Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hey, Washington! The Pay Is Too Damn Low: The Minimum-Wage War

Giving America’s lowest-paid workers a raise is great for the economy. And even better for Democratic prospects in 2014

by Tim Dickinson
FEBRUARY 27, 2014

Nearly five years into the recovery from the Great Recession, the American economy remains fundamentally broken. Inequality is getting worse: Ninety-five percent of income gains since 2009 have gone to the top one percent of earners. Private employers have added more than 8 million jobs, but nearly two-thirds are low-wage positions. The American worker's share of the national income is as low as it's been in the six decades since World War II. But even as most Americans struggle just to tread water, corporate profits have soared to record highs.

Worse: The bottom rung of the economy is growing crowded; 3.8 million Americans – the equivalent population of the city of Los Angeles – now labor at or below the minimum wage. And that wage itself has lost more than 12 percent of its value since it was last hiked to $7.25 in 2007, due to inflation. In a more prosperous era, the stereotype of a minimum-wage worker was a teenager flipping burgers, earning a little beer money on the side. But in the new American economy, dominated by low-wage service jobs, fewer than one in four minimum-wage workers are teens. More than half are 25 or older. "The demographics have shifted," says Rep. George Miller, ranking Democrat on the House labor committee. "These are now important wage earners in their families."

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