented accordingly. It was common for employers to exploit a desperate worker and pay them less than what was earned. The FLSA protected these workers’ rights to receive the payouts they deserved from their employers. In 1938, the minimum wage was set to $0.25 an hour as it was meant to provide a living wage for workers, including costs of food, clothing and shelter. The minimum wage increased to $1.00 an hour by 1956 and reached $7.25 by 2009. This goes to show that it is important that the federal minimum wage increases as the economy grows. If these two things are not consistent with each other, a federal minimum wage can be considered useless. The establishment of these wage laws were crucial to the protection and financial stability of hard working Americans. However it is uncertain if the initial functions of the law are still relevant in 2019 and the years to come. Today it has become a major topic to debate among politicians. It is commonly argued that the federal minimum wage should be raised while many argue that it should be maintained in its current state or even eliminated completely. (Michael Reich, 538-542)
Supporters of the federal minimum wage argue that it is necessary to cover their cost of living. It is also believed that it leads to reduced income inequality resulting in improving a worker’s incentive to work more. Unlike if they were receiving a universal basic income, workers feel a sense of gratification when they work hard for their money. The current status of the federal minimum wage isn’t proving to be sufficient with the rising cost of living, so working Americans are becoming less able to cover their living expenses. All democratic candidates of the 2020 presidential election strongly believe that Americans shouldn’t have to worry about living on or below the poverty line if they work full time. Right now a minimum wage of $7.25/hour yields an annual income of $15,080 which is below the poverty line for a family of two or more. Since the federal minimum wage has not budged since 2009, candidates believe that it is overdue for an increase. Michael Reich studied the positive impact that wage increases have had in different time periods since it was first established. He lists cities like Chicago, Oakland, and LA that planned to increase their minimum wage and explains that up to 40% of workers would receive a pay increase because of the change. He states, “If these policies succeed, they will greatly compress the bottom half of the wage distribution in major U.S. labor markets” (Michael Reich, 545). Inflation has been consistently increasing in the economy and many believe that the federal minimum wage should account for that.
On the other hand, there is a small demographic, mostly conservatives, that believe in maintaining the current wage, or even abolishing it completely. One of the main arguments is that small businesses are being put at risk if it is raised. The more they have to pay their workers, the more stress is put on the business expenses. This would give them no choice but to lay off workers because they cant afford them, or declare bankruptcy because they cannot maintain their business with fewer workers. Therefore unemployment rates will increase and force many Americans onto welfare. It seems that a federal minimum wage is necessary for Americans to provide for themselves as well as job security, but it can be detrimental to the economy if it’s set too high.
A second controversial topic among candidates would be the maintaining or abolishing of electoral college. Electoral college has been around since the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The Founding Fathers couldn’t agree on how the president should be elected, so it was left between congress alone electing the president, or leaving it up to a democratic vote. Eventually they compromised and came up with the electoral college system. This system calls for a group of electors that represent each state to cast an electoral vote for the desired candidate. Instead of a direct popular vote electing the president, the candidate is chosen by the number of electoral votes he or she gets. However, if no candidate receives a majority of 270 electoral votes, the election is left up to the House of Representatives.
Unfortunately, the reality is that the people are not really the ones doing the voting, and this was the founding fathers intention from the start. Christina Villegas explains in an article about the origins of electoral college, “The dominant view among critics and advocates of the electoral college alike is that the system was never intended to directly represent the popular will” (Christina Villegas, 201). The system was created to prevent unintelligent Americans from casting an uneducated vote. By filtering votes through the selected electors of each state, only people considered most capable of choosing the president were casting the votes that truly mattered. Therefore a candidate may be a critic of the electoral college system because it ignores the will of the people. In the words of Christopher Duquette, “The framers of the constitution defended it as critical to producing ‘extraordinary persons’ as presidents because they would be selected by ‘men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station’ of the presidency (Madison 1937, p.444)” (Christopher Duquette, 46). A critic will argue that the popular vote represents the will of the people, and because of the electoral college, there have been four times in history when a candidate lost the popular vote but won the election. The first time in 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won 254,000 less popular votes than his opponent Samuel Tilden. However, neither candidates won the amount of electoral votes necessary to win the election, so it was left up to Congress. Congress compromised and elected Hayes as president which went against the will of the people. Similar accounts occurred in the elections of 1888 and 2000. More recently in 2016, Hillary Clinton earned 2.8 million more popular votes than Donald Trump. Yet he was still able to win the election taking in 304 electoral college votes to Clinton’s 227 votes.
Despite the early origins of the electoral college system, there is a vast population of advocates for it. According to Villegas, advocates claim that the system encourages candidates to get the entire country involved in the voting process. Since candidates need electoral college from multiple regions, they must campaign all over the nation instead of just heavily populated areas leaving rural areas and small towns marginalized. However, candidates end up placing most of their attention campaigning in swing states anyway because they know which states are going to vote Republican or Democrat. Another original function of the electoral college that advocates support is the fact that the recounting of votes would be made easier since it would only need to be done in specific jurisdictions. Today these functions are evidently outdated due to new technology making information about candidates available to all voters as well as making an easier system of voting where recounting wouldn’t be a problem.
A third topic commonly debated among presidential candidates is Control over the border separating the US from Mexico. The border was originally established to differentiate the two countries, but drastic measures have been taken in recent years to improve border security. Edward Alden recorded, “Congress and successive administrations have increased the size of the border patrol from fewer than 3000 agents to more than 21,000, built nearly 700 miles of fencing, and deployed pilotless drones, sensor cameras, and other technologies” (Edward Alden, 104). These advancements are meant to prevent any person from illegally crossing the border.
To no surprise, some politicians like Donald Trump, believe there isn’t enough security at the border. Others believe that there is enough security, but a more effective and humane plan needs to be implemented at the border. The idea of building a physical wall at the border may seem ludicrous and costly, but there continues to be many supporters of its construction. In fact, the view of the wall as a protective barrier criminalizes immigration and our neighboring country. A candidate’s attitude towards this issue and future policy plans will undoubtedly will be accounted for when it is time to vote in the 2020 election.
Andrew Yang is a 44 year old entrepreneur, philanthropist, and lawyer in the running for the 2020 presidential election. Yang has spent the last 8 years of his life on a mission to create as many jobs as he can through the organization that he founded called Venture for America (VFA). With the help of his organization, over 500 of Yang’s trainees since it’s first launch had created numerous companies that opened up job opportunities for thousands of Americans across the country. Yang believes that his actions are necessary for “rejuvenating” today’s economy, but he feels that he should be doing more. Yang states, “I’m not a career politician- I’m a job creator who understands the economy.” He expresses despair for the direction that our economy is headed, and believes that the future of automation will be detrimental to working Americans (Andrew Yang, Yang2020.com).
In reference to the federal minimum wage, Yang believes that it should be left up to the states. He believes that regulating this wage federally would be less necessary after the establishment of a universal basic income. If he becomes President, Yang wants to provide every American 18 years and older with a monthly check of $1,000. He calls this the “Freedom Dividend,” described as “a foundation on which a stable, prosperous, and just society can be built.” Critics of UBI worry about how it would possible to afford paying every single legal adult American that kind of money monthly. With Yang’s plan to create a new tax on large companies that are benefitting from automation, like Amazon and Google, enough money to pay for the Freedom Dividend will be produced. With $1,000 a month, a person can provide basic needs for themselves as well as alleviate stress if they are struggling. UBI isn’t meant to support a person’s life entirely, it’s meant to provide income security as well as put money in the consumer’s pockets so they can place it back into their local economies, which Andrew Yang calls a “trickle up” economy. Therefore, increasing the federal minimum wage would be unnecessary (Andrew Yang, Yang2020.com).
Furthermore, when it comes to the electoral college system, Andrew Yang believes in improving it, not abolishing it. He stands in favor of EC because it is “enshrined in the constitution,” but understands the underlying faults. If the electors of each state are determined proportionally, the will of the people will be better reflected. Yang acknowledges that EC causes candidates to campaign majorly in swing states, as well as the fact that a candidate can lose the popular vote but still win the presidency. However, he wants to reform the system in a way that would preserve the ideals of the Founding Fathers as well as appeal to the will of the people (Andrew Yang, Yang2020.com).
Regarding border security, Yang stresses the fact that there are over 11 million undocumented immigrants that are “not supposed to be here.” He wants to improve security measures at the southern border, especially since any citizen will be granted a free Freedom Dividend. Yang believes that if experts recommend the continuation of a wall at the border, he will comply. However, he does plan to work on finding other solutions with the Mexican Government in order to ensure an effective plan for controlling the amount of illegal immigrants entering the US (Andrew Yang, Yang2020.com).
Holding some similar beliefs to Yang, Elizabeth Warren is a former teacher, law professor and current US Senator running as a Deomocratic candidate in the 2020 election. Warren taught classes on law and other financial topics at 6 different universities over the course of 30 years, including the private Ivy League Harvard University. Growing up on the edge of the middle class, Warren had first hand experience in what a minimum wage job can do for a family. Considering her life’s work and contributions to consumer financial protection, she is considered “one of the nation’s top experts on the financial pressures facing middle class families.” A mind like hers at the head of our nation can be extremely beneficial in reducing the income inequality gap and rebuilding the middle class (Meet Elizabeth, Elizabethwarren.com).
Warren is pushing for the federal minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour. She expresses that the current minimum wage has not kept up with inflation and unfortunately “will not keep a momma and a baby out of poverty” (Elizabeth Warren, Iowa campaign). Therefore she plans to raise it to a living wage in correspondence with today’s economy. Warren will be heavily pushing for financial security much like Yang, but using a completely different approach. The Raise Wage Act would gradually raise the minimum wage to reach $15 an hour. This will increase the standard of living for impoverished workers, and help working families surpass the legal poverty level. On top of the wage raise, she will push for a fair workweek of part time workers, as well as protect the rights of all working Americans.
Contrary to many politicians beliefs, Warren believes that it is time to get rid of the electoral college system completely. She strongly believes in the importance of the popular vote and the will of every individual American. Warren states, “I believe presidential candidates should have to ask every American in every part of the country for their vote, not just a few random states that happen to be close” (Elizabeth Warren, Elizabethwarren.com).
Warren claims, “Immigrants have always been a vital source of American strength. They grow our economy and make our communities richer and more diverse. They are our neighbors, our colleagues, and our friends — and every bit as much a part of America as those who were born in the United States” (Elizabeth Warren, Elizabethwarren.com). This positive attitude of hers towards immigrants shows promising hope for improvements of the southern border security. By eliminating abusive enforcement among many other new policies, Warren is pushing for humane border and immigrant protection. Warren possesses an outlook that will positively affect the future of our border and future citizens of the US.
To conclude, both Yang and Warren express concern for the future of our country. They have similar ideals, but the means of obtaining their goals can differ drastically. I have learned a lot about the backgrounds of Yang and Warren throughout my research. I found it interesting that he has already created thousands of jobs, and I can imagine how he’d be able to lower unemployment rates greatly if he is elected President. Elizabeth has a very admirable attitude, and compelling intellect that I believe could contribute to a great presidency. Although I haven’t been able to make my decision of who is the better of the two, I deeply value the information that I’ve absorbed on each of them. I will use it to continue to follow both of their campaigns until I reach my verdict.
- Alden, Edward. “Immigration and Border Control” Cato Journal, vol. 32, no. 1, Jan. 2012, pp. 107–24
- “Andrew Yang’s Policies.” ISideWith, https://www.isidewith.com/candidates/andrew-yang/policies
- Duquette, Christopher, et al. “Swing States, the Winner-Take-All Electoral College, and Fiscal Federalism.” Atlantic Economic Journal, vol. 45, no. 1, Mar. 2017, pp. 45–57, doi:10.1007/s11293-016-9526-2.
- “Elizabeth Warren’s Political Themes.” ISideWith, https://www.isidewith.com/candidates/elizabeth-warren/themes
- “Meet Andrew – Yang2020 – Andrew Yang for President.” Yang2020, https://www.yang2020.com/meet-andrew/
- “Meet Elizabeth: Elizabeth Warren.” Meet Elizabeth | Elizabeth Warren, https://elizabethwarren.com/meet-elizabeth/
- “Our Policies – Yang2020 – Andrew Yang for President.” Yang2020, https://www.yang2020.com/policies/
- “Plans: Elizabeth Warren.” Plans | Elizabeth Warren, https://elizabethwarren.com/plans/
- Reich, Michael. “The Ups and Downs of Minimum Wage Policy: The Fair Labor Standards Act in Historical Perspective.(Special Issue on the Minimum Wage).”
- Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, vol. 54, no. 4, Oct. 2015, pp. 538–46, doi:10.1111/irel.12105.
- Villegas, Christina. “Electing the People’s President: The Popular Origins of the Electoral College.” Perspectives on Political Science, vol. 47, no. 4, Oct. 2018, pp. 201–09, doi:10.1080/10457097.2016.1254492.
- “What Is Universal Basic Income? – Yang2020 – Andrew Yang for President.” Yang2020, https://www.yang2020.com/what-is-freedom-dividend-faq/