While speaking at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) Presidential Candidate Forum at the Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA, John Edwards proposed a further increasing of the federal minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2012. “Raising the minimum wage is one of the most important steps we can take to lift working families out of poverty and into the middle class,” said Edwards. “No one who works full-time should have to live in poverty. If a job takes you away from your family every single day — or for many low-wage workers all through the night — it had better pay you enough to support them. As president, I will raise the minimum wage and put our economy back on the side of working families.”

Edwards also wants to index the minimum wage to the national average wage, so that as average wages go up, so will the minimum. He sees this as an important tool to both help the middle class and fight poverty. He argues that a higher minimum wage would strengthen the middle class and the economy by both giving workers more buying power, and allowing the working poor to support their families with less government aid. The Edwards campaign points out that even with the recent increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour it is still 40% below the average wage. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 79% of those who make minimum wage are adults (Individuals over the age of 20). Of these adults, 1,229,000 are single parents with a child under the age of 18 at home. An estimated 6.4 million children under18 benefit from each minimum wage increase.

I agree with Edwards that the minimum wage does need to be adjusted periodically, maybe not every year as he suggests, but certainly not every decade or more as has been the pattern lately. It would best if we could come with a commission or system that to handle or even set the minimum wage, instead of letting the issue become ideologically politicized in Congress. In the United States, we have an economy that is more non union and service sector based than ever before. Now more than ever workers need more help, not less. As far as the conservative argument that minimum wage increases lead to job losses, I say prove it. Never has a study been done that could directly link an increase in the minimum wage to a decrease in employment.

The argument that an increased minimum wage can lead higher prices is a valid one, and why I have always thought that the minimum wage should be used as tool to help real wages keep up with inflation, instead of a device to redistribute wealth through out the economy. Edwards is on the right track here. Despite all of the calls for economic Armageddon every time the minimum wage goes up a dollar or more, I think that something needs to be done to help the people who ring up your groceries, or your make your coffee in the morning survive in an economy where so few have so much, and so many have so little.

Conservatives want people to pull themselves up by the boot straps, but without opportunity whether it is through education, job training, or higher minimum wages, most people can’t escape the clutches of poverty. Lastly, it is nice to hear one major Democratic candidate talk about an issue that matters to most Democrats. Whether we want to face it or not, more people are going to be entering the service sector and bringing home less money in the future. So while Obama is out restoring hope, and Clinton is busy pretending to be a Democrat, at least one candidate is talking about an issue that matters to millions of people every day.

EPI

Edwards press release

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse 

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