Americans want a $15-per-hour minimum wage.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday found 59 recent of the nation supports the long-debated wage hike Democrats are trying to work into the coronavirus spending bill. Only 34 percent oppose it. But if we know one thing about Republicans, it’s that they’re not going to let the will of the people upend their relentless conviction to screw over poor people at every turn imaginable.
Some of them are defending their opposition to bumping the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour, where it’s been since 2009, to $15 an hour by arguing that the impoverished can simply work harder, pulling themselves up their bootstraps to take hold of the American Dream just like these senators did when they were younger, many decades ago when Americans could live on far less.
Here’s Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) waxing about fiscal responsibility as he notes that the proposed minimum wage increase is “particularly troubling and harmful.” He doesn’t mention that the $6 an hour he was making as a cook in 1978 would be $22.62 today.
I started working by bussing tables at the Star Family Restaurant for $1/hour & slowly moved up to cook – the big leagues for a kid like me– to earn $6/hour. Businesses in small towns survive on narrow margins. Mandating a $15 minimum wage would put many of them out of business. pic.twitter.com/izQDOGRAH1
— Senator John Thune (@SenJohnThune) February 24, 2021
Here’s Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) reminiscing about how part-time jobs helped him pay his way through college. He doesn’t mention that though the minimum wage has just about doubled from then to now, tuition at his alma matter has increased more than ten-fold.
Roger Marshall’s argument for not raising the minimum wage is that he had a minimum wage job and it paid for his entire college tuition.
When he graduated from Kansas State University, tuition was $898/year. It is now $10,000/year. The minimum wage then was $3.35. It’s now $7.25 pic.twitter.com/wmXouv2An6
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) February 24, 2021
The GOP’s central argument here is that raising the minimum wage would kill small businesses operating on thin margins. But just as the pandemic has put a strain on small businesses, it has put an even larger strain on low-wage workers. So too has the growing gap between the rich and the poor, one of the many pre-existing societal ills the pandemic has exacerbated. A minimum wage hike has long been in order. There’s no better time than the present to make it happen.
“A $15 minimum wage is not a radical idea,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the driving force behind the effort to raise wages, tweeted earlier this month. “What’s radical is the fact that millions of Americans are forced to work for starvation wages, while 650 billionaires became over $1 trillion richer during a global pandemic. Yes. We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage.”
The Democratic plan, which is supported by President Biden, would not hike the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 immediately. It would do so gradually, with the minimum wage ultimately reaching $15 by 2025. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office did report on Monday that the plan would come at the expense of 1.4 million jobs, but also that it would increase the pay of low-wage earners by a total of $333 billion, and lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty. (The CBO is a nonpartisan, respected office, and while nobody questions that its economists worked in good faith, some economists have noted that its jobs-loss estimate is on the high-end of mainstream models.) This would, naturally, provide a huge boost to the economy.
So Congress could raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, as the majority of Americans prefer, or the poverty-stricken could listen to Republicans, find some way to make it back to the Seventies, get jobs as line cooks, and someday become senators.