Increasing the minimum wage
During his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage.
The push to increase the minimum wage has grown in recent years as the economy picked up steam, but wages remained stagnant. In fact, for the majority of working Americans, wage increases have been lagging for decades while income levels for the wealthiest Americans have climbed steadily.
Fast-food workers across the country went on strike last year to demand a pay hike. Walmart employees did the same.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. States can set their own standards too, and most have a minimum wage that’s higher than the federal level. Others, including North Carolina, match the federal level. Georgia and Wyoming have minimum wages, both $5.15 an hour, below the federal level. And five states, all in the South, don’t have a set minimum wage — the federal minimum is used. .
The new year saw increases in the minimum wage in several states. At $9.47, Washington now has the highest rate among the states — Washington, D.C.’s minimum wage is $9.50.
To match inflation rates, minimum wages would need to be close to $11 an hour.
For someone who makes $7.25 an hour and works 40 hours a week, his or her yearly income before taxes is around $15,000.
The federal poverty level for an individual is near $11,600. For a family of four it’s $23,000.
So for someone working a minimum wage job it’s already tough enough to make ends meet, but it’s even harder if that person is responsible for taking care of others.
During his speech, Obama said those who think they could get by on the current minimum wage should try it.
“To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it,” the president said. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”
The argument against the minimum wage is that it will kill jobs. But raising the minimum wage will put more money in peoples’ pockets. More money to spend means more demand for products. The need for more supply leads to a need for more workers.
Polls have shown that a majority of Americans support increasing the minimum wage. And it’s not just Democrats who want it to happen. Republicans also support the cause.
As the cost of living continues to rise, flat wages create difficulties and uncertainty for millions of families. Higher wages would mean less people living in poverty and in need of government assistance.
Tuesday, Obama said, “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort? We need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm.”
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