Senate Republicans blocked a vote to raise the minimum wage yesterday, for a number of SUPER SERIOUS REASONS like “jobs” and “small business owners” and “the economy.”
The current minimum wage is only two-thirds of the 1968 minimum wage, adjusted for inflation. Fifty years ago the minimum wage was enough to lift a single parent of two children out of poverty. Today, a single parent with one child, working 40 hours a week (52 weeks/year) at a minimum wage job still lives below the poverty line. Two thirds of minimum wage earners are women, many of whom are the primary or sole breadwinner for their families.
Today’s federal minimum wage, $7.25/hour, is not a living wage. It is not a wage that will lift you out of poverty, but it is a wage that will keep you there.
It is estimated that raising the wage to $10.10 would help almost 5 million people escape poverty. Not only would this change improve the lives of workers, it would help the average US taxpayer. Every state would see lower expenditures on food stamp programs, saving the US about $4.6 billion a year.
Raising the minimum wage makes economic sense. More importantly, it makes moral sense. For $7.25/hour, workers can barely support themselves, let alone their families. That a significant portion of our population can’t afford food or shelter even after they work full time (with no time off) is embarrassing for a country that claims to be the best in the world. These people aren’t “takers”—they’re being taken.
Conservatives will tell you that raising the minimum wage will result in job losses, but the current wage is so low, a raise is actually a market correction. People will still have jobs, but they’ll be jobs workers can actually live off of. Poverty wages only help corporations and the politicians in their pockets. People are left entirely out of this conservative calculus.
For lack of empathy or common sense, Senate Republicans again refuse to put people before corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s. Let’s hope the electorate remembers that in November.