by Clyde Weiss | July 24, 2012
It’s time for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. The last time they did, in 2009, it rose to $7.25 an hour. That’s just $15,080 a year for someone employed full time – hardly enough to support a family of four.
In fact, it’s $7,000 less than the federal poverty line for such a family. Moreover, the minimum wage hasn’t even kept up with inflation. In today’s money, it is $1.50 an hour less than it was in 1968, the year Robert Kennedy was assassinated. Adjusted for inflation, today’s minimum wage would be more than $10.00 an hour.
Meanwhile, CEO pay has risen 725 percent over the last 30 years and 80 percent of all real income growth has gone to the richest 1 percent of Americans. The gap between the 1 percent and the 99% has never been higher.
Members of Congress from both parties agree that we need more jobs to get the economy back on track. But many want to forget those who have jobs, yet earn wages at the low end of the pay scale. That must change.
We call on Congress to support the Rebuild America Act introduced this year by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA). “A higher minimum wage is the simplest thing we can do to help struggling families become self-sufficient and join the middle class,” the bill states.
How high should the minimum wage be increased? The bill calls for raising it to $9.80 an hour – just 35 percent more – over two and a half years, and then indexing it to the cost of living.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.80 an hour would lift the wages for more than 28 million Americans, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. For the overall economy, that would increase in growth (the gross domestic product) by more than $25 billion and also generate at least 100,000 full-time jobs, EPI estimates.
We must pass the Rebuild America Act not only to kick-start a flagging economy, but out of a sense of compassion for those who work hard every day to keep themselves, and their families, out of poverty. Please add your voice here, and click here for more background on the minimum wage.