Thursday, February 21, 2013

Updated: Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

The Minimum Wage is now an issue this election cycle with more and more low-income workers demanding a larger share of the pie than what low-income employers are provided to cough up.  The tension originally started with walkouts from dozens of Walmart Stores across the country, who protested the company's poor wages and working conditions.  Now, we see fast food workers from companies in New York who have staged a massive walkout from it's stores and are demanding a basic standard of living that provides them the things they need to survive.  Current Federal Minimum wage is $7.25 per hr which was raised by George W. Bush in 2004-2006.  The actions of these workers are significant because the fast food industry has always been consistently union-free and untouched by labor disputes.  The low wage environment made it prime for people to leave and find relative satisfaction elsewhere. But now, with jobs so short and employment lines so long...the workers for these fast-food chains are tired of being paid pittens for the work they do, and are demanding higher wages so they can make even the bare necessities, which is what the minimum wage was designed to do.

Previously, I've stated before, that the value and buying power of the minimum wage was at it's highest in 1969 under Richard Nixon, where it was equivalent to making about $20,280 per year while the current $7.25 per hour affords $15,080 per year.  Most areas of the country, this increased wage would be more sufficient to provide a low-middle class standard for a single person.  A single parent or a parent of two or more would still struggle, but not nearly as bad, and they would likely still qualify for public assistance in most states.  It's important to note, that the justification of higher wages being mandated by government regulation is a powerful and effective way to drop people off public assistance and get them working and self-sufficient.  Most people would concede that it's better that people work for what they need instead of having it given to them, in the long run.  It  builds skills and relationships when a person is able to work where that work is able to meet basic needs.  When basic needs are not being met by the system that a person or people are given, they turn to more nefarious means to obtain those basics.  There is a direct correlation between poverty and crime.  And tackling low wages is a direct way of tackling one of the root causes of crime.

An increase in the minimum wage is showing huge support across the country.  President Obama, in his 2nd Inaugural address called for an increase of the minimum wage to $9.00, plus, indexing it to inflation to ensure it continues to rise as time passes.  It's clear that citizens believe that those at the bottom should be entitled to at least a survivable wage.  According to a Huffington Post YOUGOV Poll, the public overwhelmingly supports increases to the minimum wage, and overwhelmingly supports tying it to inflation. Further, as mentioned above, It will also cause wage growth in other non-minimum wage jobs as their jobs approach the minimum wage floor. It will also cause consistent gains in wages not seen in almost a generation.  Its the way we minimize participation in the social safety net and maximize access to disposable income, while also ensuring people can afford the basics.  Anything we can do to decrease dependency on the social safety net is a step in the right direction.  Ensuring survivable wages for those who work full time is of paramount importance to the millions that live on the slimmest amounts of income.

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