Hard Working Americans and the Minimum Wage

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In a new report commissioned by NHSA, Handed to Them on a Plate, FrameWorks Institute found that most Americans value hard-work and good morals; that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will succeed and live well. Many also believe the minimum wage is not just a labor standard and a regulation on businesses, but an employee’s right that protects the dignity of life, happiness, and freedom. Yet despite these commonly held beliefs, a debate is raging across the country after President Obama’s recent move to raise the minimum wage of federal employees to $10.10. Can our economy afford to raise the minimum wage across the country? There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that yes, we can stand by our American values and raise the minimum wage for our workers.

Interestingly, while GDP has continued to rise, the relationship between growth in GDP and growth in income and earnings has been severed, as pointed out by Gordon Berlin of MDRC. In layman’s terms, this means that the value of the minimum wage in the 1970’s was worth more than it is today. This change has benefited the business’ that it was meant to regulate, meanwhile more low-wage workers have become eligible for low-income government support programs like the EITC. So even as the GDP has grown over the decades, tax payers are paying for more and more workers, leading some to argue that it is in fact McDonald’s and Walmart who are the “welfare queens.”

What’s more, over 600 economists–including 7 Nobel Prize laureates–argue that raising the minimum wage has little-to-no impact on the job market. In February of 2014, the National Federation of Independent Business’ survey found that only 4 percent of businesses believe the cost of labor is their most important problem.

Raising the minimum wage is a common-sense solution to both stimulate the economy and to lift people out of poverty. It’s a solution that won’t add to the deficit and it is increasingly popular with all Americans. The majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute even points out that raising the minimum wage will boost the incomes of middle-wage earners as well and one out of five children will have at least one parent who gets a raise.

So what are we waiting for? Can Americans keep waiting until after the next election to see a popular bill voted on? What is your stance on the Fair Minimum Wage Act?

Photo courtesy of Greg Dunlap.

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