While President Obama came out in support of a $9 minimum wage in his most recent State of the Union, he’s bringing the issue up again — and is now voicing his support for a $10.10 raise, something Democrats introduced in March. Here’s why getting behind that raise makes sense for workers and the economy:
1. It would bring it in line with inflation: While the federal minimum wage isn’t indexed to inflation (unlike some state minimum wages) and hasn’t been raised in four years, if it had kept up with inflation since its peak in the 1960s it would be over $10 an hour. Many fast food workers have been calling for a $15 minimum wage — a rate that will soon go into effect in a small town in Washington state — which is more in line with what civil rights activists demanded in the 1960s.
2. It would boost the economy: While opponents of a minimum wage increase claim that it will hurt job growth, research points to the opposite. There is little evidence that it would hurt jobs, but it would very likely help businesses through increasing demand, lowering turnover, and boosting prices and would give the economy a big boost thanks to more money in people’s pockets to spend on purchases.
3. It would lift millions out of poverty: Full-time minimum wage workers earn just $14,500 a year, which for someone with two kids means living $3,000 below the poverty line. The wage isn’t enough to make rent in any state. Raising it to $10.10 an hour, on the other hand, would lift nearly 6 million people out of poverty.
4. It would be a big help for women and people of color: People of color make up 42 percent of minimum wage workers despite representing just 32 percent of the overall workforce, and women make up two-thirds of the country’s minimum wage workers despite being half of the population. Raising the wage to $10.10 an hour would lift 3.5 million people of color out of poverty and help close the gender wage gap.
5. Americans support it: A recent poll showed that 80 percent of Americans support raising the wage to $10.10 an hour, and that includes two-thirds of Republicans and nearly 80 percent of those making $100,000 or more. On Tuesday, voters approved minimum wage increases in New Jersey and a town in Washington and they also approved raises in the 2012 elections in three other cities. In fact, when given the opportunity, voters nearly always approve minimum wage raises by substantial majorities.
While House Republicans unanimously voted down Democrats’ bill to raise the wage to $10.10 an hour in March, but at least 67 Republicans serving at that time supported a raise in the wage under President George W. Bush.