Increasing the minimum wage, both in Massachusetts and the United States, is a cause whose time may have come. Last year’s protests by underpaid fast-food workers kick-started it and an economy that remains sluggish for everyone except the wealthy has built momentum. The roadblock to an act that would benefit the economy, not just underpaid workers, is, predictably enough, politics.
U.S. Representative Richard Neal observed while in Great Barrington Wednesday that the only reason House Republican leadership won’t vote on a hike in the minimum wage is because of the certainty that it will pass. Once again, democracy in inaction in Washington. Prospects are better in Massachusetts, where last year the state Senate passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour this year and push it to $11 an hour in 2016 before indexing it to inflation after that. The congressman endorsed that approach to minimize the impact on the business community.
It is to the nation’s shame that many hard-working Americans don’t make a sustainable wage. If they did they would not have to rely upon food stamps and other forms of public assistance, as do so many service workers. In turn, this would lower the amount of money government spends on a safety net for the poor and low-income workers. If these Americans have more money to spend as consumers it also gives a needed boost to businesses.
In a column in The Eagle Monday, David Brooks of the New York Times argued that fundamental issues like education and family structures must be addressed before the minimum wage, and while Mr. Brooks has a point that is not an excuse for inaction. Some issues defy easy resolution -- this one does not.