Here in New York, Governor Cuomo has just proposed a minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $8.75. This raises the question of why the Federal minimum wage has been so stagnant since its peak shortly after Civil Rights. As you can if you look at minimum wage changes and inflation , the purchasing power of minimum wage has actually been eroded by a half by inflation since that peak. What has changed? Why are voters, so many of whom work for minimum wage, so hostile to increasing minimum wage, and why did this hostility surge shortly after Civil Rights?
Well, voters sharply turned against the Democrats in response to Civil Rights. Part of this has been opposition to minimum wage increases, a Democratic staple. Along with the broader backlash against Martin Luther King’s legacy, a large number of union workers left unions and became Republican voters, steadily voting to change labor law against workers. Whereas only one Republican (Eisenhower) reached the White House between the Great Crash and Civil Rights, Republicans reeled off five wins in the six elections immediately after Civil Rights, and are up to seven wins in 12 elections to date, even including Obama's two wins. US labor law has thus become the most anti-worker in the developed world, and this includes an exceptionally low national minimum wage.
There is hope for the future, as states like New York illustrate. New York is a wealthy state, and yet has one of the highest minimum wages in the country. This proves that minimum wage increases are not economically hurtful, much like the high minimum wages of the 1960s did not hurt economic growth at all.