During his State of the Union Address, President Obama made a push for an increase in the minimum wage. While Republicans in Congress aren't supportive, the majority of the American people are because of how much it will make a positive impact in their lives.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr which equates to only $15,080 a year for a full time worker. That number is only if the worker takes no days off and works a full 40 hour work week for an entire year, it's also what the worker earns before taxes. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, nearly 90 percent of the workers affected by an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10/hr were at least 20 years old and over 30 percent were over 40 years old. Over 600 economists have also recently sent a letter to Congress demanding action on the minimum wage. The EPI broke down how the increase would affect the American people.
The EPI took the workers who make between the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr and the proposed increase of $10.10/hr and broke down the numbers.
- The average age of affected workers is 35 years old;
- 88 percent of all affected workers are at least 20 years old;
- 35.5 percent are at least 40 years old;
- 56 percent are women;
- 28 percent have children;
- 55 percent work full-time (35 hours per week or more);
- 44 percent have at least some college experience.
Despite consistent rhetoric from many on the political right, raising the minimum wage wouldn't primarily benefit teenager workers. Another talking point promoted by Republicans is that a minimum wage increase would result in a halt in hiring and lead to additional job losses. Their claim could have some merit but not when speaking about the proposed increased. If the minimum wage was drastically increased instantly there would be validity to that statement, but not in the way that President Obama is offering his idea.
The president's proposal would also index the minimum wage to inflation so it would rise automatically in the future. While many on the far left have called for an even higher minimum wage, President Obama and more moderate Democrats realize that increasing the minimum wage to a reasonable and realistic level would help millions of Americans, boost the economy and help create jobs. If the minimum wage was increased to say the proposed $15/hr rate, that would hurt many small businesses that are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession..
Getting the minimum wage increase isn't impossible, but will be difficult to push through the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Speaking about the proposed increased, House Speaker John Boehner called Obama's proposal "bad policy" that would "hurt the very people the president purports to want to help."
Twenty-one states currently have a minimum wage higher than the federal average, with Washington state holding the highest minimum wage in the country of $9.32/hr. Only time will tell if an increase is coming, but considering the last time the minimum wage was increased on the federal level was in 2007, it's long over due.