Minimum Wage
7:00 am
Thu December 5, 2013

State Should Care About Minimum Wage

Credit Tom Chalkley

State Should Care About Minimum Wage

President Obama spoke yesterday about those Americans who “work their tails off” while earning barely a pittance. The $7.25 minimum wage today, he said, helps workers put bread on the table less than it did in President Harry Truman’s time, when the hourly minimum was forty cents. Obama's proposing a phased-in bump from $7.25 to $10.

Mr. Obama declared the income disparity in America the issue of our time.  Obamacare had seemed to hold that distinction, but if the rollout smoothes out, the subject will get the attention the nation’s future demands.

If spending drives the economy, poverty and a disappearing middle class are a threat to us all.

Still, does anyone think the President’s bid to raise the minimum wage has a chance of passage? The Republican-majority in the House will, in all likelihood, block it. Perhaps, their leaders will explain once again why making even a little more money will hurt workers. Perhaps, they will explain why some Americans who work for a living remain eligible for food stamps – and, by the way, why it’s a good idea to cut the food stamp program. Perhaps they will offer an alternative.

And what is Maryland’s response? Governor O’Malley apparently wants to raise the minimum to...he hasn’t given a figure. His proposal, whatever it is, will face encounter headwinds even in a very blue state.

This legislative session is the last one before the next election. Some lawmakers will want to help their low-wage constituents. But the assembly faces another year with an imbalance between expected revenue and already-committed spending.

The year 2015 might be easier politically. But, of course, the needs of families are not arriving year by year. Their needs are now.

Your comments are welcome at fsmith@wypr.org.