As long as there has been a minimum wage, which began at 25-cents an hour in 1938, its opponents have been arguing that businesses would fail if we set one at all, or ever raised it.
That has not happened. Instead, a U.S. Census Bureau study published in March found that over two decades, increases benefited most low-income workers, especially in the long term, and improved the economy as a whole without causing job losses.
Still, in Missouri, GOP lawmakers have been singing a dirge about all the calamities that would follow a minimum-wage increase for so long that they must be hoarse by now.
After Kansas City and St. Louis raised it anyway, legislators even made it illegal for local governments to set their own minimum wage. But now, on Nov. 6, Missouri voters have a chance to gradually raise the minimum wage from the current sum of $7.85 an hour.
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If you think you could support your family and pay your bills on the $314 a week, or $16,000 a year, that someone working full-time at a minimum-wage job now earns, that makes one of you.
A single person would have to make a little more than $11 an hour just to survive in Kansas City, according to MIT’s living wage calculator. With one child, you’d need to make just over $24 an hour.
That’s why voters in Missouri should by all means vote yes on state ballot Proposition B, which would ever-so-gradually raise the minimum wage, by 85 cents per hour every year until it hits $12 an hour in 2023.
Low-income workers do spend what they make, so this would not only improve the circumstances of roughly a quarter of the state’s workforce, but would boost the state economy, too.
Increases tend to cut turnover, improve productivity, stimulate demand and narrow inequities. Sixty percent of those making the minimum wage are women. And more than 250,000 Missouri children rely on the support of a minimum-wage worker.
Wilson Vance, of Raise Up Missouri, the campaign for Prop B, has said, “I don’t think that anybody wants to live in a world where you can work full-time and wonder where your next meal’s going to come from.”
Opponents don’t see it that way, of course. They insist that increasing the hourly wage by just 85 cents more a year would force employers to cut back on hours, so the increase would wind up hurting those it’s supposed to help. Which is what they’ve been arguing since 1938.