Pursuing A Twenty Dollar Minimum Wage
OPINION 10/06/2039 7:59 AM ET
Pursuing A Twenty Dollar Minimum Wage

Trei Bishop
Principal Analyst, Beckham-Carlito

CC BY 4.0 Fast food strike and protest for a $15/hour minimum wage at the University of Minnesota by Fibonacci Blue | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 face by Denis Mihailov | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
We need to get out and campaign for a fairer minimum wage.
The current federal minimum wage is $15 per hour, thanks to 2020's American Prosperity Through Fair Wages Act. And, despite the cynicism with which Republicans suddenly jumped on board to get that legislation passed, it actually helped Americans.

As the minimum climbed (incrementally over four years) poorer people working multiple jobs were able to let one of their jobs go. This meant more parents at home with their kids. It meant people whose time was taken up working were able to turn to study, in order to better their situation. It meant people were able to look after their health more instead of working themselves to death.

People who had until that point been pressed for money to spend on essentials, were no longer forced to soup kitchens or to applying for food stamps. Parents could buy medicine for their children. People used to having their power cut off could live without that fear.

Those who had been having trouble paying their mortgages found themselves able to take care of that responsibility - the number of defaults dropped over the next two years, and house prices remained steady in poorer areas. People were able to pay off personal debt.

In short, the lives of Americans working the lowest paid jobs were demonstrably better.

However, it's time to address the issue of the minimum wage once more.

In the thirteen full years since the American Prosperity Through Fair Wages Act was signed into law by President Clinton, inflation has averaged 3.8% per year. That means food, medicine, utilities, and everything in between, rises in cost. It's why a carton of milk doesn't cost 30c anymore.

In real terms, the cost of everything has risen on average, about 62.4%.

A fifteen dollar federal minimum wage was a win in 2020 but it's time to press on for twenty dollars. Twenty-five dollars would be more reasonable, and in line with the rate of inflation mentioned above, but that's never going to happen.

We need Congress to bring the nation in line with cities like San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Bridgeport (CT), Boston, Austin (TX), which have all enacted local ordinances gradually raising the minimum wage to between twenty and twenty-five dollars per hour, over the next four to six years.

The State Legislatures in Washington and Oregon are debating similar measures.

We can do this at the federal level. Democrats control both houses of Congress (including a cloture-invoking three-fifths supermajority), so there are no excuses for letting this issue become bogged down in the kind of partisan warfare tactics of the past three decades.

We know what to expect from Republicans - all sorts of the-sky-is-falling quotes, eagerly run by conservative outlets keen to score cheap points at the expense of ordinary people.

But knowing this means we can counter their arguments with our own, with the knowledge that the sky didn't fall in the 2020s, nor during the previous minimum wage hike from 2007 - 2009. It's clear that Republican ties to big business are obviously driving a cynical ideological position designed to send the most vulnerable Americans to the wall.

It's time to raise the minimum wage.

We need to do this.
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