Nearly everyone is feeling the effects of inflation these days. With an 8.5% inflation rate over the last year, prices are rising in almost every sector of our economy, and millions of American families are having a harder time affording the essentials. While this is a widespread crisis, it’s one that is particularly devastating for our nation’s low-wage workers.
The federal minimum wage currently sits at a meager $7.25/hour, which comes to just $15,000 a year for full-time minimum wage workers. At this rate, workers make a mere fraction of what is required to cover the living expenses for one person, much less a family. The increasing costs of necessities, from food to gas to housing, has made the already laughably low federal minimum wage even more unacceptable. This means that, as it stands, the minimum wage leaves the overwhelming majority of low-wage workers living below the poverty line, unable to adequately provide for themselves or their families.
This week we’re taking a closer look at how now, more than ever, we need to raise the minimum wage to ensure everyone can support themselves on full-time work.
The combination of record-breaking inflation and a federal minimum wage that hasn’t budged in twelve years are in tandem leaving millions of working Americans unable to afford their most basic needs despite working full-time jobs. Our minimum wage no longer achieves what it was initially intended to do: provide hard-working Americans with enough income to support themselves and their families.
$7.25 an hour was already inadequate when it was first introduced in 2009, but in 2022, it is downright shameful. In the last twelve years, the minimum wage has lost over 30% of its purchasing power, leaving low-wage workers to fall further and further behind with each passing day. It is beyond past time for Congress to pass a $15 minimum wage, an amount that at this point is itself no longer enough in many areas of the country.
Some might argue that thanks to rising wages, the federal minimum wage isn’t even necessary anymore. But despite lots of recent news about rising wages and worker empowerment, workers in many areas of the country still earn the minimum wage (or just barely more). Even in places with higher wage growth, inflation is outpacing wage increases. Wage growth has remained lower than the current levels of inflation, chipping away at the spending power of most workers.
You may hear arguments trying to claim that increases in worker compensation are the cause of inflation. Those arguments are absurd. Wages aren’t meaningfully contributing to inflation – in fact, they’re not even keeping up with it. There is no evidence that the minimum wage would add to this country’s inflation problem.
At the end of the day, it’s ridiculous that this is even a decision that needs to be made. In a more functional system, the federal minimum wage would be indexed to inflation (or the median wage) already. Many governmental systems and programs, such as the Child Tax Credit, tax brackets, and even political donation caps are indexed to inflation, so why not the minimum wage? We have a responsibility to the workers of this country to ensure they are being fairly compensated for their work, which is a target that we have been sorely missing for years now.
We have to ask ourselves who do we, as a society, want our economy to work for? It should work for everyone, not just the rich, and that means supporting the large group of minimum and low wage workers who are currently being left behind. Congress must act now to raise the minimum wage and lift millions of working Americans out of poverty.