Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

February 19, 2014

Another View: To reward work, increase the minimum wage

Congress should raise the minimum wage to make sure work is worthwhile for all Americans. When it does so, it should also link future increases in the minimum wage to the inflation rate so we don’t have to repeat this political battle over and over again.

The main argument against raising the minimum wage is that it will actually reduce the number of jobs available as employers try to control their overall labor costs. That argument is valid, but history indicates that the impact of a higher minimum wage on job numbers is not dramatic. And while some jobs may be lost, we think it’s a worthwhile trade-off to give millions of Americans something a little closer to a family-sustaining income. A full-time worker earning the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (it’s $7.40 in Michigan and more than $8 in eight states) makes $15,080 a year, less than the official poverty level income of $15,510 for an adult with one dependent. A full-time job should be more economically rewarding than that - no job should pay so little that someone sees welfare or unemployment benefits as an attractive alternative to working.

Opponents of a higher minimum wage also point out that most jobs that pay that rate were never meant to support a family, but were designed for teenagers and others just getting their start in the workforce. That may have been true in the past, but if you look at the face behind the fast-food counter today it’s as often an adult as a high school student. The slow recovery from the recession has led many family “breadwinners” to take jobs that were once the province of students earning a little pocket money. New research by University of Massachusetts Boston economists Randy Alberda and Michael Carr, reported on CNN Money, that factors out students and other non-breadwinners found that 21 million Americans are trying to support households on low-wage jobs (the economists set their threshold at a little more than $11). ...

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