Congressman Grayson’s Remarks Supporting Minimum Wage Bill in Congressional Record


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mr. GRAYSON. Mr. Speaker, these statements and findings are made in support of the ‘‘Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2013.’’ In determining that it is time to raise the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour and index it to inflation, Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Since 1968, the minimum wage has lost nearly one-third of its value. Had it kept pace with inflation since then, the federal minimum wage would be $10.67 today.

(2) Given that the minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation, more than thirty million low-wage workers are making less today than low-wage workers did 45 years ago in 1968.

(3) As the cost of living increased in the past several decades, the reduced purchasing power of the minimum wage has made it more difficult for low-wage workers to pay for basic necessities such as housing, transportation, food, and healthcare.

(I) Housing prices have nearly doubled; the median value of owner-occupied properties has increased by about 80 percent between 1970 and 2009.

(II) The cost of a gallon of motor vehicle gasoline has increased more than 60 percent from 1978 to 2012 according to U.S. Energy Information data.

(III) The average cost of health insurance premiums has skyrocketed. According to U.S. Census figures, from 1990 to 2009, health insurance costs per capita have more than doubled, increasing 102 percent. The average annual cost of employer-sponsored family health insurance premiums increased 89 percent from 1999 to 2011. Workers bore more of that load, with the average worker contribution toward employer-sponsored health insurance increasing by 94 percent. On top of this, an increasing number of medical expenses and services are not paid for by health insurance, resulting in dramatically increasing out-of pocket expenses—27 percent from 1996 to 2009—for families.

(IV) Since just 1994, the average cost for a family of four to provide food for the family has increased about 10 percent, according to figures from the USDA’s monthly estimates of food plans.

(4) The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, $15,080 annually, does not even meet the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty threshold for a family of two or the Department of Health and Human Service’s poverty guidelines for a family of two, both of which are above $15,000 per year.

(5) Worker productivity has more than doubled since the 1960s, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data, yet all that low-wage workers have received for their effort is the declining value of the minimum wage.

(6) The failure of Congress to make sure that the minimum wage keeps pace with inflation has exacerbated income inequality in this country and placed the American Dream out of reach for many hard-working low-wage workers in this country. At the same time that the minimum wage has lost nearly one-third of its value, the average income of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has skyrocketed. The threshold for a family’s annual income to be considered in the top 1 percent of taxpayers increased from about $75,000 in 1968 to over $1 million in 2011. Adjusting for inflation, the annual income of the top one percent has more than doubled in that time, increasing 110 percent. Just before the recent financial crisis, the incomes of the top one percent had nearly tripled from 1968 to 2007, increasing by 196 percent.

(7) The top 100 highest paid CEOs all made over $15 million last year. The highest paid CEO made over $131 million in 2012, the equivalent of almost $63,000 per hour— $10,000 more than the median annual household income in the United States.

(8) Though the United States economy has begun to recover from the recent financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still 7.7 percent and there still remain 28.6 million unemployed or underemployed. Raising the minimum wage would help stimulate the economy and create jobs.

(I) Raising the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour would give a raise to more than 30 million workers, add a net increase of over $30 billion in economic activity, and create more than 140,000 new jobs.

(II) According to a Chicago Federal Reserve study, for every dollar increase to the hourly pay of a minimum wage worker, the result is $2,800 in new spending from that worker’s household over the year.

(9) Two-thirds of low-wage workers are employed by large, profitable corporations.

(10) Many large, multi-national corporations pay higher minimum wages in Canada and Europe, and still remain profitable.

(11) Without raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, it becomes more likely that low-wage workers will fall further into poverty and be more reliant on government services like food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, and the earned income tax credit. These government services are paid for by the taxpayers and other small businesses. In this sense, many small businesses that already pay their employees more than the federal minimum wage end up subsidizing the profitability of their large corporate competitors. This is a perversion of capitalism. Raising the minimum wage would not put small businesses like this at a competitive disadvantage, but could in fact help them. For instance, according to the MO Healthnet Employer Report, in Missouri during the first quarter of 2011 (the most recent data) the total cost to the state of the 50 employers whose employees rely most heavily on Medicaid was about $43.5 million. According to data from the state Department of Job and Family Services, the State of Ohio paid $111.5 million in 2007 for Medicaid costs for workers and their dependents at 50 employers statewide.

(12) Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. A greater proportion of minimum wage workers are black (15 percent) or Hispanic (20.2 percent) than of the population as a whole (13.1 percent black, and 16.7 percent Hispanic).

(13) The United States has one of the lowest minimum wages when compared with other Western, industrialized countries. Australia’s minimum wage is more than double the minimum wage in the United States—at about $16 per hour. Of ten countries with minimum wages higher than the United States’, eight of them have unemployment rates lower than ours, based on the most recent data available.

(14) Poll after poll has shown that about 70 percent of the American public supports increasing the minimum wage.

This can be found in the Congressional Record from March 21, on page E357 (page 300 of the pdf).