Last week, during President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address of his second term, he declared a renewed call to raise the federal minimum wage. It is currently at $7.25, and he would like the government to raise it to $9.
Republicans in Congress, however, have expressed their disdain against this new proposal, including Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican rising-star and professional water ninja Sen. Marco Rubio.
Despite the opposition to the wage increase, we find that Democrats should tackle the issue in order to forge a reform. There are a myriad of reasons why we should have an updated law.
First, there are economic benefits. According to economist Jared Bernstein, a higher wage motivates workers and makes jobs more attractive. The extra money also will be immediately spent by those living on lower incomes, producing an economic boost.
Also, the wage would bring the lowest legal income closer to the federal poverty line, which currently stands at $23,050 for a family of four. Assuming that one works a minimum wage job 40 hours a week for 53 weeks before taxes, they would make $15,370 with a $7.25 per hour job and $19,080 with a $9 per hour position. Conceptually, a worker should make about $11 per hour as a minimum, but any increase is better than nothing.
Finally, the current rate is not indexed to inflation, whereas Obama’s proposal calls for this linkage. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, if workers’ wages would have been tied to inflation, they would be making $10.52 per hour. To remind ourselves of how hard minimum-wage workers labor for little compensation, the study also found that if wages were indexed to productivity, the poorest workers would be making $21.72, showing just how much of a burden they have had to endure.
In a civilized society, any full-time job should ensure a minimum quality of life. In the U.S. though, this is far from a reality for many Americans. Obama’s proposal would reduce the economic hardships of those trapped in the lower socio-economic level and, thus, should be passed.