116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
By The Gazette Editorial Board
The minimum wage is once again receiving maximum attention.
Fast food workers and others are using their good old American First Amendment rights to advocate for a living wage, as much as $15 per hour. President Obama has set a less ambitious objective, calling for an increase in the current $7.25 per-hour minimum to $10.10. Others have called for raising the minimum to the neighborhood of $9.
This isn't surprising, considering the mounting economic pressures facing Americans who have seen their paychecks stagnate recently. Raising the minimum wage has broad support.
We're not convinced that making the minimum wage into a living wage is economically feasible, nor is it the sort of government mandate we can support.
We're also somewhat skeptical that raising the minimum wage would deliver its benefits into the pockets of the working poor who need it most. It's a scattershot that raises wages for teenagers and others who aren't struggling to make ends meet. Increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, for instance, might be a better idea.
We agree with business owners who worry that an abrupt increase would hurt their bottom line and potentially force them to cut staff or curtail hiring. But we're also skeptical that the harm would be as severe as opponents of a raise contend.
We do believe that it's proper for the government to set a wage floor, and that wage floor should be both meaningful for workers and predictable for employers.
So what we'd like to see is a modest increase in the minimum wage, coupled with legislation that would allow annual cost-of-living increases. Congress could, if it wished, create some sort of mechanism to suspend those increases under certain circumstances.
The ultimate goal should be to make the minimum wage less political and more predictable, both for workers and for businesses owners charting costs. Neither should have to guess which way the political winds and whims will blow their livelihood.
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