A bigger slice of the pie

Letter to the Editor
By Bradford Bowen
Northwest Arkansas Times, Jul 30 2009

The July 24 raise in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour, the last of three such increases enacted by Congress in 2007, will help millions of workers cope with the rising price of food, housing and other basic items. Extra earnings of up to $28 per week could help pay for health care or school supplies, but it won't get many people out of poverty.

It is a blight on our society that people who work hard (many times even two or more jobs) cannot have a standard of living that enables them to live above the poverty level and to be able to pay their bills.

In this time of economic turmoil, the increase in the minimum wage is part of the solution, not the problem, since the extra weekly pay of up to $28 for low-income workers will be spent at neighborhood businesses on basic needs like food, fuel, housing and health care. Numerous studies cited by Let Justice Roll, a nonpartisan coalition of faith, labor and business organizations, demonstrate clearly that increasing the minimum wage is sound business practice and provides a stimulus to local economies.

The minimum wage was enacted during the Great Depression. President Roosevelt called it "an essential part of economic recovery," putting a needed floor under workers' wages and stimulating the economy and job creation by increasing consumer purchasing power. However, the new income floor of $15,080 a year is less than what a corporate CEO at a Standard & Poor's 500 company earns before lunch on any given day.

An economy built on rising greed and debt rather than living wages is a house of cards. While the increase in minimum wage will help many workers, it's just a small crumb of the larger pie that workers are being denied.