Should the Federal Minimum Wage Be Increased?
The federal minimum wage, introduced in 1938 during the Great Depression under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was initially set at $0.25 per hour. The rate has been increased by Congress 22 times, most recently in 2009 from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour. Most states plus Washington, D.C., have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage, though several states do not have minimum wage laws (which means workers in those states default to the federal minimum wage). For more on minimum wage, explore the ProCon debate.
“A job is about more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity. When I was running for president, I said it was past time to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Last year, I made a down payment on that pledge with Executive Orders directing my Administration to work toward ensuring that employees working on federal contracts and federal employees earned a $15 per hour minimum wage….
These [federal] workers benefiting from these [executive] actions are critical to the functioning of the federal government and of our nation, and I’m proud that their wages will begin to reflect that. I continue to urge Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, so that American workers can have a job that delivers dignity.”-
White House, “Statement by President Joe Biden on $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Workers and Contractors Going into Effect,” whitehouse.gov, Jan. 28, 2022
“People who work hard should be able to afford a decent life.
That is the guiding principle of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s economic policies.
It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, a blue-collar worker with a high school education could support a family, take vacations, and even save for retirement. Technology has made our productivity many times higher — so why is life poorer, not richer, than in the 1960s? Why do people just accept that life will get slowly worse?
Kennedy does not accept it. We can restore the American middle class by reversing the missteps of the last 50 years. A massive military machine has nearly bankrupted this country. Rampant corruption in Washington has put corporations in charge, enriching the wealthiest as working people have dropped out of the middle class. Official unemployment is low — but most of the new jobs are in the low-pay service sector. Wealth inequality in the country is at a 100-year high. More than 60% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, with no savings for an emergency. Take-home pay after inflation and taxes has fallen 9% since Biden took office.
Under the Biden administration, the price of an average home has risen from $250,000 to around $400,000, and mortgage rates have more than doubled. Rents have followed the trend, putting more and more people on the edge of catastrophe.
But we can turn it around. Being able to afford a decent life doesn’t mean working more hours. It means higher pay and lower bills.
Here is what Kennedy will do to make that a reality: Raise the minimum wage to $15, which is the equivalent to its 1967 level.”-
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., “Cost of Living,” kennedy24.com (accessed Oct. 31, 2023)
“[Employees being replaced with automated kiosks is] the way of the future if we continue to do this really radical increase with the minimum wage…. All of this sounds great, raising the minimum wage, when you’re spending someone else’s money. It should bother you because when you come into Pennington Quality Market [New Jersey grocery store] your food is going to be more expensive…. This type of heavy hand of government, to say that we know better than the people who actually run these businesses, is the reason why in past administrations New Jersey has gotten less and less affordable. This measure is a complete pander to folks who are uninformed because they neither receive the minimum wage or pay it.”
Editors’ Note: Christie made the above remarks after vetoing a bill that would have raised New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.-
Matt Arco, “Christie Vetoes $15 an Hour Minimum Wage Bill Pushed by N.J. Democrats,” nj.com, Aug. 30, 2016
“Now is not the time. Ballot Amendment 2 would close small businesses, kill jobs and reduce wages.”
Editors’ Note: Ballot Amendment 2 was approved by 61% of voters and will raise the states’ minimum wage incrementally to $15 an hour in Sep. 2026.-
CBS Miami, “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Criticizes Minimum Wage Proposal,” cbsnews.com, Oct. 28, 2019
Source for Editors’ Note: David Madland, “Beware Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Anti-Worker Agenda | Opinion,” penncapital-star.com, Apr. 18, 2023
“Raising the minimum wage to $15/hr would devastate small businesses in a state like South Carolina. Invest in training, invest in education if you want to improve lives but requiring businesses to pay more when they are trying to survive Covid is just tone deaf. #CommonSense”-
Nikki Haley, twitter.com, Feb. 24, 2021
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“Speaking as a former investor, a former CEO, and now as a private citizen, I do not want American capitalists to play a larger role than they already do in defining and implementing our country’s political and social values. The answers to these questions should, in my opinion, be determined by our citizenry—publicly through debate and privately at the ballot box.
Democratically elected officeholders like yourselves, not CEOs and portfolio managers, should lead the debate about what social values we ought to prioritize over others. Managers of corporations should rightly decide whether to build a manufacturing plant or a research lab; whether to invest in one piece of software or another; whether to promote one aspiring executive or a competitor.
But a democracy should not want or pressure its business leaders to make the moral judgment about whether a minimum wage for American workers is more important than full employment, or whether minimizing society’s carbon footprint is more important than raising prices on consumer goods. Investors and CEOs are no better suited to make these decisions than, with all due respect, any member of this committee is to make the day-to-day operating decisions of a biotechnology company.”-
Vivek Ramaswamy, “Written Testimony of Vivek Ramaswamy Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Hearing Entitled ‘The Dignity of Work’ April 29, 2021,” banking.senate.gov, Apr. 29, 2021
“How are you helping your small businesses when you’re forcing wages? What’s going to happen, and what’s been proven to happen, is when you do that, these small businesses fire many of their employees…. Alabama is different than New York. New York is different from Vermont. Every state is different. It should be a state option…. [I’d] consider it to an extent … in a second administration. But not to a level that’s going to put all these businesses out of business. It should be a state option.”
Editors’ Note: Donald Trump has previously expressed a variety of opinions on raising the federal minimum wage.-
Louis Jacobson, “Does Donald Trump Think $15 an Hour Is ‘Too Much’ for Essential Workers?,” politifact.com, Oct. 30, 2020