Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage: A Meaningful Investment

Raise the Minimum Wage

Raise the Minimum Wage (Photo credit: CT Senate Democrats)

There’s a lot of talk about increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 – including its impact:

  • Approximately 16.5 million low-wage workers would directly benefit from the proposed increase
  • Roughly 900,000 people living below the poverty line would move above the poverty threshold
  • Both low-and-middle-income families’ incomes are projected to rise, 2.8% for the poorest families to .4% for middle-income families
  • Employment would be reduced by about 500,000, or .3% of total employment
  • Wealthy families with an average income of $180,000 can expect a .4%, or $700, reduction

In addition, Kaye Gooch aptly describes the current “Inequality Boom” as it relates to this endeavor in her Eyes Wide Open blog post.

While the pros and cons of increasing the federal minimum wage continue to be weighed, I know there is a “blame the victim mentality,” as explored by Julia Krieger in her Poverty Brain Drain blog post.  Those who do not truly understand poverty wonder, “Why can’t they just pull themselves up ‘by their bootstraps’ to create a better life for themselves and their families?” or some version of that question/statement.

Hearing this, I am reminded of How Poverty Taxes the Brain, a scientific study proving that those living in poverty don’t have the mental bandwidth to exalt themselves financially.  Specifically, this study asserts that “… poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school or search for a new job.”  The reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills.

Knowing how I feel when overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities – I can understand where it’s impossible for people living in poverty to thrive; they are simply doing everything they can to survive.

With this in mind – wouldn’t the benefits of increasing the federal minimum wage extend beyond …  increasing low-and-moderate income families’ incomes and advancing 900,000 people above the poverty lineand begin to make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives?  Investing in people so that they can spend their hard-earned energy being better mothers and fathers, and spouses and partners, and friends and community members?  So they can thrive within Well-communities rather than simply surviving?

What do you think?

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In my role as Project Specialist, I manage numerous virtual trainings and in-person meetings with an excellent track record of organizing and executing seamless events. I am a Wide Angle Youth Media Board Member, a non-profit organization that provides Baltimore youth with media education to their own stories, and serve as the Business Advisory Committee Chair. Read more.