Americans are being squeezed from both ends in their pocketbooks. They pay out the nose for gas, food, and other expenses, while shouldering a disproportionate share of the tax burden which the wealthy is magically exempt from in sharing, and programs and essential services are being cut left and right at the state and federal level.
We just can’t catch a break nowadays as Americans when our politicians are stuck in thrall by the austerity peacocks in the Beltway. They run around, flapping their shiny Petersen-funded feathers, and shriek about the deficit while ignoring the cries of the unemployed and the harsh reality that Americans’ wages have been stagnant for the past twenty years. They do nothing to address the immediate economic crisis for many middle class and low-income Americans.
You see, it takes a major risk for them to address the economic crisis because it means that solving this means that the wealthy would actually have to pay their fair share, and that wages would have to be increased for the economy to be jumpstarted back to health from its comatose state on the operating table. One can already hear the conservative arguments against increasing the minimum wage for Americans coming from the right, but here’s the simple truth: increasing the minimum wage doesn’t cut into job growth.
Here’s a very good report by the Center for American Progress that outlines how the research was done, and disproves the tired conservative canard that increasing the minimum wage threatens job creation:
In the first study, published in the Review of Economics and Statistics in November 2010, economists Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts, William Lester of the University of North Carolina, and Michael Reich of the University of California compare employment among every pair of neighboring U.S. counties that straddle a state border and had differing minimum wage levels at any time between 1990 and 2006. Their analysis of employment and earnings data of over 500 counties finds that minimum wage increases did not cost jobs.
In the second, companion study, Dube and Reich and Sylvia Allegretto of the University of California look specifically at the effect of minimum wage increases during times of high unemployment, including the recessions of 1990-1991, 2001 and the Great Recession of 2007-2009. They find that even in these difficult economic periods, increases in the minimum wage did not cause job loss or slow rehiring. The study was published in Industrial Relations in April 2011.
Right now, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which comes out to $15,000 a year for a single worker. That’s certainly not enough to make it by for millions of Americans. In this time of rising prices, these Americans find it harder and harder to scrape by, and they turn to food stamps and other programs.
When these food stamp programs and other services are cut due to state budget deficits, where else do these Americans turn to? They have nowhere else to go to before they fall through the cracks in our society. And our economy loses out when these Americans are lost through the cracks as a result of being underpaid, underfunded, and undervalued by politicians in the Beltway.
Think about it, just increasing the minimum wage by a dollar to $8.25 would pump $9 BILLION DOLLARS back into our economy. I am very well aware that there is little political will in Washington D.C. for another stimulus package, or for increasing taxes to make the wealthy pay their fair share due to the massive partisan gridlock in Congress.
It doesn’t mean that progressive activists shouldn’t make the case for increasing the minimum wage, or that our politicians shouldn’t make the case for it. It just means that in making the case, it helps get our progressive argument out there in support of the minimum wage, and we already have the support of a majority of Americans when it comes to increasing the minimum wage to boost the economy.
Yet public opinion polls consistently show that voters like seeing the minimum wage raised, said Celinda Lake, president of polling firm Lake Research Partners. "When we've done public polls, anywhere from 86 to 67 percent say they support an increase in the minimum wage," Lake said at the CAP event. "A solid majority of voters believe that raising the minimum wage will help the economy."
When we work to increase the minimum wage, we also work to boost the living wage for millions of Americans. You can see a whole body of research on this issue at the University of California at Berkley. They did a great study on how raising the minimum wage at big box retailers like Walmartwould help benefit their employees and the local economy in states where these retailers operate. You can contrast this with the very well-known PBS documentaryabout Walmart's business practices.
There is also a great website maintained by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, that has wonderful research that can be used by progressives to advance support for an increase in the minimum wage.
You also can use this tool to look at what the family budget for different family sizes should be in your county. This tool can be quite an eye-opener for many people. Are you at or above the living wage level? If you're above it, do you still feel like it's hard to make ends meet? If you're below it, what do you do to survive? Let us hear your stories below.
Keep spreading the word about why the minimum wage should be increased, and keep on pressuring your politicians to do the right thing by acting like leaders instead of cowards when it comes to addressing wage stagnation, and unemployment in America.