An economy that relies overwhelmingly on consumer spending can't afford to watch vast numbers of hard working citizens experience ever-diminishing purchasing power
Legions of people work every day in America caring for children and the elderly, ensuring the security of public and commercial buildings, preparing and serving food in schools, restaurants and nursing homes, ringing up customer purchases, cleaning office buildings, hotels and homes, beautifying gardens, parks and lawns and more. These jobs, while essential, pay little.
Close to 60% of all jobs created since the bottom of the recession--and most of the jobs projected to be created in the next decade--are low-wage occupations like these. Workers often rely on food stamps, the earned income tax credit and other means-tested programs -- often threatened to be cut -- not because they don't work hard enough but because their earnings are pitifully low. And while these workers strive to save, it is plainly impossible for them to save enough to finance their retirement, or manage the ever-escalating cost of college for themselves or their children.
They need a raise.
Almost four million Americans earn wages at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or nearly $15,000 a year if they work full-time. That is approximately $8,000 shy of the poverty threshold for a family of four. And given that more than half of workers earning the minimum wage or less are 25 or older, it is clear that many of these workers are trying to support a family on these extremely low wages. Contrary to widely held perceptions, most minimum-wage jobs are not held by young people who get better jobs as they age. Raising the minimum wage by just 85 cents a year for three years, plus indexing it to inflation, would directly lead to higher earnings for an estimated 20 million working Americans, with another 10 million likely receiving raises as employers' pay scales adjust. And more than one quarter of the nation's children would see a parent's earnings increase.