Right now, America has the highest wealth-inequality in the world. Despite corporate profits and worker-productivity being the highest it has ever been, the average wage of the average worker has not increased, only the pay of CEOs have increased.
Back in the late 1990s, a journalist named Barbara Ehreinch went undercover working minimum-wage jobs to see if it was possible to live on the minimum wage. She found that the minimum wage was impossible to live on despite working full-time at over 40 hours a week. She wrote an entire book on the subject called “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America”
Today, the situation is no different. Even if you worked at minimum wage full-time at 40-hours a week, you could not afford a two-bedroom apartment in any state.
In most states, one would have to work anywhere from 60-70 hours a week just to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment with a minimum wage income.
According the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 3.6 million Americans who make minimum wage or less with an average salary of $15,000 dollars or less.
Many argue that this is not important because the majority of people on minimum wage are teenagers, but in fact over 50 percent of minimum wage earners are over 25.
However, many people believe that increasing the minimum wage would decrease jobs, but the truth is that it won’t. The people who stimulate the economy is not those in the top 1percent who make hundreds of billions of dollars, it is average people.
Most people spend most of the income to live, while those in the top 1 percent either keep their money in foreign bank accounts or in the stock market. When people have more money to spend, employees will create new jobs.
In 1968 the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, which seems low, but adjusted to inflation today; it would be equivalent to $10.74 per hour which means that the federal minimum wage today of $7.25 per hour is worth over 32 percent less than in 1968.
While minimum wage remained unadjusted to the rate of inflation, worker productivity has grown past it exponentially. It is often said that “labor creates all wealth.” At the moment, worker productivity and the amount that workers are producing is the highest it has ever been.
But this has meant that workers are working longer and harder, which explains record corporate profits, but does not correlate to workers seeing a pay increase for their hard work. For example, if the minimum wage has increased as the average amount of worker productivity, it would be at $21.72/hour according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Big corporations know that the minimum wage is not enough to get by. For example, Wal-Mart pays their workers such a low wage that the taxpayers are forced to subsidized Wal-Mart’s low wages with welfare and food stamps while at the same time the six Wal-Mart CEOs make more money than the bottom 50 percent of Americans combined.
Wal-Mart cost taxpayers over $400,000 dollars each year per every Wal-Mart store. It is obvious that the Wal-Mart should be paying their workers a living wage so the taxpayers don’t have to.
If we want to get back to an economy where welfare is not needed and to lift people out of poverty, we are going to need to fight to raise the minimum wage; and today that fight is growing. In fact 71 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage according to a 2013 Gallup poll.
Thanks to movements like Occupy Wall Street, and Fight For 15, politicians and Americans are starting to see that more income equality is essential to get back to a healthy and growing economy.