Why It's Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

2 columnists weigh in
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2013 1:03 PM CST
Why It's Time to Raise the Minimum Wage
In this Aug. 1, 2013 photo, demonstrators protesting what they say are low wages and improper treatment for fast-food workers march in downtown Seattle.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

In the current political climate, there's no way we can pass a bill increasing aid to the working poor. But we could very likely pass an increase to the federal minimum wage, writes Paul Krugman in the New York Times. Such an increase is overwhelmingly supported by the public, across all political parties. Inflation-adjusted wages for retail workers not in supervisory positions have gone down nearly 30% since 1973, leaving many of them to rely on food stamps and Medicaid for their most basic needs. And before you start raising an argument, know that the evidence is "overwhelmingly positive," showing that wage hikes help workers while having "little or no adverse effect on employment."

And keep in mind that nearly 60% of minimum wage workers in the US are in food service or sales, which means there's no "threat of foreign competition" to worry about: "Americans won’t drive to China to pick up their burgers and fries." Also in the Times, economist Arindrajit Dube argues for a minimum wage increase. The pay rate is "currently near a record low," and if it were just middle-class teenagers affected by that, the issue wouldn't be as urgent. "But in reality, the low-wage work force has become older and more educated over time," and it's time for a change. Click for his full column, or Krugman's. (Read more minimum wage stories.)

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