The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

November 23, 2010

Raise the minimum wage

Boosting it would help our lowest-paid workers as well as the entire economy

When he was campaigning in 2008, President Barack Obama promised to raise the federal minimum wage, declaring “people who work full-time should not live in poverty.” Obama proposed raising it to $9.50 by 2011. That would merely adjust the minimum wage for inflation and restore its 1968 purchasing power.

Despite the very modest increase he proposed, neither the White House nor Congress has done anything to make it happen. In fact, at least three prominent Republican Senate nominees advocated abolishing this worker protection altogether as they fought tough races. It’s a good thing they all lost.

We need to raise the minimum wage, not eliminate it. Boosting the minimum wage would help our lowest-paid workers as well as the entire economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, every dollar increase in wages for a worker on the bottom rung of the pay scale creates more than $3,500 in new spending after one year.

The minimum wage, established during the New Deal to provide a “minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency and general well-being,” is falling short. A person working full time at the $7.25 hourly minimum wage would earn $15,080 annually before taxes and deductions.

Consider a working single mom with two children: the federal poverty level for this family is $18,310. She could work full time and still earn $3,000 less than poverty wages.

While raising the federal minimum wage would only be a small step in helping low-income families (other income-boosting measures like the Earned Income Tax Credit and dependent care tax credits are proven to be more effective in fighting poverty), it’s nevertheless an important step for ensuring that workers in minimum and near-minimum wage jobs can better bridge the gap between their meager income and expenses.

In addition to raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, the government must ensure that all workers get this fundamental labor protection. In 2009, approximately 3.6 million people earned the minimum wage or less. A stunning 2.6 million of those people legally earned less than the minimum wage because they’re excluded from the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

Home health workers, who provide invaluable care to the elderly and disabled — allowing them to live with dignity in their own homes — are still excluded from minimum wage and overtime protections under the so-called “companionship exemption.”

Before the end of the year, the Department of Labor is slated to finally include reform to the companionship exemption in its regulatory agenda. Yet, home health workers are only one segment of the workforce that’s excluded in one way or another from meaningful labor protections that all workers need and deserve.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal responded to the Great Depression by establishing a safety net that could alleviate poverty and help the economy recover. The minimum wage, an essential labor right, is just as important now as it was then.

Some officials and newly elected lawmakers are now proposing dangerous “recovery” strategies, such as cutting taxes for the rich and slashing budgets for social services that will leave millions of Americans behind. While it’s reasonable to presume that it’s risky to boost wages during a recession, several economic studies indicate otherwise. Increasing the minimum wage, and thereby increasing purchasing power for the poorest Americans, actually helps the economy recover.

Raising the minimum wage would be a step to restoring dignity for millions of workers, enabling many ordinary working Americans to become part of the economic recovery rather than its collateral damage.

Tiffany Williams is the advocacy director for Break The Chain Campaign, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. www.ips-dc.org.

1
Text Only
Viewpoints
  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Compromise is not that simple

    It’s tempting for a casual onlooker to wonder why the Democratic House and Republican Senate can’t make what on the surface looks like the obvious compromise on pension reform.
    The Senate passed a measure based on recommendations of a task force to move new employees into a hybrid, cash-balance plan but maintain existing defined benefits for current employees and retirees.

    March 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Frankfort plays ping-pong with public pension transparency

    Legislation that would make the Kentucky Retirement Systems transparent for those paying its bills has danced into the spotlight during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
    Passage of transparency bills filed by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, and Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would make the “names, status, projected or actual benefit payments” subject to our commonwealth’s superlative Open Records Act.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jack Strauss-BW.jpg The case of the ghostly neighbor

    Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.
    Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.
    So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously

    Things are staying busy in Frankfort. Many bills are making their way onto the Senate floor from various committees. This past week several important pieces of legislation were debated and passed.
    I am particularly proud of the success we had in advocating for Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights.
    I introduced Senate Bill 106 to allow anyone who has been granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order to receive a provisional CCDW permit from the Kentucky State Police in one business day. In some of these cases, victims need this type of protection as quickly as possible.

    March 8, 2014

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg 50 years makes a world of difference

    I wasn’t in Frankfort on March 5, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson led 10,000 on a march to the state Capitol in support of a public accommodations law.
    But a few months later, I stood in front of the “Music Hall,” site of the Glasgow Junior High School located on a street named Liberty, and watched black kids “walk up the hill” of College Street on the first day of integrated schools in Glasgow.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • 02.23 Mike Duncan mug.jpg Coal has kept Kentuckians warm this winter

    This winter, temperatures across the country dipped to historic lows. Here in our home state of Kentucky, the near-arctic climate caused increased power demand which resulted in an incredible strain on the electric grid and rising energy costs.

    March 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Protecting citizens’ data is a no-brainer

    Target Corp. is learning the hard way: The price is steep for retailers who don’t protect customers’ sensitive financial information.
    Target’s profits fell a whopping 50 percent during its fourth quarter of 2013 as the result of a massive security breach involving as many as 110 million of its customers’ credit- and debit-card accounts, which began the day before Thanksgiving and extended throughout much of the holiday shopping season.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Making plans for spring planting

    My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.
    Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place. 

    February 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Cynicism, optimism both on display in Frankfort

    Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s Capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Even Scrooge would enjoy library mystery

    Saturday afternoons and evenings are usually down time for Loretta and me.
    We simply don’t get out much after we’ve used up the movie gift certificates the kids gave us for Christmas. That means we mostly go to the movies to avoid guilt trips because our kids do work hard for their money.

    February 20, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should the Richmond City Commission stop rezoning property to allow construction of apartments?

Yes.
No
     View Results