With only 54 votes in favor of raising the minimum wage for the first time in ten years, supporters of the bill came up six-votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate. Arlen Specter (R-PA) voted in favor of the bill, as did all Democrats and the two independents. All of the "no" votes were cast by Republicans.
From Senator Casey's floor statement in favor of the bill:
Mr. President, I rise to speak in support of H.R. 2 which will increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour. I speak today of an issue which I believe is one of economic justice. Those earning this minimum wage have not had an increase in ten years!
Who are these Americans who have not had an increase in years? Most are adults working full-time and 60% are women working to make ends meet, supporting their children. If the minimum wage is raised, six million children will benefit. Recently, the Children’s Defense Fund reported that a single parent working full time at the current wage of $5.15 earns enough to cover only 40% of the cost of raising children.
Those who earn the minimum wage are not people who are connected to the wealthy and the powerful. They don’t have high-paid lobbyists here in Washington advocating for them.
No, these Americans are people who lead quietly triumphant lives of struggle and sacrifice, overcoming hardships and setbacks. They do hard work -- like waitresses carrying heavy trays, on their feet hour after hour even as they dream of a better life for their children. At the end of a long day, they return home exhausted, often after working two jobs. The dignity of their labor gives meaning to their lives but no one, no matter how hard they work, can keep pace with the avalanche of cost increases over the last ten years.
Here are some of those cost increases since 1997:
Congressional pay has risen 24%, which is approximately $31,000. This has occurred while the value of the minimum wage has eroded by 20% The cost of living has risen 26% The cost of food has risen 23% The cost of housing has risen 29% The cost of gas has risen 134% The cost of health care has risen 43%. The average premium for a family of four costs is $10,880, which is more than a minimum wage worker earns in a year.
The cost of raising a child has risen 52% The cost of educating those children has risen 61% The cost of heating a home has risen 120%
So, what we’re talking about here is an issue of economic justice.
There's more on his website, which is finally up and running.
If you're interested in talking points, well, then, there's comedian Rush Limbaugh, on a radio near you every afternoon. For the other 72%:
- Hundreds of Economists Say: Raise the Minimum Wage
- The minimum wage relative to the average wage, 1950-2006
- Minimum wage trends: Understanding past and contemporary research
- Minimum Wage Rises, Sky Does Not Fall (A visit to Washington state, which has the highest minimum wage in the country, reveals a booming economy with none of the problems Big Business had been warning about.)
From a recent New York Times article:
LIBERTY LAKE, Wash., Jan. 9 — Just eight miles separate this town on the Washington side of the state border from Post Falls on the Idaho side. But the towns are nearly $3 an hour apart in the required minimum wage. Washington pays the highest in the nation, just under $8 an hour, and Idaho has among the lowest, matching 21 states that have not raised the hourly wage beyond the federal minimum of $5.15.
Nearly a decade ago, when voters in Washington approved a measure that would give the state’s lowest-paid workers a raise nearly every year, many business leaders predicted that small towns on this side of the state line would suffer.
But instead of shriveling up, small-business owners in Washington say they have prospered far beyond their expectations. In fact, as a significant increase in the national minimum wage heads toward law, businesses here at the dividing line between two economies — a real-life laboratory for the debate — have found that raising prices to compensate for higher wages does not necessarily lead to losses in jobs and profits.
Idaho teenagers cross the state line to work in fast-food restaurants in Washington, where the minimum wage is 54 percent higher. That has forced businesses in Idaho to raise their wages to compete.
Business owners say they have had to increase prices somewhat to keep up. But both states are among the nation’s leaders in the growth of jobs and personal income, suggesting that an increase in the minimum wage has not hurt the overall economy.
“We’re paying the highest wage we’ve ever had to pay, and our business is still up more than 11 percent over last year,” said Tom Singleton, who manages a Papa Murphy’s takeout pizza store here, with 13 employees.