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Community Voices: Raising the minimum wage for a real recovery

Eli Markham | 12/27/2011, 5:26 p.m.

Unfortunately, conservatives in Congress have decided to focus on the debt instead of the economy — the equivalent of mowing the lawn while your roof is on fire — and the large fiscal stimulus the country needs faces strong opposition in the House of Representatives. State governments, most of which are constitutionally mandated to run a balanced budget, are likewise unable to spend.

But there’s a policy tool that costs the government nothing and could get the economy moving again: the minimum wage. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 would generate more than $60 billion in new consumer spending.

Without some help, American workers can’t get themselves out of this hole, and each month we delay sees greater numbers of American workers losing their employment, more families depending on low-wage jobs, and greater numbers of American children going hungry.

If we want to help Main Street recover, we should raise the minimum wage. Even if we are politically unable to do so at the federal level, raising the minimum wage state by state would still make a great difference.

Eli Markham is a researcher with The National Employment Law Project.