It has been five years since the last federal minimum wage increase. In 2009, the country was still experiencing major job losses because of the Great Recession. However, since 2010, jobs have been created in the private sector, slowly but continuously.
Much can be argued about the quality of the jobs and the growth sectors. What cannot be said is that this wage increase led to massive job losses, like conservatives had anticipated.
This same warning is what has brought to a standstill in Congress President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Critics of the increase oppose it, claiming that they want to protect the jobs of those earning minimum wage, since companies will lay them off because they are unable or unwilling to pay them more.
It is true that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the wage increase would cost half a million jobs. However, it also indicated that more than 10 million people would earn higher incomes. What its study did not show is the impact of higher demand for products on the private sector and how many jobs would be created as a result.
Separately, the Labor Department also recently contributed numbers to this debate: in 13 states that raised their minimum wage, the number of jobs increased instead of decreasing.
It is necessary to set fantasies aside, like the one that still believes that minimum wage is for teenagers who just started their work lives, instead of the reality: adults who need to support their families.
The purchasing power that minimum wage has now is a fraction of what it represented in the 1960s. From the ’80s until today, it has been deteriorating.
Someone who today works full-time at minimum wage must receive federal assistance, because they fall below the poverty level. Raising the minimum wage will bring justice to millions of working poor, help the economy with their increased purchasing power and save taxpayers money that is now being spent on federal benefits.