But obviously some folk don’t want to increase hourly income to a level to help the nation’s working poor. The Iowa General Assembly proved that this year. The salary for hourly workers in the Hawkeye State remains at $7.25. A bill to increase the minimum wage to $8.00 this year then to $8.75 in 2016 died in the House of Representatives.
Iowa is not alone in this shameful practice. Although 20 states and the District of Columbia have boosted minimum wages above the federal level, not one of the 50 states has increased the minimum wage to lift full-time workers out of poverty.
The national poverty line is $24, 250 for a family of four—slightly higher in Alaska (30,320) and Hawaii (27,890). The current national minimum wage falls far short of that rung.
Under current federal law America’s worker must be paid at least $7.25 hour. However, a full-time worker who clocks 40 hours per week earns an annual gross salary of $15,080. That jumps to $16,040 at $8.00 an hour and $18.200 ($8.75)—still six thousand dollars below the national poverty line.
It will require a minimum of $12.00 an hour for a full-time worker (40 hours) supporting a family of four to reach that rung.
It’s absolutely unconscionable for any state not to require a minimum wage that gives workers a living income.
A handful of major U.S. cities, fortunately, have shown more compassion and have moved to boost workers pay. Despite these few advances, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) confirms that low- and middle-income workers have seen virtually no growth in their inflation-adjusted income.
The related question, of course, is how many businesses—especially small ones—can afford to pay their employees at least $12.00 an hour and remain in business? Many firms most likely will either layoff workers, reduce their hours, or eliminate employee benefits.
What’s the answer?
One solution would be a tax break equal to the higher salaries companies pay their workers. Another is for the government to pick up the tab for health benefits—a possible option depending on the Supreme Court decision expected next month on government health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
But these proposals will scarcely scratch the surface of what is required to improve the economic well being of America’s working poor and assure the survival of small business.
The growing field of presidential candidates must be pressured by journalists and citizens alike to provide candid, detailed proposals about how they would solve this shameful reality. Specific plans that protect both employees and employers. Failure to give adequate, specific answers should disqualify any candidate from receiving our vote.