Recently, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a plan to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour later this year and raise it gradually over the next six years until it reaches $15 per hour in 2025. This immediately brought consternation from the many economic “experts” who frequent the various Washington County social media sites. However, most of these arguments repeat longtime falsehoods that have not been found to actually happen and do not follow supply and demand principles.
To create economic growth, we need to put money into the hands of those who will reinvest it into the economy. This is the opposite of “trickle-down economics” and is exactly what raising the minimum wage will do. People who work minimum-wage jobs are not looking to put money into savings or to buy stocks. They are looking to spend money on necessities such as food, clothing and shelter.
Over half of minimum-wage earners are over the age of 25. These are people looking to provide for themselves and their families, and the current minimum wage does not allow workers the chance to further their education or even switch jobs if better opportunities present themselves. Minimum-wage earners also qualify for many government assistance programs. Raising the minimum wage can help many of these people get off these programs and become more self-reliant.
Many will argue that minimum-wage hikes will cause negative side effects such as job losses and rising prices, but studies have shown that in states that have already raised their rates, this has not been the case. And many large companies, such as Walmart and Target, have already raised their minimum pay so that they can recruit more qualified, and happier, workers who will tend to stay at their jobs longer, reducing employee turnover and the costs associated with training new workers.
Come April, the federal minimum wage will not have been raised for 10 years, which will be the longest period in our nation’s history. This has been a recurring theme over the past 40 years as corporations have fought against wage hikes to protect corporate profits. Many states have taken it upon themselves to raise their own minimum wage, including every state that borders Pennsylvania. It is past time for this state to do the same and become a leader in economic growth instead of a follower.
Ben Bright is chairman of the Washington County Democratic Committee.