I haven't seen this reported elsewhere (I first heard about it from the Blagojevich campaign), and I think it's very smart politics: the Cook County Board has placed an advisory referendum on the November ballot asking voters if they want to raise the minimum wage from $6.50 to $7.50 an hour.
One of the Democrats' signature issues in 2002 and in the 2003 General Assembly was raising the minimum wage past the federal minimum of $5.15 (that's $10,300.00 annual pre-tax income, and if that's not a poverty-wage, I'm not sure what is) to $6.50 an hour. It has been a triumph for the state and I'm sure has resulted in a large influx of wealth into our state as the extra $2,000 in purchasing power that mininum wage workers enjoy has been multiplied throughout our economy, not to mention the upward pressure on wages it has brought to hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Upward pressure on wages -- what a concept!
It's especially appropriate after Labor Day weekend (and thank you to labor unions for giving me the power to have the day off on Monday -- what a concept it must have been 80 years ago to demand a day off from work to honor labor!) the unending need to shift power to low-income workers both because it's the right thing to do and because it's good for our economy.
I've heard enough about the 'job-killing' minimum wage and I don't buy it. There isn't evidence to support the argument. And if opponents of a decent minimum wage are serious, then they should be for lowering the minimum wage to, say, $1 an hour. Or we can match the Chinese and go to $1 per day. That's the logic. If you oppose raising the minimum wage because it somehow impoverishes the working poor, then you are for lowering the minimum wage, because *that's* really going to bring jobs to those that need them!
It's funny: those who think that paying poor people less will mean they get more money also think that cutting taxes will mean the goverment will get more money too. I wonder if those people apply the concept to their own lives and tell their bosses that they don't want a raise, because they want to make more money. Oh wait: they probably are the bosses.....
I think this is exclusively a practical question. At some point (probably at the lowest 20% of income -- just shy of $10/hour, around the poverty level), there will be fewer jobs created. But there's a lot of wiggle room before that point, and the benefits that come to Illinois workers (and thus, the Illinois economy from all that new income, often paid by out-of-state owners of publicly-traded corporations) outweigh the costs of the relatively few lost jobs.
I don't know what other premise anyone could accept besides a ruthlessly pragmatic assessment to determine their support or opposition to a minimum wage increase. If it's *ideological*, then please. That's empty. The only ideological position that makes any sense is to abolish the minimum wage (and thus, to be for Chinese wages of $1 per day). What's the logical reason to oppose a $7.50 minimum wage and reluctantly support a $5.15 minimum wage? If it's a border question (gas stations and hot dog shops are all going to move to Indiana and Kentucky!) then it's really a pragmatic assessment: how many jobs will Illinois really lose to the poverty-wage states on our borders versus how much more income will flow to Illinois low-income workers?
Since we have no evidence that firmly supports either proposition (and if anyone's got some, I'd like to read it -- applied only that documents actual job losses, theoretical constructs don't count), there's no pragmatic reason to support the lower wage over the higher wage.
Anyway, I think it's a smart issue to draw attention to for the Blagojevich campaign and the Democratic Party, and if I were Judy Baar Topinka, I'd be promising to support a minimum wage increase to $7.50 sooner rather than later. Whoever figured out to ask the County Board to put this on the ballot should get a raise.