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Raising the minimum wage

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The White House effort to raise the minimum wage nearly three dollars-an-hour over the next two years has drawn huge criticism from the right.

But our Tom Van Howe, who tonight is back in his corner, says once you get past the rhetoric, a wage hike for some of our poorest people is an idea that's long overdue.

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Are there problems with this new wage proposal? Sure. There are with any new law.

But getting straight to the heart of the matter: getting by--assuming you're working full-time--on less than $15,000 a year is no picnic. This proposed wage hike would put a substantial amount of cash--something like $100 a week--in the pockets of more than 16 million workers.

It would move roughly a million people out of poverty.

And guess what those workers will do with that extra money? They'll spend it. They'll pump billions of new dollars back in to local markets.

One writer for a national magazine says those billions don't mean that much in our $17-trillion dollar economy; that it's hardly worth the effort.

He's missing the point.

It would mean working people, young and old, would get a 30 percent wage increase. These are working people. These are not people on the dole. We're not talking about handouts or welfare fraud.

And while twenty grand a year is hardly the American dream, it's a step toward dignity...Toward a tiny bit of breathing room.

Republicans are citing a Congressional Budget Office report that says a wage increase will cost us a million jobs.

Well, that's not quite what it said. The CBO report was vague and said the hike could cause the loss of somewhere between none and a million jobs. Many economists are leaning toward the White House view that job loss will be at the low end of the spectrum.

Some job loss is probably inevitable. It'll push some employers to cut back, others to accelerate automation. But that'll happen eventually anyway.

And before you absorb all the anti-wage hike rhetoric, take a closer look at the growing disparity between the people we're talking about here and the incredibly rich.

  • Even at $10.10 an hour, the U.S. minimum wage will be lower after adjustments for inflation that it was in 1975.

  • The 85 richest people on earth have the same amount of wealth as the lower half of the world's population.

  • Those 85 people are just a handful of the richest one percent who have 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population. Sixty-five times!

  • American corporations have more than $2 trillion tucked away in off-shore and foreign banks to avoid the reach of the IRS. Actually, its probably more than that. We don't know for sure.

  • In this country, since the start of the recovery four years ago, 95 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent. No trickle down. They got two great tax cuts in the last decade, but nothing trickled down.

  • CEO's are still taking home 300 times the earnings of the average worker.

So can someone please give me a convincing argument that those who struggle most don't deserve $2.85 an hour more than they're getting now?

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

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