OOOOk-lahoma, where kicks in the gut for the working poor come sweepin' down the plain

Income Inequality Graph from Robert Reich's New Film, "Inequality for All."

The minimum wage debate seems to be once again raging.

Oklahoma, in what I can only believe was a fit of violent dementia, decided it would be a good idea to outright ban raising the minimum wage.


Not satisfied that this was reactionary enough, apparently, the state also barred any requirements that employees receive any certain number of sick or vacation days, paid or unpaid. (CNN)

Federal minimum wage legislation has stalled, but others of our various states have approved raising it to $10.10 per hour, the rate supported by President Barack Obama.

In our own Ohio, state Reps. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, and Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown, have introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and continue to tie it to cost of living as the state constitution does now. With Republicans controlling both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly as well as every statewide office including governor, this is likely to go nowhere.

The macroeconomics between whether raising the minimum wage costs jobs or provides more money for consumers to consume more can be argued endlessly.

Suffice it to say that a 2013 study by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business (Yes, U of C, Milton Friedman's turf and the premiere hotbed of supply-side delusion) showed that leading economists agreed by a nearly 4 to 1 margin that the benefits of raising and indexing the minimum wage outweigh the costs. (New York Times)

Raising the minimum wage won't have a major impact on the economy, but it will have a major impact for millions of Americans who are working full-time and are lucky if they make $15,000 per year; working Americans who face the fear every day that they are one calamity away from being hurled into bankruptcy. (Economic Policy Institute)

The mega-chains can afford to pay a living wage.

To help small businesses, roll back unnecessary tax breaks and subsidies for insanely profitable multi-national corporations, where they go toward bigger bonuses for stuffed suits at the top competing for the biggest yacht, and funnel them instead toward subchapter S, family-owned small businesses, where they would make a real difference for everyday Americans.

As one small business owner writing about the minimum wage recently explained, "As a small business owner in the restaurant industry, I think a higher minimum wage is great for my business and me… Here's why. A higher minimum wage helps reduce the structural advantages large corporations have over small businesses, and that in turn helps create a context where high-quality independent businesses can thrive by over-delivering compared to our better-capitalized, but mediocre, big competitors." (Slate)

America is richer than ever and productivity is higher than ever. In fact, if minimum wage kept pace with increases in American productivity, it would be a staggering $21.72 per hour, which would amount to over $45,000 per year for a full-time worker.

Even if the minimum wage kept up with inflation since it peaked in real value in the late 1960s, low-wage workers should be earning a minimum of $10.52 an hour, according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

But minimum wage is still only $7.25 an hour, even though two-thirds of Americans support raising it to at least $10 per hour.

We learned between the mid-1930s and the mid-1970s that by investing in America's workers and middle-class we could create widespread prosperity.

We learned between 1980 and today that funneling money toward the top and expecting it to "trickle down" has created the largest wealth and income disparities we've seen since the Gilded Age, while wages for the middle and working classes have stagnated and personal debt has exploded.

It's time to invest in America's workers and middle-class again.

Find Senior Writer David DeWitt on Facebook and Follow on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.

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