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Minimum Wage history chart
President Obama's proposal in his State of the Union address Tuesday to raise the minimum wage and, for the first time, index it to inflation elicited the bogus response Republicans have been spouting on the subject for 75 years, ever since the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938.

House Speaker John Boehner said:

“Listen, when people are asking the question ‘Where are the jobs?’ why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people? I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder. I know about this issue as much as anybody in this town,” the speaker told reporters on Wednesday morning.
Six years ago, when Congress last voted to raise the minimum wage to $7.25, Boehner voted against it. That was only the second time the federal minimum wage has been raised in the past three-plus decades. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan called the proposed raise "inflationary" and "counterproductive." And Sen. Marco Rubio chimed in with:
"$9 is not enough. I think we all would want that. The question is is a minimum wage the best way to do it? And history has said the answer is absolutely not. In fact, the impact of minimum wage usually is that businesses hire less people. That’s the impact of it. They’ll just hire less people to do the same amount of work…We have a lot of history to prove that the minimum wage, raising the minimum wage does not grow the middle class.
Rubio is right about one thing: $9 is not enough. A higher baseline would be better. The rest of Rubio's utterances on the subject are utter nonsense.

A study two years ago by the Review of Economics and Statistics saw "no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States." A survey of studies last year by the Center for American Progress found "significant evidence that even during hard economic times, raising the minimum wage is likely to have no adverse effect on employment."

As noted, $9 isn't enough. The National Employment Law Project has noted that "if the real value of the minimum wage had just kept pace with the rising cost of living since 1968, it would be over $10.50 today." But an improvement is an improvement, and the indexing is something that should have happened from the outset.

Please continue reading about the minimum wage below the fold.

Raising the minimum wage wouldn't just help people on the bottom rungs of the economy. It would be, NELP points out, "an important step in beginning to reverse the 30-year decline in job quality, a factor in our nation’s expanding income inequality." When the minimum wage is boosted, people at higher levels get raises, too.

In July, the Center for Economic and Policy Research concluded in its white paper Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone? that "relative to 1979 the economy has lost about one-third (28 to 38 percent) of its capacity to generate good jobs," those being defined by CEPR as being jobs that pay at least $18.50 per hour, and include some form of employer-provided health care coverage and retirement benefits.

The reasons for that, the authors stated, includes union busting, privatization of out-sourcing of public sector jobs, trade policies that have forced U.S. workers into competition with lower wage workers abroad, an immigration policy that puts many immigrants at the mercy of their bosses and the failure of the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.

Raising the minimum wage will not repair all the damage that has been done to workers on the bottom tier of the economy over the past several decades. But President Obama has it exactly right that it's wrong when "a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line." That, of course, is not how the John Boehners and Marco Rubios and Paul Ryans see things. As they have done for three-quarters of a century, they will fight the minimum wage to keep millions of Americans impoverished. And they'll tell us they're doing the nation a favor.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 09:11 AM PST.

Also republished by Invisible People, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Daily Kos.

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