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Minimum Wage Hikes Are No-Brainers

You’d be hard pressed to find a New Yorker who thinks a full-time adult worker can survive in this state on $7.25 an hour. In a state with as high a cost of living as New York, this would be a laughable concept, if the consequences weren't so serious.

Raising New York’s minimum wage has seemed like a no-brainer for decades. New York State’s minimum wage stands right now at $7.25 an hour. This meager amount is after five increases since 2000, the last one having taken effect in 2009. 

If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would be nearly $10 an hour. Clearly, the New York State Assembly’s announcement that they would fight for a proposal to raise the minimum wage to a “generous” $8.50 an hour is hardly the drastic plan some would want you to believe.

Groups who lobby against raising our shameful minimum wage in the Empire State argue that a minimum wage hike will undermine “policies that encourage job growth and make New York a more business-friendly state.”

This argument against minimum wage hikes flies in the face of arguments made by Nobel Laureates and six past presidents of the American Economic Association. These leaders joined hundreds of other economists to explain definitively that a higher minimum wage will “significantly improve the lives of low income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed.”

In fact, Demos’ work on minimum wage issues has warned that we need to raise the minimum wage if we hope to boost consumer spending. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, every $1.00 in wage increase for a minimum wage worker results in over $3,200 in new consumer spending by his or her household over the following year.

In the end, it’s a simple question of reality. It’s not possible for New Yorkers to survive on the current minimum wage. It will still be a serious struggle if this measure passes through the notoriously labyrinthine legislative process in Albany. But like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver explained rather bluntly this week, "Frankly, it is absurd to expect anyone - let alone a working family - to afford the cost of living today and be able to invest in their future on a salary of $7.25 an hour; or $15,000 a year.”