The national debate over raising the minimum wage continues to rage on the national-political stage. Its detractors argue that increased minimum wage is a job killer despite many studies and opinions of notable economists indicating otherwise. Now, there is hard proof that increasing wages will actually boost the job market.
Washington state voters elected to raise the state’s minimum wage in 1998, linking it to the state’s cost of living. Today, the Washington state minimum wage is $9.32, and the state’s job growth has consistently outpaced that of the national job growth. Washington state’s job growth maintained, on average, a 0.8 percent annual pace which is 0.3 percent above the national rate. Even service industry wages in Washington expanded by 21 percent, and the poverty rate has been lower than the national average over the last seven years.
While economists and politicians argue about the economic impact of an increased minimum wage, everyone does recognize the erosion of American consumer buying power. The value of minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $1.60 per hour, which had the buying power comparable to a $10.70 per hour wage today. The minimum wage in 1968 was enough to keep a family of three above the poverty line. Presently, the current minimum wage isn’t enough to support a family of two.
Republican politicians and most business/corporate types fear crippling effects in the economy in that it will kill jobs and damage businesses by inflating prices, resulting in lost business.
However, increasing minimum wage would put $31 billion into the pockets of low-income workers. This extra money would increase the lower class’ buying power and boost the American economy. The Center for Economic Policy and Research found that market demand would increase, reduce employee turnover (saving companies millions of dollars on training programs), and curb, if only slightly, use of federal welfare programs.
How much more proof do Republicans and corporations need? The information is out there, but incessant cronyism and right-wing bullheadedness prevents conservatives from taking the studies and statistics into account. And with 63 percent of American voters, including conservative voters, who favor of increasing the federal minimum wage, there is an apparent dismissal of constituents among the Republicans.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.