A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Minimum Wage Is Not A Livable Wage And Republicans Like It That Way


President Obama has called for raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. The charts above show why the minimum wage needs to be raised. Back in 1968, the minimum wage had the buying power of $10.34 an hour (in 2011 dollars) -- about $3.09 more than it was in 2011. And considering inflation has risen in the last couple of years, the 2013 buying power of minimum wage (in 2011 dollars) is even less than the $7.25 it was in 2011.

Even as late as 1980, the minimum wage (in 2011 dollars) was $8.46 an hour -- $1.21 an hour more than in 2011. But the Republicans took power in 1980 and instituted their failed "trickle-down" policies, one of which was to keep the minimum wage as low as possible. And the buying power of the minimum wage has not neared $8.00 an hour since then.

The second chart shows just how devastating this erosion of the minimum wage has been for the millions of Americans who must work for (or near) the minimum wage. Back in 1968, the minimum wage was nearly a livable wage, and would put a family at 94.4% of the poverty level. That's not great, but it is a lot better than the minimum wage will  do today, at only 66.1% of the poverty level for a family of four.

The Republicans will tell you that the minimum wage is only paid to teenagers just entering the workforce, and no one has to support a family on it. That is nonsense. There are 15.9 million workers in this country that would be directly affected by a raising of the minimum wage -- and 79.5% of them are over the age of 20. And at least 25% of them (at least 4 million workers) have children they must support on that ridiculously low wage.

About 59.4% of minimum wage workers are women and about 40.6% are men -- and most work in service industries like restaurants, hotels, and home health care. About 57.9% are Whites, 14.9% are Blacks, 21.6% are Hispanics, 3.6% are Asians, and 2% belong to other races/ethnicities.

Those are the facts. And the situation is not improving. Most of the new jobs created in this recovery have been at or near minimum wage jobs -- and it is estimated that by 2025 (only 12 years from now) about 25% of American workers will be working in minimum wage jobs.

It is clear to me that this country will be in serious trouble if we don't raise the minimum wage soon. And personally, I don't think the president's level of $9.00 an hour is enough. Just to get workers back near the poverty level, it would take something in the neighborhood of $10.50 an hour. And no one who works hard at a full-time job should have to live in poverty. The minimum wage should also be tied to the rate of inflation after it is raised, to prevent inflation from immediately starting to erode it.

Unfortunately, as long as the Republicans control one of the Houses of Congress the minimum wage will not be raised. Just the other day, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) said he would like to abolish the minimum wage -- and he's what passes for a moderate among congressional Republicans. You can imagine what the more radical teabagger congressmen think!

The Republicans don't care that several polls have shown a clear majority of Americans want to see the minimum wage raised (and most would like it raised more than $9.00 an hour). The only people they really care about are Wall Street bankers, Corporate executives, and rich investors -- none of whom will ever have to subsist on a minimum wage salary.

2014 is closer than you think, and we must make a concerted effort to vote the GOP out of power. Common decency demands it.


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