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Why Raising the Minimum Wage is Good for Everyone [OPINION]

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Apparently the President hasn’t forgotten about his State of the Union call to raise the minimum wage. We haven’t heard much about raising the federal standard since February, so it was nice to hear it come back up in his recent economic policy speech. Obama is calling for a new minimum to be set at $9 an hour.

Closer to home, South Dakota Democrats have proposed an initiated measure that would raise the state minimum to $8.50 an hour and peg it to inflation after that. Tying the minimum wage to inflation is an awfully good idea.

Despite the fact that raising the minimum wage is tremendously popular, recent national polls show it having around 80% support, it doesn’t happen very often either nationally or here in South Dakota. Hopefully Congressional Democrats decide to take a page from their South Dakotan brethren and put an inflation clause into the national legislation.

If the Democrats’ idea does finally get onto the South Dakota ballot, you can expect the opposition to bring out the big guns to try to prevent it from passing. The prospect of perpetual yearly increases in the minimum wage will not sit well with people who pad the bottom line and line their pockets by paying their employees as little as possible.

Those business owners are likely to contribute a bit of that largesse to keep exploitation alive and well, so the airwaves and mailboxes will be flooded with all the well-worn myths about the minimum wage. We may as well dispel a few of them right now.

Minimum wage jobs are not just for teenagers. It fluctuates from year to year, but about 50% of the people making minimum wage are over age 25. More importantly, about 25% of all workers in the US make $10 an hour or less.

When the minimum wage goes up, these people tend to get raises as well. More money in the hands of 25% of our population means a lot more spending, and ultimately a healthier economy.

Minimum wage jobs are not just a holding station for people who will eventually realize they need to go to community college, find better jobs and eventually earn more. Supporter that I am of getting an education, we need to realize that even if everyone currently making less than $10 an hour went and got a college degree tomorrow, it would not mean that there would be good paying jobs waiting on them.
Again, it changes from year to year, but around a quarter of people being paid very low wages have finished a degree of some sort, but haven’t been able to find better employment. There is always a need to fill positions in the low wage end of the service sector, and a nation full of college graduates would only mean more highly educated order takers working drive thru windows and waiting for something to open up in their field.

At $7.25 an hour, a full time employee makes around $14,500 a year. Running it up to $9 would only increase that to about $18,000. That is still a number that is well below the federal poverty guidelines for a family of four, but at the very least, a two parent household would stand a decent chance of paying for rent, daycare, and having a car.

That is what this debate is all about; making sure that anyone who puts in a forty hour work week can afford the basics at a minimum.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossom and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.

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