One hundred and thirty-eight. That is the number of hours that one must work in New Jersey today, at minimum-wage salary, to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. This represents a central reason as to why the minimum wage must be raised.
The United States has always been known as a land of opportunity. By raising the minimum wage, the opportunities for millions of Americans will broaden. According to economist James Galbraith, if the national minimum wage was raised, the incomes of 28 million Americans would increase. The U.S. would be helping the many struggling families trying to make a better life for themselves and their children.
If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation over the last 40 years the minimum wage would be $10.74 per hour but today the minimum wage (both nationally and in New Jersey) is $7.25 per hour for non-tip workers and $2.13 per hour for tipped workers. On these wages, a person could work full time but would still qualify for government aid such as food stamps or Medicaid.
The poverty level for a family of 2 in 2013 is $15,510 a year. A single mother with a child working minimum wage full time would only make $15,080 a year. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said, “Hardworking men and women who are busting their tails in full-time jobs shouldn’t be left in poverty.”
People may say that if a person works harder and goes to college, then he or she would not have to live in poverty. But even if everyone worked hard and received a college education, someone would still need to wait on tables, work at a cash register or sell fast food.
The American dream promises social mobility. But countless Americans are just trying to feed their families and afford basic housing, let alone climb the social ladder.
Many people oppose an increase in minimum wage believing that it will hurt employment. The minimum wage in Australia is nearly $15.69 USD and the national unemployment rate is only 5.6%. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is 7.3%. Raising the minimum wage helps business because it allows workers to spend more money in the economy. A 2013 survey by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business showed that leading economists agree by a nearly 4 to 1 margin that the benefits of raising and indexing the minimum wage outweigh the costs. Indexing of minimum wage – automatically adjusting it annually to reflect changing costs of living- is the already the policy in ten U.S. states. Raising the minimum wage is important to helping millions of Americans today trying to achieve the American dream.