Things were worse in 2005, but they're not good now.
In 2005, the minimum wage was far below the poverty level for a family of two—far enough to be
bad for Walmart
, because minimum wage workers couldn't buy much of even the cheapest goods.
"The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade, and we believe it is out of date with the times," then-chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr. said in a 2005 speech to company executives that connected low wages to troubles for the retailer’s patrons. "Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks."
Today, at $7.25, the minimum wage is only slightly below the poverty level for a family of two, and Walmart isn't sure what to say about President Obama's proposal to raise it to $9.00. It's "still reviewing" the issue, presumably trying to find the exact tipping point where the company's ability to pay its own workers lower wages starts to be outweighed by minimum-wage workers' inability to buy stuff at Walmart. Carl Camden, chief executive of Kelly Staffing Services, on the other hand, both thinks "It needs to be closer to $12.50 an hour" and makes an argument that relates back to Walmart:
Camden argued that businesses that pay only the minimum wage in effect may be getting a government subsidy because those wage-earners could be eligible for government help such as food stamps and Medicaid.
That's something Nancy Pelosi is also highlighting
, telling Greg Sargent that "If people really want to address the deficit and reduce government spending, they should address the issue that some spending on the safety net is subsidizing minimal pay in this country."
Democrats are planning a strong push on the minimum wage, having—correctly—identified it as an issue that could help them win in 2014. As Pelosi said, "There’s an even greater awareness now than there was six years ago about the disparity of income in our country—and that this disparity is not a healthy thing for a family or an economy." But minimum-wage workers shouldn't have to wait for a Democratic victory in 2014 to get a raise. Tell Congress to pass President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9.00.
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