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No Longer Getting By: An Increase in the Minimum Wage is Long Overdue

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Abstract:

Full-time workers who put in a full day's work should receive enough wages to purchase the goods and services necessary to meet their most basic needs. The federal minimum wage, originally passed as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, was established to ensure that low-income workers earn sufficient wages.

The purpose of the minimum wage then, as now, was to lift the earnings of low-wage workers by preventing market forces from driving down the wages of the least-educated and the least-skilled workers in the labor force. The minimum wage accomplishes this goal by establishing an hourly wage floor beneath which employers cannot legally pay their workers. The current minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, and Congress has not increased this rate in seven years--the second-longest stretch of government inaction since the minimum wage was enacted in 1938.

As a result, millions of hard-working Americans who earn at or near the minimum wage simply do not have the resources to provide for themselves and their families. A long-overdue minimum wage increase can not come soon enough for low-wage workers who are struggling in this weak labor market.