Thursday, June 19, 2014

163.6 - Update: Even the IMF says "raise the minimum wage"

Update: Even the IMF says "raise the minimum wage"

We've got what can be considered an update, a follow-up, to something from last week.

Last week I reported on the good news that some states and cities have finally responded to the lack of action on the federal level and have acted to increase the minimum wage in their jurisdictions.

Still, as I said then, the federal minimum wage remains a paltry $7.25 an hour. How low is that? If it had been adjusted for inflation on a regular basis, it would be at least $10.68 an hour. If it had kept up with increases in worker productivity, it would be close to $22 an hour. Instead, it is one of the lowest among the world's developed economies.

In fact, it's so low that the US is starting to get shamed by the rest of the world.

On June 16, the International Monetary Fund came out with its latest economic forecasts. It cut its forecast for US economic growth this year and warned of sluggish growth for years to come - and said one of the things that should be done to improve things would be to raise the minimum wage. Quoting the report:
[G]iven its current low level (compared both to U.S. history and international standards), the minimum wage should be increased. This would help raise incomes for millions of working poor and (help) ensure a meaningful increase in after-tax earnings for the nation’s poorest households.
Of course, the after-tax earnings for the nation’s poor means nothing to the rich as long as their after-tax earnings continue to increase. Which is doubtless part of the reason why that just eight days after Seattle enacted legislation that will raise the minimum wage there to $15 an hour over several years, a lobbying group representing major employers like McDonald’s and Taco Bell filed suit, asking the courts to repeal the legislation.

Some of the suit's arguments are laughably frivolous, such as the claim that it violates the employers' First Amendment rights of free speech because it could reduce the amount of money they have to advertise - which of course would mean any cost imposed on a business would be unconstitutional on the same basis.

There's too much in this suit for me to talk about here, but I may come back to it and its arguments because one commentator called those arguments "an attempt to repeal the 20th century." Which probably wouldn't surprise anyone who remembers that right wing darling George Will once wrote that "'Back to 1900' is a serviceable summation of the conservatives' goal."

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