BURLINGTON, Vt., Dec. 31 – With minimum wages set to go up on New Year’s Day in Vermont and 12 other states, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today renewed his call for an increase in the federal minimum wage.
“States and communities are not waiting for Congress to raise the minimum wage. They are doing the right thing because the simple truth is that working people cannot survive on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $8 an hour or $9 an hour. If people work 40 hours a week, they deserve not to live in dire poverty,” Sanders said.
Wage increases at the state and local level are occurring in Vermont and elsewhere at a time of growing income inequality throughout the United States. In the last several years, 95 percent of all new income went to the top 1 percent. “We need to raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour,” said Sanders. “That’s why I cosponsored legislation which will soon be on the Senate floor.”
Citing an Economic Policy Institute study, Sanders said that boosting the federal minimum wage would generate 85,000 new jobs and increase the take-home pay of Americans by some $35 billion. Sanders also noted that nearly 90 percent of Americans who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage are adults over the age of 20.
Raising the minimum wage also could lower the federal government deficit. Today, for example, nearly half of the children of Wal-Mart associates receive Medicaid benefits or are uninsured. In several states, Wal-Mart has the highest percentage of employees receiving food stamps. “American taxpayers should not have to subsidize the low wages at Wal-Mart to make the store’s owners, already the richest family in America, even richer,” Sanders said.
Some Republicans in Congress not only oppose raising the minimum wage but want to scrap the minimum wage law altogether. Overwhelming numbers of Americans disagree. A new ABC/Washington Post poll showed that two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Sixty-four percent of independents and even 57 percent of Republicans favor increasing the minimum wage, according to a recent CBS News poll.
The real value of the federal minimum wage has fallen by more than 30 percent since 1968. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be more than $10.70 per hour today.