Raising the minimum wage is a moral imperative

Just as in the time of FDR, the case for a higher minimum wage today couldn’t be more compelling. Today’s federal minimum wage, which has not budged since 2009, is just $7.25 an hour. It is not a fair minimum wage but a poverty wage. It has nearly one-third less buying power than it did at its peak in 1968, and a single parent with two children — who works a full-time minimum wage job — falls $3,000 below the poverty line. It is simply wrong that in a nation as rich as ours, people who go to work every day are unable to put food on the table, pay the electricity bill or keep up with the rent.

That’s why Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and I introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act earlier this year. Our bill would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour — in three steps — then index the minimum wage to inflation. Our bill would also gradually raise the tipped minimum wage, which has stood at just $2.13 since 1991. It is a modest and reasonable proposal that would help give more than 30 million American workers — including the parents of 18 million children — a raise. But despite the compelling case for a raise, opponents are still claiming that our bill would cause economic catastrophe, with the same vehemence that they opposed a 25-cent minimum wage 75 years ago.

Yet history shows us — and new economic research confirms — that nothing could be further from the truth. Increasing the minimum wage will not cost us jobs; in fact, according to an analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will increase the gross domestic product by nearly $33 billion over the course of three years as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities. This economic activity will generate 140,000 new jobs over the same time period. It’s clear that in 2013 — just as in 1938 — raising the minimum wage is good for workers, good for businesses and good for our economy.