Bare Minimum

In a final flurry of pre-holiday maneuvering, the last session of Congress failed to raise the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $5.15 an hour, at which it has languished for the past eight years. Recent efforts to raise the minimum wage have made strange political bedfellows, with the likes of Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rick Santorum (R-Penn.)-otherwise on opposite ends of the spectrum-both championing the need to raise wages. Advocates argue that the last decade of inflation has made the current minimum wage less valuable than at any time since 1955. For those of us who are not economists but are concerned about the increasing disparities between haves and have-nots, it’s helpful to consider secular arguments on the minimum wage in light of Catholic social teaching.

During the past five years, Republican business interests have continued to prevail. According to their logic, the minimum wage is exactly what that it sounds like-an entry-level figure, attractive to teenagers, part-timers, or first-time job seekers gaining a foothold on the lowest rung of the pay ladder. Moreover, the thinking goes, if the minimum wage is raised, jobs will be lost because small-business owners will be required to reduce the number of employees to accommodate higher labor costs.

This is faulty thinking. First, if the federal wage floor is raised, labor costs for all employers will remain a uniform...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author