The federal government first set a minimum wage in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Originally set at 25 cents per hour, it was introduced to reduce poverty and ensure that economic growth was spread across the workforce. While the intent of the current minimum of $7.25 an hour is to do that as well, it no longer does and is continually losing value. It isn’t sufficient enough for many of those receiving it to make due and should be raised to help change that.
There are certain issues when it comes to the value of the minimum that has been set. One of them being that the last time the federal minimum wage increased was in 2009. Because inflation has naturally changed since then, the current minimum has actually lost 8.1% of its purchasing power. In fact, the federal minimum wage hit its high point in 1968 at $8.54 in today’s dollars, meaning that minimum wage workers make less now than they did in 1968. As inflation has changed and the price of certain goods have gone up, the minimum wage has not been raised at all. Starting now, it should be gradually increased over the years to accommodate for inflation and to prevent a further loss in the value of the income of the people who need it most.
Nearly 80 percent of the workers who would be directly affected by a minimum wage increase are adults, as seen in an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. However, many of these adults don’t have just themselves to worry about. They are parents and have families at home to also take care of. More than seven million children have parents whose income would go up under a new minimum wage. Something else that should be taken into account is that not every parent working a minimum wage job has another main source of income to help them meet the financial demands of a family. When there are single parent households that have only one source of income at a minimum wage rate, the ability to carry the entire family becomes even more difficult and falling below the poverty line becomes even more possible.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty guideline is an income of $16,240 for a family of two and $20,420 for a family of three, adding $4,180 for each additional person after that. If you take the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 and apply that to a 40 hour work week, someone working around those wages and hours makes about $15,080 a year before taxes. That means that if a single parent making minimum wage is supporting at least one child, they’re already living below the poverty line. In a society as wealthy as ours, there should be no full-time worker that is preset to be living in poverty or struggling just to survive without governmental assistance.
Raising the minimum again is something that is long overdue, and change needs to be made now to prevent further damage. This nation can’t continue to allow so many of its workers to live a life of poverty and hardship. It’s time to make the minimum wage a truly livable wage.