By Mallika Mitra
On Wednesday, April 23 at 7:00 p.m., TalK-Zoo held their first event as a new student group on campus.
Maddie Hume ’16 and Amanda Johnson ’17, two of the three students who have started the group, which is based on Intelligence Squared, opened the event entitled “Raise the Minimum Wage?” and handed out a survey with requesting feedback and suggested topics for future debates.
Philosophy professor Dr. Max Cherem then explained that the goal of the events were to “increase political and civil discourse on campus,” and discussed similar student initiatives at other schools.
Cherem introduced the format of an Oxford-style debate and how he would act as the moderator.
He then introduced the four panelists: Kalamazoo College grad and Kalamazoo County Commissioner Brandt Iden and Professor of Economics at Western Michigan University Dr. Bill Kern debated against raising the minimum wage, and K grad and Michigan United Organizer Meredith Quinlan and Professor of Economics at Michigan State University Dr. Dale Belman debated for raising the minimum wage.
A coin was flipped to decide which side would start the debate, and Iden began with a four-minute opening statement.
“Government mandates are detrimental to businesses,” he began, and went on to explain some of the consequences of raising the minimum wage.
After his opening statement, his fellow K grad was asked to give a four-minute statement.
“I’m not here to say that this is going to be a cure-all for poverty, but it will help,” Quinlan said, “It’s one piece of it.”
After both statements, Cherem posed the first question: What connection do you see between minimum wage and inflation, and minimum wage and employment?
Kern answered the question, but did not take up all his time, and Belman answered for the other side.
The second question asked the panelists to consider what economic benefits or issues they can foresee or would be concerned about with a moderate increase in the minimum wage, which was explained to be about 25 cents.
Iden said that economies in small, rural towns would be squeezed and may have to “close their doors,” and Quinlan said that it would increase purchasing power and help “small business culture.”
The third question asked the panelists to discuss the link between livable wage and minimum wage, in which Kern answered that he thought of them as closely connected, and Belman said “minimum wage has historically been closely tied to the concept of living wage.”
Cherem then opened up the floor to questions from the audience, which included questions about the minimum wage in foreign countries, how the redistribution of spending money affects the economy, retirement, and where the money to increase minimum wage would come from.
Hume and Johnson, who collected the surveys from the audience, closed the event, which lasted about an hour. The surveys collected will guide the planning of future TalK-Zoo events.