The Times West Virginian

February 24, 2013

Would increase in minimum wage help working poor?

By Misty Poe
Times West Virginian

— In West Virginia, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. For a 40-hour work week, that equates to $15,080 per year.

For a family of just two being supported by that minimum wage, that falls under the federal poverty level.

Let’s say that wage was increased to $9 per hour. The full-time, annual salary before taxes would be $18,720. That’s nearly a 20 percent increase.

And it was a surprise move when President Barack Obama declared his desire to see that increase in his State of the Union address earlier this month.

“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour,” Obama said. “This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead.”

Some have lauded the president for backing the working poor. Some have question whether the increase would mean fewer jobs ... like 20 percent fewer jobs. Others have proposed that the increase would mean an immediate inflation of goods and services to accommodate the increase.

Their point is why not make minimum wage $1,000 per hour because the cost of everything will incrementally increase, making an increase meaningless.

Our favorite response is kind of in the middle of the road, coming from Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics as told to the California Economy Reporting publication.

“You hear lots of, I think, really aggressive points of view on both sides of the fence, and they’re both highly exaggerating the situation,” Thornberg said. “On one side of the fence, you have those in favor of raising it that claim it’s such a wonderful thing. You even have some clowns at Berkeley that have their so-called papers, where some way or another raising the minimum wage will increase employment, which begs the question if it’s that easy, why don’t we raise it to $1,000 an hour? It’s preposterous how they twist it out of proportion.

“On the other side of the fence, those against it scream it will destroy small businesses and make unemployment rates go sky high. I don’t think it’s going to destroy businesses by any stretch of the imagination. If going from eight to nine dollars an hour bankrupts you, you have other problems,” Thornberg said.

So, will the economy crash? Will workers get their fair share? We will be in the same situation that we are today?

Tough questions, which is exactly why we took it to our savvy readers who log on each week to vote in our online poll question found at www.timeswv.com. Last week we asked “President Barack Obama proposed increasing the minimum wage to $9 in his State of the Union address last week. Do you support the measure?”

And here is what you had to say.

• Maybe, as long as it doesn’t cause the inflation in costs of goods and services — 8.33 percent

• Yes! It’s time that working families get a break — 40 percent

• No! It will be a huge hit for small businesses and higher wages mean fewer jobs — 51.67 percent

Since at this point it is just a presidential proposal and the Lord knows not much gets out of Congress these days, we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, speaking of party politics and lack of getting anything done, this week let’s talk about the real possibility of sequestration if Congress doesn’t come up with a plan before March 1.

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV