Minimum Wage: Time for a Raise

After 10 years stuck making $5.15 an hour, millions of Americans are ready for a raise, but some senators are not ready to give it to them.

After 10 years stuck making $5.15 an hour, millions of Americans are ready for a raise. But some senators are not quite ready to give it to them. Unfortunately, yesterday the Senate fell six short of the votes needed to end debate on a standalone bill. It will now take up a bill pairing a minimum wage increase with tax breaks for small businesses, at the insistence of a small group of conservative senators. Working Americans deserve their long overdue raise. Send a message to your senator voicing your support for a clean bill to increase the minimum wage.

  • America has earned its increase, but the Senate is holding it up. In the first one hundred hours of the 110th Congress, the House approved a clean $2.10 raise in the minimum wage in a 315-116 vote. The Senate, however, was not as successful. It needed 60 votes to cut off debate and move to a vote on the clean increase, but a minority of conservative senators refused to support cloture, killing the popular measure. “Why can’t we do just one thing for minimum wage workers, no strings attached, no giveaways for the powerful?” asked Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), a leading sponsor of the clean bill. The federal minimum wage is currently at its lowest level in 51 years.

  • A higher minimum wage will not hurt small businesses. As AFL-CIO president John Sweeney notes, the argument that raising the minimum wage will kill small businesses is a myth. A study by the Center for American Progress found that employment in small businesses, the number of small businesses, and inflation-adjusted small business payroll growth grew more in states with higher minimum wages than federal minimum wage states. Congress has consistently looked out for small businesses. It’s now time for it to help working Americans. In the past 10 years, Congress has “showered corporations with $276 billion in tax breaks, plus another $36 billion aimed exclusively at small businesses.” Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post adds that even though the Bush administration has gifted declining tax rates to small businesses over the past several years, “according to the Internal Revenue Service, small-business owners, sole proprietors and the self-employed are, as a group, the biggest tax cheats in America, responsible for $153 billion of the estimated $345 billion tax gap in 2001.”

  • While the federal government waits, states are taking the lead. While the Bush administration and conservative senators continue to block progress, bipartisan groups of governors, lawmakers, and activists in the states have mobilized. In November, “voters in six states said minimum wage increases wouldn’t hurt businesses and approved minimum wage hikes without extra corporate giveaways, as have 11 state legislatures.” Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage surpassing the federal government’s level.

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