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Voices / Letters from readers

Subsidizing unlivable minimum wage hurts state economy as a whole

There’s something I don’t get about the furious opposition from some against raising the minimum wage.

The minimum wage has been periodically raised since 1935. Has the sky fallen? Has the economy collapsed? Have so many minimum-wage earners lost their jobs as to completely wipe out any benefits to workers and economy?

These current “Chicken Little” arguments against raising the minimum wage are exactly as they have been for about 80 years.

People who say raising the wage would be government “interference” are missing the point. The government has “interfered” in the economy to benefit U.S. workers and their families in the past. Without it, we’d be back in the early 19th century. Was the creation of Social Security an interference?

So in the interest of accuracy, let’s reframe the term “interference” and call it what it really is: intervention.

The arguments against raising the minimum wage can and should be addressed. But it is not good enough for us in Vermont to simply shake our heads.

Who would benefit if the wage was increased? About 87,000 Vermonters. More than 26,800 Vermont children with at least one adult in their household will benefit from raising the minimum wage.

There has been a cost to our state economy in subsidizing an unlivable minimum wage. The Economic Policy Institute’s 2016 study estimates the total federal and state cost of public supports for Vermont’s working families at $372 million. Surely reducing these costs benefits every Vermonter, including big and small businesses.

The $15 minimum isn’t going to happen tomorrow. It’s five years away. The rise will be gradual. Businesses will have time to adapt.

We can help support our neighbors and ourselves and, at the same time, move our state economy forward. We support the Senate bill that seeks to increase the minimum wage (S.23). We hope you will also.

Bill Kuch and Lori Claffee

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Originally published in The Commons issue #505 (Wednesday, April 10, 2019). This story appeared on page D3.

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