The Truth About the Minimum Wage

Neither Job Killer Nor Cure-All

Super-size it: fast-food workers on strike in Los Angeles, August 2013. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

It has been more than eight years since many of the United States’ cashiers, dishwashers, janitors, lifeguards, baggage handlers, baristas, manicurists, retail employees, housekeepers, construction laborers, home health aides, security guards, and other minimum-wage workers last got a raise. The federal minimum wage now stands at just $7.25. In real terms, these workers’ earnings have declined by nearly 13 percent since the last hike, in 2009—and have fallen by over one-third since 1968, when the real federal minimum wage was at its peak of $11.38 in today’s money (although only $1.60 then). Although most Americans think the minimum wage should go up—one 2017 poll found that 75 percent supported raising it to $9.00 per hour—today’s Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to act.

But the lack of progress on Capitol Hill should not give one the impression that little is happening with regard to the minimum wage. In fact, never has there been so much action—

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