Democrats in the Senate, and President Obama, have expressed support for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.
They are right. Let’s join with them and raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.
When I stop and think of the more than $10 trillion that went to Wall Street and the banks after the economic meltdown, I wonder why as a nation we can’t help working folks make $10 an hour, at a minimum.
Let’s do some back of the envelope math. If a person works 40 hours a week at $10 an hour, that comes out to a total of $400 a week. This is roughly $20,000 a year.
According to the federal government, the poverty level for a family of four is just over $23,000 a year.
Republicans have, for the most part, opposed such a measure, citing the negative impact it could have on employment and the economy.
They might be advised to re-examine their position.
The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since July 2009, when it was raised from $6.55 an hour, although some states have enacted a higher minimum wage.
Since then the federal minimum has not kept pace with inflation, which has risen around 9 percent since the last wage increase.
In 1990 the minimum wage was $3.90. It has just barely doubled in more than 24 years!
Workers earning the minimum wage in the United States now make just 27 percent of the average full-time wage, one of the lowest percentages among all developed nations.
About 3.3 million hourly workers, 2.6 percent of all workers, earn the minimum wage or below, according to 2013 figures. Those receiving less than the minimum are largely tipped employees, whose federal minimum is $2.13 as long as their total compensation equals the federal minimum.
Democrats have seized on the minimum wage issue to attract lower-income voters.
Why should Republicans be seen as standing in the way of a wage increase, for political and other reasons?
For too long the GOP seems like the party backing the top dogs and not the underdogs.
As for their fears that raising the minimum wage would impact employment and prices, here are two salient points: An analysis of data reported by The New York Times disclosed that "the overall adverse employment effects are small." And Bloomberg News reported that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would increase the cost of a $16 item at Wal-Mart by just one cent.
Wal-Mart in fact stated earlier this year that it does not oppose raising the minimum wage. And the huge retailer's chief executive, Doug McMillon, said last week that the company plans to end minimum-wage pay for all its workers in the future. Costco Wholesale and Gap Inc. are among other employers committed to pay workers more than the minimum wage.
Raising the federal minimum wage obviously would increase the standard of living for the poorest and most vulnerable Americans.
Henry Ford created an income revolution in America by saying he would pay his assembly workers $5 a day for their toil. At the time, Ford said the move would help him. He was right. His workers were among the first buyers of Ford cars!
Increasing the lowest wages of working Americans would also stimulate consumption by putting more money in the hands of low-income workers who spend their entire paychecks, boosting the economy and possibly even increasing employment as a result.
A raise would increase incentives to take a job and lessen demands on other means of transferring income to the poor, decreasing the cost of government social welfare programs.
And American business, as innovative as ever, will adapt. Surely we are seeing huge savings now as retailers move away from staffed check out registers to automated check out machines.
Given that the positives likely outweigh the negatives, Republicans would do well politically to lower their resistance to the wage increase, a move that could increase support among lower-income Americans.
Voters in the Republican-controlled states of Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota will consider ballot initiatives in November that would raise the minimum wage above $7.25.
If successful, they would provide evidence that raising minimum pay does have support across party lines.
Whatever the outcome of the upcoming November elections, the fact is that the GOP is not a majority party and will face an uphill battle winning any national presidential race in the future, if it continues to ignore working voters.
Supporting a minimum wage increase is a good move for the country and the smart move for the GOP as it hopes to attract votes from lower-income, struggling American families and those of us that want them to succeed.
Because if they succeed, we all succeed.
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