While Democrats in Congress and the president are attempting to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, there is still pretty strong opposition to raising the wage (or its very existence) from pro-corporate extremists on the far right. But as more and more evidence is gathered concerning the minimum wage and its effect on workers, it’s harder and harder to sustain any belief other than that the wage should be raised. Not only is it the morally correct thing to do, it has positive effects on the economy. Here are six reasons why everyone, including conservatives, should support raising the minimum wage (hat tip to Joshua Holland at BillMoyers.com):
1. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 will benefit millions of workers. Even accepting conservative estimates, this would be an unambiguously good thing for workers—raising wages directly for 16.5 million workers, raising wages indirectly for 8 million more, allowing workers under the poverty line to earn $5 billion more in wages and lifting 900,000 workers out of poverty.
2. Raising the minimum wage will also reduce the budget deficit. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10, according to a study by the Center for American Progress (CAP), would cut spending on food stamps (SNAP) by $4.6 billion a year.
3. On the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, in no state can a minimum wage worker afford a two-bedroom unit at fair market rent, working a standard 40-hour work week, without paying more than 30% of her income.
4. The conservative claim that “raising the minimum wage kills jobs" is not backed by the evidence. The controversial estimate that raising the minimum wage could reduce employment by 500,000 does not reflect the current consensus view of economists. Yet even if this estimate were accurate, it is unlikely any worker would lose her job. Rather, because minimum wage jobs have relatively high turnover, the impact on any affected workers would be that they might have to wait slightly longer to find jobs that are better than those available now.5. A related argument that raising the wage will hurt small businesses also is not supported by evidence. A recent survey of small businesses found that they overwhelmingly support raising the wage and that many of them already pay more than the federal minimum wage.
6. A final argument used to discourage people from supporting a minimum wage increase is that companies will pass along costs to consumers, which would offset the increased wages those earning the minimum wage would get. However, even by conservative estimates, raising the minimum wage would increase inflation-adjusted wages for lower- and middle-income families (those with incomes below $112,200-$144,600) by $17 billion—and that’s even if you factor in the controversial assumption of 500,000 fewer jobs.
In addition, several recent studies dispel this idea. One found that if Walmart workers were paid a minimum wage of $12 per hour, it would raise costs for the average customer only 46 cents a trip, or about $12 a year. Another study found that increasing the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour would lead to a 10-cent increase in the cost of a Big Mac. What the people who make this argument don’t seem to take into account is that any company’s customer base is much larger than its staff, and even if 100% of the increased costs are passed on to customers, those increases will be highly dispersed among the much larger customer pool.