By Rep. Bruce Braley
If you wake up every day and go to work at a tough, full-time job, you shouldn’t come home and find your family living in poverty. But that’s the reality tens of thousands of Iowans face — and it’s because of the fact that the minimum wage is no longer a living wage.
After hearing from Iowans who are struggling to make ends meet despite working full-time jobs, I began some research into how the purchasing power of the current minimum wage compares to where it has been in the past. I recently issued a report of our findings.
The numbers are disturbing. In the last 45 years, we’ve seen a more than 30 percent reduction in the purchasing power of the minimum wage — which means a $7,000 reduction in purchasing power over that period. This mirrors almost perfectly the 30 percent increase in the stock market just last year. While a robust stock market is something we all can celebrate, it’s critically important that our policies and priorities focus on providing stability and opportunity for all Iowans.
That’s why I support a proposal that would restore the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. This increase would restore the purchasing power of the minimum wage — and have a real-world impact on hundreds of thousands of hardworking Iowans — especially women who make up nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers. A single parent of one who works a full-time minimum wage job lives in poverty with his or her child. This increase would ensure that same family is no longer below the poverty line and can have some of the basic economic security that a full-time job should entail.
This proposal also would index the minimum wage to inflation, ensuring that in the months and years to come, we won’t need to have the same conversation about the living standards of our full-time workers. For 45 years the minimum wage has been a political football kicked around at the whim of Congress, and making this change finally will end this political game.
This common-sense approach isn’t just about the 46,000 Iowans making at or below the minimum wage. When this law passes, more than a quarter-million Iowans will see an increase in their paychecks — a difference that would have ripple effects through our economy and a real-world impact on every Iowa community.
Our economic recovery has benefited Wall Street, with incomes for higher income earners now even higher than they’ve ever been. But that success hasn’t been broadly shared, and too many Iowa families continue to struggle to make ends meet. These families aren’t looking for a handout from the government, they’re looking for a little economic fairness.
In the coming year I’ll be doing everything I can to win support for this proposal.
Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, a native of Brooklyn, Iowa, represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District and is a candidate for U.S. Senate. Comments: http://braley.house.gov/contact