It's official, people: the President supports increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from its current $7.25. Such a move would drastically alter the lives of the country's working poor.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced his support for legislation introduced by two Democratic senators that, if passed, would mark the first significant increase to the federal minimum wage in more than four years. Obama's statements showed that he's ready to go farther than his February proposal to push the minimum wage to $9, which many criticized as not a significant enough boost.
A leap to $10.10, however, could be enough to push a large number of the working poor -- a group defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as those who fall below the poverty line despite working (or searching for work) at least 27 weeks per year -- out of poverty.
A $10.10 minimum wage would have pushed more than half -- 58 percent -- of the nation’s 10 million-plus working poor out of poverty in 2011, according to a June study by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an advocacy group focusing on the restaurant industry. (Prices have risen since 2011, so a $10.10 minimum wage would not have quite as much purchasing power today as it would have back then)
"Here's the bottom line," U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said Friday. "No one who works a full time job should have to live in poverty."
The federal minimum wage is actually worth $2 less today than it was in 1968, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.
It’s also been vastly outpaced by worker productivity over the past half-century and would be nearly $22 if it had kept up with us busybodies, according to a March study:
The president previously pushed for a minimum wage of $9 per hour in his February State of the Union address. But that sort of wage increase wouldn’t have dramatically changed the lives of poor Americans, according to a July report out of the Brookings Institute.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September that promised to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 by 2016. The move made the Golden State the first in the country to guarantee a double-digit hourly wage down the line.
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