By State Representative, Leon D. Young
The minimum wage is a hot-button issue for politicians and economists alike.
So, what are some the arguments that make the case for raising the minimum wage?
The most common argument in support of the minimum wage is that it protects the workers at the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder.
These workers, many of whom represent marginalized groups (women, minorities, youth workers, the disabled, and so on); simply don’t have the bargaining power to fight for a minimum living wage without government intervention.
Many advocates for the minimum wage argue that not only is the minimum wage necessary, but that it’s too low.
Here are some of the statistics they use to support an increase in the minimum wage:
• In the United States, the minimum wage is still 31 percent lower than the average hourly wage of a non-supervisory worker.
• When you adjust minimum wage for inflation, the real value of today’s rate is the lowest it’s been since 1952 [source Economic Policy Institute].
• The annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage worker (40 hours a week) are $15,080 before taxes.
But, in truth, this is only a small part of the minimum wage conundrum.
If workers aren’t being paid enough to get them out of poverty, the rest of us end up footing the bill, in terms of paying for Medicaid, housing assistance and food stamps. (Or, in other words, employers, like McDonald’s and Walmart, get a free pass.)
If the minimum wage was raised to $10.10 an hour, it would lift about 900,000 people out of poverty.
Moreover, income for families living below the poverty line would rise by a combined $5 billion and by $12 billion for those earning less than three times the poverty level.
In the final analysis, raising the minimum wage is a no-brainer. It’s good for low-wage workers.
It’s good for the economy (70 percent of our national economy is driven by consumer spending). And, equally important, it’s the decent thing to do.