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Why America’s minimum wage is failing millions

America has not raised its minimum wage in 11 years, while the cost of living rises steadily. And tucked away in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package bill, presented by President Biden this week, was a section that would have raised the US Federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2025. However, it was removed from the bill in the Senate based on the advice of the Senate Parliamentarian. Now, Americans might be one step closer to getting a Covid-19 stimulus, but they are far from getting a vitally needed liveable minimum wage.

The $15 minimum wage attached to the White House sponsored bill could not be passed via the budget resolution that had been used to fast track it. Senator Sander’s proposal to amend the bill, to once again include a gradual $2.25 increase to the minimum wage over the next four years, was voted down 42 – 58. The bill did eventually pass through the Senate in a completely partisan 50-49 vote. In this scenario, House Democrats and President Biden saying they will approve a bill without the wage increase included makes sense. Helping people now, in the middle of a pandemic, outweighs future long term economic provisions. But, if he is going to cave to the power of the GOP and moderate Democrats for weeks to come, Biden won’t get this or any of his election pledges passed. 

What is the point in giving the Democrats power if they’re not going to use it to achieve their electoral pledges? 

President Biden might be trying to reunite the nation and end partisan politics, but the Republican Party did not spend the past four years afraid to exert any power they held. The new administration needs to show they are not going to back down. If they don’t, we have to ask – what is the point in giving the Democrats power if they’re not going to use it to achieve their electoral pledges? 

Democrats need to be unrelenting with the proposal of an increase to minimum wage. Midterm talk will start to circulate by the end of the year, and they are likely to lose control of the House of Representatives in 2022 as it performs a predictable flip to the party in opposition to the president’s. Biden probably has very few months left where he commands both the House and Senate. He knows this, the Republicans know this. He needs to try and pass the bill sooner rather than later while he still has some power. 

Sanders also promises that it will not be the last time a minimum wage increase is voted on but it will take Democrats to stand up and support it. The idea that the wealthiest nation on the planet pays those working minimum wage professions a salary that barely makes ends meet shows Democratic failures to challenge Republican fiscal conservatism that leave millions suffering. 

Democrats need to be unrelenting with the proposal of an increase to minimum wage

The rationale underpinning arguments against an increased wage is that providing for citizens means they won’t be motivated to seek out jobs and become reliant on government support. This should be completely void in the US, where Americans remain wedded to the goal of self-sufficiency. No one wants to be seen as reliant on the big, bad federal government. Through giving people the means to pay rent, bills, health insurance, buy clothes and put food on the table – the bare minimum for survival – there is no detriment to the nation. Americans are still going to work, just get a decent return for the hours they’re putting in. Companies are still going to set up in the US mainly due to an abundance of other lax labour laws and low taxation. Smaller businesses will be able to pay staff because more people would be in a situation to have disposable income to go and spend it at said businesses.

Americans on minimum wage, working one 40-hour per week job, float precariously above the federal poverty line. 30 million people were estimated to benefit from the raise to minimum wage, with many of those some of the worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and job losses. A rise is long overdue. It is frustrating that both short term and long-term support couldn’t be achieved simultaneously for some of the most economic vulnerable Americans. But it will be interesting to see at what point those in power realise you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you can’t afford bread, yet alone boots.

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