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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Minimum Wage Increase Long Overdo

George Wenschhof
It is disheartening to hear the ageless Republican Party argument against an increase in the minimum wage.  This is just another example of how out of touch with reality the Republican Party has become.  Added to their stance against women’s rights, gay marriage and meaningful immigration reform, it is no surprise voters are leaving the Republican Party in record numbers.
President Obama’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 is not only needed, it is not enough of a raise.  Tying automatic increases of the minimum wage to the consumer price index to keep pace with future inflation is also necessary.
The Republican Party mantra that an increase of the minimum wage would lead to job losses and higher unemployment is just not true.
Rather, there is a stimulus to the economy that occurs and businesses benefit by the increase in spending.
There is a universal acknowledgement that the present federal $7.25 per hour minimum wage is not even a living wage.  Paying rent, food, clothing and other expenses with less than $300 week after taxes, is a huge strain on even the most frugal individual, let alone family.
It is widely known and documented individuals who exist on minimum wage earnings will spend the increase they receive, which in turn, benefits the economy.
Republican obstructionists in the U.S. Senate kept an increase to $9.00 per hour from happening a year ago and it is likely they will follow suit this year in spite of the push by Obama and his inclusion of this issue in his state of the union address.
In a midterm congressional election year, Republicans would be wise to heed a January 8, 2014 Quinnipiac poll that shows 71% of American voters support an increase. 
Further illustrating the mood of the electorate, states are not waiting for the federal government to act and a majority of them have bills that will be acted on this year to increase the minimum wage.  This follows the District of Columbia and five states that passed an increase last year.
The state of Maryland is one of those states that are not waiting for Congress to act.  Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 and tying future increases to inflation by 2017.
Meanwhile, impatient individual counties in Maryland, reflecting how states are reacting to a slow moving congress, are already passing their own increases in minimum wage.  Montgomery County and Prince George’s counties have passed legislation that will lead to an $11.50 minimum wage by 2017.
Democrat Karen Young, who is running for Maryland state delegate in district 3-A sent me an email saying “After extensive research on this topic, I have found that there is little, if any, historic data that ties a raise in the minimum wage to increased unemployment. To the contrary, economists suggest that an increase in the minimum wage will have a stimulating effect on the economy by increasing purchasing power. 
Most importantly, raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce the number of people living in poverty by 4.6 million, according to a recent study by University of Massachusetts – Amherst economist Arindrajit Dube”.
It has been reported Maryland senate president Thomas “Mike” Miller (D) feels it is more likely for the senate to pass regional wage hikes as opposed to a statewide increase in the minimum wage.
Republicans in the Frederick County state delegation have made their opposition to an increase in the state minimum wage known.  In an earlier interview, state senate minority leader David Brinkley (R) told me he felt a raise in the minimum wage should come from the federal government and not by the states.
Roger Wilson, another Democratic candidate for Maryland state delegate in district 3-A, told me “Increasing the minimum wage is both responsible and logical. It is a Win, Win. Let's use the example of Henry Ford.
Henry Ford paid his workers a living wage. Ford understood that by paying employees a living wage the employees could then afford to buy Ford motor cars. The same would hold true today for any company... Increase purchase power, buy more, sell more, build more, and the economy improves”.
Gene Stanton(D), who is running for Maryland state delegate in district 4 wrote in an email "Increasing the minimum wage is the right thing to do, for employees, employers and most especially, for Maryland taxpayers. In addition, it is the right thing to do morally. Maryland taxpayers benefit with increased income tax revenue and fewer people collecting public assistance and the business community benefits with happier employees that have money to spend on their products. Its a win-win situation for Maryland."
It is past due to increase the federal minimum wage and $10.10 is still insufficient for an individual or family to live in America today, regardless of what state they live in or what region within a state they reside.  Arguing against this makes little sense and government failing to act is a travesty.
Keeping a class of Americans in poverty and tied to government assistance is hardly representative of the “American Way”.
We can and must do better.  Demand your representative in Congress support an increase in the federal minimum wage and let your Maryland state legislator know you support a statewide increase in the minimum wage with automatic future increases tied to inflation.
Stay tuned.

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