December 04, 2006


Caption: Seamus McGoogle, the People's Avenger, labors on to raise the minimum wage.

Here's a dubious milestone to start the day. On Dec. 2, the US broke its previous record for going the longest time without a minimum wage increase.

The previous record, set during the Reagan-Bush I era, ran from Jan. 1, 1981 to April 1, 1990. For more, check out a good op-ed on the subject by Holly Sklar.

In case you missed it, there was also a good AP article on the minimum wage that ran on Friday. It pointed out that only

One quarter of hourly workers who make minimum wage are teenagers, but about half are older than 25, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

and that

Stagnating wages for unskilled workers coupled with increased housing costs have put more working people at risk of being homeless...

In several states, it would take more than three full time minimum wage workers t pay market rent for a two bedroom apartment.

While some have pointed out that proposed legislation to raise the minimum to $7.25 is modest, the positive effects on many people would be significant. The Nov. 27 Business Week notes that

If the minimum wage is raised to $7.25 an hour over the next two years, 6.6 million workers, or 5% of the workforce, would be directly affected. By itself that's not a very big number. But an additional 8.3 million will get "ripple effect raises," according to the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-supported Washington think tank. The ripple effect means employers tend to raise wages for workers who make above the new minimum, even though they have no legal obligation to do so. As a result, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that such a minimum wage increase would raise pay for 11% of the workforce.

Business Week also notes that many economists have challenged the free market theology which opposes an increase:

...the economics profession is far less united against the minimum wage than it was a generation ago. Since the early 1990s an influential group of economists has poked holes in the once strongly held belief that the minimum wage is a major job killer. And now there's economic research disputing the rest of the conventional wisdom. Some economists are saying that minimum-wage increases have a ripple effect, bumping up the pay of a large portion of the working poor. If they are right, that would strengthen the political appeal of a minimum wage hike by increasing the number of potential voters who are helped.

The Economic Policy Institute reports that

Over 650 economists, including 5 Nobel prize winners and 6 past presidents of the American Economic Association, believe that increasing federal and state minimum wages, with annual cost-of-living adjustments for inflation, “can significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed.

Let's do it.


In other urgent news, El Cabrero's brain is still stuck on the subject of metaphors, mixed and other wise. To use a simile, it's like having an irritating song stuck in your head. If anyone has suggestions on how to make it stop, please let me know.

We need to think outside the sum of our parts.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for addressing the minimum wage issue. I became too aware of the minimum wage issue a few years ago when I chaired a committee developing a program for homeless women and their children. That group is the fastest growing category of homeless folks in the U.S. and the vast majority of those women are working. However, most are employed at minimum wage jobs and just one crisis—a sick child and the choice between obtaining medical help or paying the rent—and they can be out on the street.