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By allowing the minimum wage to remain at a nearly unlivable level, we have deemed certain jobs not worthy enough to meet even our country’s minimum standard of living.How have we been able to keep wages so low without significant social discord?
The most common objection to raising the minimum wage is that it destroys jobs.
But a slew of recent studies have pointed out that although raising the minimum wage does increase earnings and reduce poverty, it has a limited, almost negligible, effect on employment.
That would be a start toward restoring dignity and value to low-wage work. We propose raising the minimum wage, in stages, to $12.50 an hour, an amount that would allow an individual supporting a family of three to live modestly, at about 138% of the federal poverty line.
That level offers workers a way to escape poverty, a chance to feed their families, buy basic medical insurance and live in secure housing without significant government support.
These include such programs as the earned income tax credit, food stamps and Medicaid.
These government supports mask a job’s true value and set an artificially low wage. Raising the minimum wage means that the income required for basic needs is delivered in a one-step approach, via the paycheck directly from firm to worker, rather than requiring additional government expenditures.
Studies have also illustrated that restoring the dignity of work through higher wages reduces worker turnover and increases productivity.
Some make the overstated claim that increasing the minimum wage would accelerate companies’ off-shoring of jobs.
Artificially low wages teach workers that their work is not valuable — a disastrous policy outcome.
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage to an hour.