COMMENTARY | The Associated Press reports Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney supports automatically adjusting the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation. The federal minimum wage was enacted in 1938 and last changed in 2007, though individual states can make their minimum wages higher. Since June 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour.
Critics of linking minimum wage to inflation, including Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, argue this stance would cost too much money and force employers to hire fewer workers, thereby increasing unemployment. I disagree on principle.
Without linking the federal minimum wage to inflation and cost-of-living increases you cannot guarantee the minimum wage to be a livable wage. In a deadlocked Congress devoid of bipartisan workability, it might be many years before the minimum wage is raised, allowing rampant inflation to chip away at the value of poor Americans' paychecks.
Linking minimum wage to inflation for automatic increases guarantees workers will not suffer unduly while a gridlocked Congress avoids raising the minimum wage even as cost-of-living skyrockets.
While I do not deny more people might be employed if the minimum wage was never raised, what good is it to employ millions under unlivable wages? This would create an era of neo-industrial capitalism, where workers labor for excessive hours for bare-bones wages.
If people think $7.25 an hour is unlivable now, what about in 10 years as costs do nothing but increase? Workers will have to toil for more hours per day, exhausting themselves and tearing apart families as the breadwinners become overburdened and depressed.
If 2 million people can be employed for $5 per hour while only 1 million people can be employed for $10 per hour, you still have 2 million people who can never hope to break the cycle of poverty. They are being abused by the system. Conservative arguments that "at least more people have a bit of money rather than none at all" are insulting to human dignity.
The American worker deserves his or her dignity, so let us applaud Romney for his appropriate view on minimum wage laws.
- minimum wage