American Majority Wants Minimum Wage Raised – Will Republicans Obstruct?

Dave Johnson

Polls and elections show that an “overwhelming” majority of Americans want the minimum wage increased. Gallup shows 76% support. New Jersey voters overwhelmingly passed a minimum wage increase. SeaTac voters passed a $15 minimum wage. But Republicans in the House and Senate will obstruct this.

New Poll Just Out – Majority Wants Minimum Wage Increase

A new Gallup poll finds that 76% of Americans want the minimum wage raised to at least $9 from the current $7.25. This is up 5 percentage points just since March.

An August poll commissioned by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) Action Fund found that 80% support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 including 62% of Republicans and 75% of southern whites.

A March poll by the USA Today/Pew Research Center found that 71% favor increasing the minimum wage to $9.

Recent Elections Also Show Majority Wants Minimum Wage Increase

In New Jersey voters approves an increase to $8.25 with an index to inflation, by 61% to 39% — in the same election that re-elected Republican Chris Christie. In SeaTac WA a $15 minimum wage passed, (but later counting has the measure ahead but nearly tied.)

The Cost Of Low Wages

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) had the 1968 wage been indexed to the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) today it would be $10.75.

If the 1968 minimum wage were indexed to productivity instead of inflation the minimum wage would be $16.50 an hour. 40$ of Americans make less than $16.50. In other words, 40% Of Americans Now Make Less Than 1968 Minimum Wage.

Many Americans are now paid so little that they qualify for programs like food stamps and Medicaid. This is in effect a government subsidy to companies, covering some of the costs of their employees. Many of these companies then make huge profits, which are channeled to people at upper income levels.

A University of California at Berkeley Labor Center study released last month found that 73 percent of people in America’s major public benefits programs are from working families. Other main findings:

  • More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.
  • The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry is nearly $7 billion per year.
  • At an average of $3.9 billion per year, spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) accounts for more than half of these costs.
  • Due to low earnings, fast-food workers’ families also receive an annual average of $1.04 billion in food stamp benefits and $1.91 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit payments.
  • People working in fast-food jobs are more likely to live in or near poverty. One in five families with a member holding a fast-food job has an income below the poverty line, and 43 percent have an income two times the federal poverty level or less.
  • Even full-time hours are not enough to compensate for low wages. The families of more than half of the fast-food workers employed 40 or more hours per week are enrolled in public assistance programs.

Think Progress calculates that this study shows “the biggest public benefits programs spent $243 billion each year on working families who live in poverty or on the brink of it because their jobs pay so poorly.”

Huge American Majority Supports This. What Will Happen?

President Obama has come out in support of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing this to inflation. This is in the Harkin/Miller bill from by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

While this proposal has overwhelming support from voters, it will be obstructed by corporate/conservative interests. In the Senate Republicans will filibuster the bill. In the House the leadership will refuse to allow members to vote on it. In both the House and Senate this obstruction will occur because the bill would pass if allowed to come to a vote.

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