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Washington Post

The Long Wait for an Increased Minimum Wage

It's been 10 years since Congress raised the wage, the longest wait in American History

Posted on
Jun 19, 2019

It has been a decade since President Barack Obama signed an increase to the Federal Minimum Wage. According to the Washington Post, this is the longest such gap in American history. Find out what is being done to change this and why it is important in the story below from the Washington Post.

America has now gone longer without an increase in the federal minimum wage than at any point in the law’s eight-decade history.

In July 2009, almost 10 years ago, the federal minimum wage rose from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 an hour. Since then, Congress has not approved any additional hikes, with Republican lawmakers generally rejecting Democrats’ attempts to raise the minimum wage.

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said he and President Trump have not discussed the administration’s position on raising the federal minimum wage. Trump has backed a number of positions on the minimum wage, saying at one point during the 2016 presidential campaign that he supported significantly increasing it and at others that he would not lift it.

Twenty-nine states have passed state minimum wages that are higher than the federal baseline, while in the other 21 the federal minimum prevails. Republican-controlled states are less likely to have passed minimum wage hikes, although voters in conservative-led states such as Arkansas have approved higher minimum wages through ballot initiatives.

“We’ve had Congress upon Congress that can’t get it done, so we’re stuck with this shameful number,” said Judy Conti, government affairs director for the National Employment Law Project, which advocates a higher federal minimum wage.

Experts say the recent strong run of U.S. economic growth over the past several years bolsters the case for raising the minimum wage, given that businesses are better positioned to survive the rise in costs than they are during a downturn. Wages have begun rising for U.S. workers as low unemployment improves their bargaining power, but some economists argue they would increase even faster with minimum wage hikes.

The “effective” minimum wage — the average wage being paid to all minimum wage workers — has surged to $12 an hour, largely due to state and local governments’ hikes, according to a report in the New York Times by an economist who served in the Treasury Department under President Barack Obama. But about 700,000 minimum-wage workers, in areas that have not passed state or local increases, are still paid $7.25 an hour, the report said.

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