We have a wage problem in the United States. Our current system is not working. It is harming our economy and money is not going to those who need it most but to the wealthiest. Our national minimum wage has stagnated at a measly $7.25 an hour, and while many states have opted to raise it on their own, a whopping 21 states still use the federal annual minimum of $15,000. The social safety net is larger because of the low wage.
While people have made arguments that this is an issue of states’ rights it clearly is not. When states are not taking action to protect their own people from poverty, hunger, and myriad other side effects of not earning a living wage, something needs to change. It is time to raise our national minimum wage to a point it ensures that Americans can earn enough to feed and house their families. If this does not happen, our nation is weaker. Thirteen million American children are hungry in large part because of their parents’ low wages. These children learn less in school, and therefore get low paying jobs, and therefore consume less and pay less taxes. They also have a higher percentage of illnesses and the cost is borne by emergency rooms. The cost of the safety net is then greater than the cost of paying a reasonable wage.
The argument for raising the minimum wage is not just a moral one though. There is very real economic reasoning behind the push to raise the minimum wage. The consumer drives our economy. Those who have the least access to capital are the most likely to spend any extra money rather than stashing it away in savings or investments. This is good for the economy because it keeps money moving and in use. In order to see growth we need people to be using their money to purchase goods and services. This is much more likely to happen by giving an extra several hundred dollars a month to someone who earns the minimum wage and can use this money to buy gas, groceries, and clothing than to someone like me, a millionaire who will not even notice the difference.
With 75% of Americans supporting a significant increase in the minimum wage and ballot initiatives to raise it passing in 100% of cases across the United States it is clearly time to take action. Congress has a responsibility to the American people that should come before any promises or deals made with lobbyists and corporations. Their inaction on the minimum wage is irresponsible to the citizens and to the nation.
It is wrong both from a moral and economic perspective to allow American wages at the bottom to stagnate as they have. When we do this we fail in our duty to each other as Americans. We also fail ourselves economically for not promoting and facilitating the strongest possible American economy. It is time for Congress to stand up for the American people raise the minimum wage and make the economy and the nation stronger.