The Bear Facts

Filed under Battleground USA

Virginia wage laws produce minimal satisfaction

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Lately, addressing Ebola and ISIS has been the priority for Washington, but there is one particular issue that hits millions of Americans more directly. For the 1.6 million Americans who earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, living conditions get more desperate every day that a minimum wage increase is put off.

The statistics on minimum wage workers are astonishing. Today, 88 percent of minimum wage earners are 20 years old or older, up 15 percent from 1979. Most minimum wage earners are full-time workers, meaning the paltry minimum wage is all they have to subsist on. Parents make up 27 percent of minimum wage earners and 19 percent of American children would directly benefit from a minimum wage increase.

Two main arguments are used against a raise in the minimum wage. The first, and more common, is that an increase in the minimum wage would increase the unemployment rate. A study from the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California-Berkeley showed that in metropolitan areas that contain state borders, no noticeable effect on employment existed despite substantial differences in the minimum wage. The second main argument used by opponents of a minimum wage hike is that if minimum wage is increased, then inflation will occur. The same study found this claim unsubstantiated as no difference was found in price level across state borders.

Still, many business owners refuse to raise employee’s wages and cite false information as an argument for doing so. At a meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned a restaurant employer on why he hadn’t raised his employees’ wages, and he gave the inflated price level “defense.”

“[A minimum wage increase] has an inflationary effect on the economy,” he said, “so you may actually be taking away the money you just gave that employee through the minimum wage increase.”

Study after study has shown his claim to be incorrect. Raising the minimum wage will have a negligible, if any, effect on employment and inflation and will lift millions of Americans out of poverty. It is time for Washington to pass an increase in the federal minimum wage.

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