Furman noted that the minimum wage is effectively lower on an inflation-adjusted basis than it was in 1950. At that time, it was worth $7.28 in today’s dollars.
Critics of increasing the minimum wage point out that for many low-wage workers, wages are much higher than the mandated minimum. That is because of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which boosts wages for workers at the bottom of the pay scale.
Opponents also argue that minimum wage prevents some of the least skilled, least educated, and least experienced workers from participating in the labor market because it discourages employers from hiring them.
“Let’s be clear: our federal minimum wage of just $7.25, which has not budged in more than four years, is now a poverty wage. No American who works a full-time job should have to struggle to put food on the table or pay the bills,” Harkin said. “All around the country, we’re seeing the impact of growing income inequality and stagnant wages on millions of American families. Raising the minimum wage will help narrow the income gap and enable millions of low-wage working Americans to make ends meet.”
Harkin said the Senate will take up the bill sometime this month. The issue is likely to get more attention throughout the year so Republicans who oppose the increase will have time “to change their mind,” he added.
Miller recognized the challenge of getting a vote on the bill in the House this year, but he was confident more Republicans would support the legislation in the coming months and that public pressure could compel Congress to hold a vote.
“If you want to continue to burn your brand,” he said, “stay opposed to the minimum wage because you’re going to burn it with a big cross-section of Middle America.”