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America’s working poor recently suffered another body blow in the congress – but you probably missed the news, since it barely made a blip on the media establishment’s radar.
The blow came in the senate, which voted down a modest increase in our nation’s minimum wage. This is front page news to millions of families that are trying to survive on jobs that pay at or near a minimum wage that’s been stuck at $5.15 an hour for nearly a decade. But the media barons, who devote lavish coverage to the prosperity being enjoyed by the economic elites, didn’t see this as a story. The New York Times, for example, relegated it to a single paragraph on page 22 at the tail end of a column covering eight other topics.
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Had they deigned to look into the story, here are a few important facts they would have found:
-There are 7.3 million Americans presently working for minimum wage. Another 8.2 million of us are paid only a dollar or less above the minimum.
-Seventy-two percent of minimum wage workers are adults. The average worker brings home more than half of the family’s weekly income; a third bring home 100 percent of their families’ earnings. Sixty percent of these workers are women; 760,000 are single moms.
-$5.15 an hour is a gross pay of $10,500 a year for full-time work – poverty pay.
-The last increase in the minimum wage has been entirely eroded by inflation – the purchasing power of $5.15 today is the equivalent of $4.23 in 1997, the year the wage was raised from $4.25 an hour.
This is Jim Hightower saying… This is not merely an economic story, but a deeply moral issue – especially at a time when workers have greatly increased productivity and helped generate historic levels of growth and profits. If the media chieftains wonder why they’re losing readers and viewers, they might note that they callously ignore news of real importance to ordinary folks.
“Increase to minimum wage fails in Senate,” USA Today, June 22, 2006.
“Senate Rejects Minimum Wage Increase,” The New York Times, June 22, 2006.