By Andy Garfunkel
CT House candidate
To the Editor,
I’m proud to live in a state that has raised the minimum wage to help hard-working people make ends meet and not be a burden on the taxpayers. It is the right thing, the moral thing, the decent thing to do. And it can be a selfish thing to do. It is also a solid way to stimulate the economy. When I get to Hartford, I will make sure to peg the minimum wage to productivity. Let me tell you why and how this needs to be done.
When instituted in 1938, the federal minimum wage was 25 cents an hour, at a time when you could buy a loaf of bread for a nickel. Since then, inflation has pushed up wages and prices, but up to the mid- ’70’s, wages stayed ahead of inflation, and worker productivity soared. It was the heyday of the great American Middle Class. However, during the last 30 years, real wages sagged below inflation, until last year they fell below 1968 levels! Today, minimum wage workers would starve, if not for food stamps.
During the last 40 years, American workers’ productivity had doubled, yet their average real wages consistently fell behind the levels they had once enjoyed. Today, America is far richer, but the inflation-adjusted wages of non-supervisory workers in retail trade have fallen by almost 30 percent since 1973. They are not treading water, they are drowning!
At the same time, top management increasingly rewarded itself with enormous salaries. By 2007, the top one percent accounted for almost 25 percent and the top ten percent about 50 percent of all income. Huge income advances for the people at the top, loss of income for those on the bottom. The rewards for increasing productivity is taken by those on top and seized from the rest of the working population. To give you an idea of the disconnect between those on the top and those on the bottom, in 2012, a “bad” year for hedge funds, the 40 top fund managers and traders made more money combined than the combined wages of 400,000 ordinary workers.
The opposition has stated that raising the minimum wage by 75 cents over two years will hurt small businesses and will cost jobs. I disagree.
There is overwhelming evidence from controlled studies that increases in minimum wages have no negative effects on low-wage jobs and put money in the pockets of workers. The higher minimum wages reduce worker turnover, benefiting both workers and employers. And it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. We’re talking about 70,000 to 90,000 hard-working Nutmeggers getting $18 more a week to spend on groceries and other necessities. Compare this to the hedge fund managers “earning” $100,000 a day.
Minimum-wage workers spend what they earn. That leads to increased economic growth – the kind that benefits all wage-earning employees. I’m talking trickle up, not trickle down.
The impact of this additional spending will stimulate the economy, not by a huge amount, but significantly. Connecticut’s target wage is $9 by 2015. Also, the hike in wages will help workers avoid having to use our tax dollars to make ends meet. That’s a selfish reason for supporting a minimum wage.
We would be recovering lost tax revenue rather paying taxes for welfare.
I am not suggesting that we peg the minimum wage in Connecticut (or the nation, for that matter) to productivity on a 1-to-1 basis, but I propose a graduated, weighted formulation so that in ten years that goal can be achieved. This would amount to a huge stimulus of our economy, meaning more profits for businesses, less churning in our work force, and fewer taxes spent on welfare. It is a win-win situation, that all of us, regardless of party, can be proud of.
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