Raise the Poverty Wage

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini0 Comments

For a very long time, I’ve pointed out the moral outrage of the so-called “minimum wage”, so-called because it is really a poverty wage, not a minimum wage (here for example). Minimum wage gives the impression that it is the minimum a person can live on. But, you can’t live on that wage. That’s where a hike in the poverty wage is welcome, even if it is still not enough.

Sen. Tom Harkin makes a pitch for the hike to try to generate some momentum. His key points:

That’s why Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and I introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act earlier this year. Our bill would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour — in three steps — then index the minimum wage to inflation. Our bill would also gradually raise the tipped minimum wage, which has stood at just $2.13 since 1991. It is a modest and reasonable proposal that would help give more than 30 million American workers — including the parents of 18 million children — a raise. But despite the compelling case for a raise, opponents are still claiming that our bill would cause economic catastrophe, with the same vehemence that they opposed a 25-cent minimum wage 75 years ago.

Yet history shows us — and new economic research confirms — that nothing could be further from the truth. Increasing the minimum wage will not cost us jobs; in fact, according to an analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will increase the gross domestic product by nearly $33 billion over the course of three years as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities. This economic activity will generate 140,000 new jobs over the same time period. It’s clear that in 2013 — just as in 1938 — raising the minimum wage is good for workers, good for businesses and good for our economy.

But, let’s be clear: workers have still been robbed for several decades when it comes to the poverty wage. If the minimum wage was truly a living wage, and matched how hard people have worked over the past 30 years, it would be around $20-an-hour. So, sure, raise it to $10.10 but understand that it should be almost double that level.

If fairness still meant something.

Leave a Comment