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While Congress Dawdles, Federal Minimum Wage Drops Another Three Cents an Hour

According to information just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. minimum wage fell by three cents an hour in the month of March 2016.

Oh, the BLS won’t come out and say it that way, but it doesn’t make it any more true.  The U.S. minimum wage has stood at seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour for years now — but you can’t eat money.  The actual amount of in food, clothing and shelter that the minimum wage will buy continues to go down as inflation erodes the value of a dollar.  This effect is measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  In March 2016, the cost of goods as measured by the CPI went up by four-tenths of a percent, compared to February 2016.  Seven dollars and twenty-five cents in March will only buy what seven dollars and twenty-two cents could buy in February.  How hard a minimum-wage employee works hasn’t changed.  How much value minimum-wage work creates for an employer hasn’t changed.  Only what the minimum-wage worker gets for all that work has changed — and it’s gone down by three cents an hour.  Three cents an hour doesn’t sound like much, but this is a typical decline in the real, meaningful value of the minimum wage for any month.  When this kind of change happens again and again and again, month after month, year after year, the effect is really noticeable, especially for someone whose wage wasn’t big to begin with.

The Congress yesterday took the time — in April 2016, mind you — to declare March 2016 “National Middle Level Education Month” to absolutely no effect, barring secret time machines.  Yet the same Congress hasn’t bothered during the year and a half it’s been in session to raise the minimum wage by any amount at all — not even to help keep the wage up in pace with the rate of inflation.  The Congress has other priorities other than helping America’s poorest workers stay out of poverty.  It has the previous month to name instead.

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