Minimum wage should be raised to cover basic needs

February 22, 2021

The United States congress needs to take action to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. Doing so would benefit American workers by reducing the growing income inequality that has only been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The last time the federal minimum wage changed was over ten years ago, in 2009. It was raised from the previous amount of $6.55 to $7.25 an hour. Since then that number has remained stagnant, all despite increasing costs everywhere else in the economy.

In the years since the last minimum wage change, the prices of expenses like rent, food, school and medical care have all gone up. These are things that people need to be able to afford without going into debt. Anyone working full time should be able to provide these basic needs for them and their dependents. The reality is that being paid $7.25 an hour is simply not enough money to do that anymore.

It is a moral imperative that minimum wage be raised to a more livable sum of fifteen dollars an hour. Bernie Sanders put it simply when he said, “Nobody who works forty hours a week should be living in poverty”.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has compounded income inequality by putting thousands of Americans out of their jobs. According to the United States Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate hit a record fourteen percent at its peak this spring. Many people across the country desperately need economic relief. This can be provided through stimulus checks, but the more long-term solution is to increase minimum wage. Doing so would ease the monetary burdens faced by Americans, which have only deepened in the past months.

Increasing the minimum wage would not only help individual households bounce back, but it would also stimulate the economy. This is because much of the added income would go right back into the economy, benefiting businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic.

To many people, fifteen dollars an hour might seem like a ridiculous demand. But it’s worth asking why our society values the labor of minimum wage workers so little. Minimum wage workers are people, and they deserve to be compensated fairly with a livable paycheck for their work. Anything less allows for companies to exploit their employees.

There is evidence that has shown that a minimum wage increase can improve lives without hurting the economy. For example, Seattle passed a law in 2014 that has gradually raised their minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, and it has largely been a success that has lifted many out of poverty.
The current minimum wage is a reflection of how little this country values the very people who work to keep it running. It’s shameful that many people working full time jobs are not being paid enough to cover living expenses. But it should be remembered that we have the option to change this. Please contact your representatives and let them know what a minimum wage increase would mean to Nebraskans.

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