Raising CA minimum wage just makes economic sense

Jaime Carrillo

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to increase the minimum wage in California to $10 an hour by 2016 is long overdue, despite accusations of doing such a thing will be a “job killer.”

On Sept. 15, Assembly Bill 10  swept through the Democrat-controlled California Senate and Assembly. Gov. Brown plans to sign it before the Oct. 13 deadline.

It’s happening – that much is certain. The bill will increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour by July 2014, and $10 by 2016.

As of 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates roughly 10.4 million qualify as “working poor,” which it classifies as any poor person who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force, but whose incomes still fell below official poverty level. For California, the stats are even worse.

A study by the Campaign for College Opportunity estimates the state has the highest number of working poor families in the U.S. The $2 boost to the current California minimum wage will help ease the economic woes to countless working men and women.

Still, there are some that don’t want to see the inevitable happen. Business leaders including the California Chamber of Commerce said the bill will kill jobs.

“It’s a feel-good thing – people want the lowest earners to make more money, but it actually accomplishes just the opposite,” said Bob Huff, Republican senate minority leader.

I suppose pulling hard-working students, parents and families out of poverty qualifies as “feel-good” as Sen. Huff said, but it also makes great economic sense.

If a family isn’t making ends meet on their take-home pay alone, they will have to rely on the community to fill in the gaps in the form of food stamps and state subsidized health care. The working poor’s shortfalls will be all of our burden, instead of only employers’.

A surprise to no one, the California Chamber of Commerce included the bill in its yearly “job killers” list. What’s missing in the “it will kill jobs” argument, is just what kind of jobs we’re losing. 

If you pay your workers less than they need to survive then I don’t feel bad if your business fails.

If keeping businesses afloat were the No. 1 priority here, then serfdom would still be all the rage. Remember: the minimum wage in the U.S. was first enacted in the midst of a period in our history called, “The Great Depression.”

The more we de-value the working poor, the more we lose sight about the importance of a minimum wage.

A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found the less purchasing power the working poor has, the more it contributes to an increase in income inequality. It makes common sense: if what one earns working full time isn’t enough to live on, it makes it nearly impossible to climb out of poverty.

Surely, you remember the “Gordon Gecko” decadence of the late ‘80s. It was quite a joy ride, for a very select few.

The best news about this AB 10  is that it could help pull millions of Californians out of poverty.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization that focuses on racial equality in the restaurant industry, put together a study that found raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would have pulled 58 percent of our nation’s working poor out of poverty in 2011. 

The current effort may be too little too late, but it’s a step in the right direction to help a group who is all but ignored in the national discourse.

President Obama stated that he planned to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 in his State of the Union address this February. He has failed to do so thus far.

President Obama also said, “no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty” and I agree. It’s hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you can’t afford them because you’re only making $8 an hour.