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Will raising minimum wage help or hurt low-income employees?

Staff Report • Mar 18, 2013 at 9:33 AM

In his State of the Union speech last month, President Barack Obama called for raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. The president said the hike would offer dignity and opportunity to the 8 million working Americans who still live below the poverty line.

“Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line,” Obama said. “That’s wrong.”

Writing in U.S. News & World Report, Mark Adams — a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University — suggested Congress should “follow the president’s intent and not his policy.” Adams said that if “Congress and the president want to help the poor, they should start by eliminating regulations that redistribute away from the poorest families.”

He also wrote: “The minimum wage is more likely to hurt the people it is supposed to help by making it harder for them to find jobs.”

In an Op/Ed piece that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on March 10, Andy Stern, a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Richman Center, and Carl Camden, president and CEO of Kelly Services, argued that such opposition to raising the minimum wage is nonsense.

“Currently, an individual with a full-time job at the minimum wage and a family of three to support will fall below the federal poverty line,” the two noted. “These workers, despite putting in regular hours, are struggling to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families.

“By allowing the minimum wage to remain at a nearly unlivable level, we have deemed certain jobs not worthy enough to meet even our country’s minimum standard of living.”

The national minimum wage was last hiked in 2007 when President Bush signed into law a compromise bill from Congress to increase pay in three steps. The federal minimum wage was finally raised to its current $7.25 an hour in 2009.

The last wage hike impacted an estimated 13 million Americans, or about 9 percent of the total work force.

Tell us what you think. Will raising the minimum wage actually help or hurt low-income employees?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com.

Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification purposes. We will print responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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