Make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage
This is part of an Economic Security Plan that I proposed during my 1996 campaign for U.S. Senate. Consider the time-frame when reading this piece. If adjusted for inflation, the 2006 minimum wage would be around $8.20.
People who work full-time, 40 hours per week, 50 weeks a year, should be able to provide for the basics of their family's survival from the proceeds of their labors.
The concept of a living wage is as much about justice and fairness as it is about money. For that reason, I reject the lament that businesses would be forced to close if they had to pay a living wage. That kind of thinking is too painfully similar to the language used in the South before the Civil War, when plantation owners insisted that the slaves could not be freed because the economy would collapse.
In recognition of the plight of low-wage working parents, we American taxpayers are now supplementing those incomes through the Earned Income Credit. At its highest point, the credit amounts to a subsidy of between $1 and $1.50 per hour, for working parents earning up to $5.65 per hour.
Even though this supplement is paid directly to workers, the Earned Income Credit is in reality a business subsidy, one which lets off the hook those businesses which pay substandard wages.
And then, business quarter after business quarter, we watch as record profits are posted by the fast-food and designer-fashion chains whose names are synonymous with the lowest of wages. This is not fair, to either the workers or the American taxpayers.
But rather than cut funding for the EIC, as the Republicans want to do, I propose we raise the minimum wage to a living wage, thereby making many Americans ineligible for the EIC because they would be making too much money.
The issue of the minimum wage being a living wage is really about fairness. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be in the neighborhood of $6.50 per hour right now. That's $13,000 per year for a full-time worker, still not a lot of money.
Under my Economic Security Plan, the minimum wage would also apply to restaurant workers, who currently can legally be paid half the current minimum wage.
Also note that with the restructuring of FICA deductions to begin at the minimum wage level, the employer's contribution to Social Security taxes would begin there as well, and would only be assessed on wages above the minimum.