The grueling 2020 Presidential election is finally over, thanks to a record-breaking number of American voters who overwhelmingly rejected President Trump’s divisive agenda in favor of a new direction. As President-elect Biden inherits a nation ravaged by the coronavirus, it’s imperative that he keeps the promise he made during the campaign to put his full support behind the widely popular policy of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour during his first 100 days of office.
American workers are overdue for a salary increase. The minimum wage hasn’t been raised in over 10 years, and the real value of the legal minimum wage has fallen by nearly 15% since then. Although the costs of living rise every year, entry-level minimum wages have remained static. Prior to the COVID crisis, there were precious few places in the United States where a parent earning the minimum wage could afford a two bedroom apartment. Now with more employees out of work and many employees working fewer shifts the situation is even more dire.
The pandemic has pushed millions of working Americans close to financial ruin. While the COVID relief packages from earlier this year helped many workers stay afloat during these challenging times, direct assistance like stimulus checks and expanded unemployment expired months ago. To make matters worse, a disproportionate share of COVID relief benefits went to the top 1% in the form of hidden tax cuts and bailouts for large corporations who used them to increase their own bottom line.
In order to support an economic recovery that doesn’t leave working people behind, the Biden administration must focus their efforts on putting money directly into the hands of those who need it the most. The easiest way to do that is by simply raising the federal minimum wage.
For years some business interests and lawmakers have railed against raising the minimum wage, citing the risks that would befall our economy if we gave millions of working folks a fair share. Now that we’re in the midst of uncertain economic times, we’re likely to hear new versions of the same tired arguments. Perhaps a more relevant question is what benefits would befall our economy if we raised entry-level wages so employees could feed their families on the wages they earn.
The United States is a consumer-driven economy where seventy percent of our annual economic growth comes from consumer spending. If millions of working Americans do not have enough money to spend, then our economic recovery will slow, leaving everyone to suffer. Even the rich will eventually feel the pain, so there’s little reason for the Biden administration to listen to the naysayers.
The new administration can’t rely on the top one percent to save the economy. People like me spend a much higher percentage of our income on investments rather than consumer purchases. That’s why the fuel for our economic recovery comes from increasing the wages of working and middle class Americans. Raising the minimum wage shifts money directly to those whose spending will create the growth we need to get us out of this economic downturn.
Beyond the economic benefits of paying a fair wage, it’s a highly popular message that sells across the country, and the Biden administration would be wise to capitalize on it. Even in right-leaning states like Florida, where President Donald Trump won by nearly half a million votes, over 60 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2, which incrementally increases the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour by 2026. Florida now joins 18 other red and blue states that have raised their minimum wages through ballot measures.
The first 100 days of a new administration set the tone of the next four years of governing, and there are numerous crises facing President-elect Joe Biden. If our new President wants to prove to the voters that they put their trust in the right candidate, he needs to invest in a sustainable economic recovery that benefits everyone and that starts with simply raising the minimum wage.
— John Driscoll, CEO of CareCentrix