The new year has brought minimum wage raises in 13 states to as high as $9.32 an hour. However, the question still remains for the rest of us: Is $7.25 enough to live on?
Twenty-one states, which all have minimum wages above $7.25, don’t think so, and some congressional Democrats are pushing to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015. No matter your party or pay, it’s a good thing.
And the truth is, we’re in desperate need of a raise in the region.
According to a 2013 study by Ball State University, most Lake County residents are 20 years behind the national average income, living in 1995. Other regions of Indiana are living on incomes as far back as 1964.
In 1995, a gallon of gas cost an average of $1.12, while in 2013, gas prices averaged $3.48 per gallon.
That’s just one indication our consumer price index has kept shooting upward while incomes are severely lagging. And ironically, the workforce has never been so productive and companies as profitable.
According to a 2013 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, if minimum wage increased with worker productivity, it would have reached $16.50 an hour by 2012. And the irony isn't going unnoticed.
On Dec. 5, demonstrators demanded higher wages of $15 an hour for fast food workers in a nationwide protest. Fast food officials claimed it would cause product prices to rise and it would damage businesses like McDonald’s — because if there’s one industry that’s barely scraping by in America, it’s clearly the fast food business.
Other employees of mega-corporations like Walmart and Target are also vocally demanding higher pay.
Sadly, we have created an economy of exploitation. Because of underpaid labor, we can have our cake and eat it too — at low, low prices.
But let’s invest in something more long-term. If more workers were given a higher wage, they could move upward in the socioeconomic class system. They could save up for their children’s college funds, and they wouldn't need to rely on federal assistance programs to fill the gaps.
Economists also agree it would stimulate the economy, not hurt it. On Jan. 14, 75 economists, among them seven Nobel Prize recipients, signed an endorsement of a national minimum wage increase. They agreed past increases have had “little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”
Bottom line: It’s not giving a hand-out; it isn't charity. It’s about rectifying an economic system that has devalued the working class.
So, how about it? Let’s give a trickle-up economy a try, seeing as its counterpart didn't work too well in the past.