A new study has shown that the minimum wage, if it grew at the same rate as the wages of the top 1% of America’s earners, would be almost $23. This alarming figure, being 212% higher than the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, brings to new light the issue of income inequality here in the US.
With the minimum wage where it is, it is extremely difficult for workers to support themselves and their families based on what they are earning. At the current rate of $7.25 per hour, workers who work 40 hours each week earn only about $15,000 per year in salary—hardly enough to support one person, let alone a family.
That being said, it is important to note that the minimum wage does not apply exclusively to teenagers working part-time jobs after school and on the weekends: The majority of America’s fast food workers are aged 25-54, and 11% of minimum wage workers are over the age of 20.
Although raising the minimum wage is by no means a quick fix to eradicate poverty, research of worker productivity levels and inflation rates shows that American workers deserve it.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the minimum wage should have reached $21.72 per hour in 2012 if it were keeping up with increases in worker productivity since 1968, when it peaked in real value. Even adjusting for inflation alone, workers should have been earning at least $9.22 per hour this past year.
Luckily, measures are being taken at the local, state and even federal levels in attempts to combat this issue. President Obama has called to increase the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and lawmakers and activists are campaigning for higher wages right here in the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts state Senate passed a bill at the end of November that will eventually raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 per hour.
On the other hand, congressional Republicans have opposed any hike in the minimum wage, believing that an increase would hurt employers and slow job growth.
“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” said House Speaker John Boehner in February.
No matter the political party, the huge gulf between the wealthy and the poor in America is an issue that will continue emerging—and the subject of minimum wage may lay at the heart of it.Featured photo courtesy of Phillie Casablanca/Flickr.