Raise the minimum wage in Iowa and U.S.

Five dollars and fifteen cents. That’s about how much it would cost to buy a relatively good meal at a fast food restaurant in Ames, and also how much an individual would make each hour working at minimum wage in Iowa. At first, this doesn’t seem too bad. Out of the 12-15 hours the average full-time single minimum wage earner works per day, two to three of those hours would be devoted toward food. But suppose it’s a four-person family who runs on a single hourly minimum wage job instead of an individual. The time spent working for food multiplies by four, resulting in almost an entire day devoted to keeping the family somewhat healthy. Where does that leave time for paying off bills, buying shoes and clothing, or trying to stay warm in harsh Iowa winters? It doesn’t. Iowa currently follows the minimum wage Congress denoted as a price floor in 1997—five dollars and fifteen cents. Since then, 19 states have increased their own minimum wages by at least a dollar, with more than half of those states increasing by $1.50 or more. The reason? Rising inflation. According to the Iowa Policy Project, the real value of the federal minimum wage has decreased by 17 percent since it was first enacted in 1997 due to inflation. Additionally, a family of three with a single minimum wage earner made only about 65 percent of the poverty level in 2005, whereas in 1969, the same family structure would have earned about 114 percent of the poverty level. If minimum wages had risen at the same rate as inflation since then, the current wage would be set at $8.88 per hour, a drastic increase from the federal wage now. Though the statistics make a rise in both the state and federal minimum wage a blatantly obvious solution to the large population currently living below the poverty line, the economic idea of increased wages causing fewer workers to be hired has been a hurdle in the eyes of many policy makers. If this concept were entirely true, a raise in the minimum wage would actually cause many people to lose their jobs altogether as firms accommodated for their increased expenditures. However, many studies have shown that a small rise in minimum wage will not have an effect on the loss of jobs, and instead may actually boost job growth in urban areas. Thus, this reason for not increasing the minimum wage is no longer substantiated. The newly Democratic Iowa Congress has said that raising the state minimum wage to $7.25 an hour is one of the top priorities for the body next month when it convenes. According to the Economic Policy Institute, about 18 percent of the Iowa work force, or 257,000 people, would receive a pay raise if the rate increased to that amount. Although the rate would take two years to be phased in, after it has been set, the overwhelming majority of those affected would be above the age of twenty, indicating that many families dependent on the wage would also be positively affected. With rising war costs and an increasing national debt, the inflation rate has no choice other than to grow as well. While the national legislature has made movements toward increasing the federal wage, the roadblock seems to be the disparities between President Bush and the Democratic members of Congress over the issue. A compromise must be reached quickly, however, because under no circumstances will the present minimum wage continue supporting families who already struggle while depending on it. Without a higher wage rate, the United States will only further aid the financial crises unfortunately too common among its population.