Source: Washington Post
President Obama’s proposed $9.00 minimum wage (by the end of 2015) would still not be a living wage, and would even leave families below the poverty line.
In other words, raising the current minimum of $7.25 an hour by so little does almost nothing to address the problem of rising income inequality in America. If you adjust for inflation (see graph), you see that the minimum was around $10 an hour in current dollars in the late 1960s. Dean Baker:
It is important to realize that this was not always the case. The federal minimum wage was first put in place in 1938. From that year until 1968 when its value peaked, the purchasing power of the minimum wage increased by more than 140 percent. As a result, minimum wage workers saw a sharp increase in their living standards. Over this 30 year period, low wage workers shared in the gains of the economy as a whole as the minimum wage rose in step with productivity growth.
If workers at the bottom had continued to share in the economy’s growth in the years since 1968 as they had in the three decades before 1968, we would be looking at a very different economy and society. If the minimum wage had risen in step with productivity growth it would be over $16.50 an hour today.That is higher than the hourly wages earned by 40 percent of men and half of women.
It’s important to remember that as long as the minimum wage is not a living wage, taxpayers make up some of the difference in terms of social safety net programs like SNAP (food stamps), and low-income rent subsidies. This is, in effect, a gift to employers who pay poverty wages.
The Minimum Wage: Myths & Facts
The latest Census Bureau data shows that one in two Americans currently falls into either the “low income” category or is living in poverty. Low-income is defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level. Adjusted for inflation, the earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have dropped from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000. Earnings for the next 20 percent have been stuck at $37,000.