About 9.5 million people either make the minimum wage or are near it. If they work full-time at $7.25 an hour – the current minimum wage – they make $15,000 annually. If their wage were increased to $9.80 an hour – as proposed in a bill pending before Congress – they would make an extra $5,000 a year.
Raising the minimum wage would generate more than $25 billion in consumer spending, which would result in an extra 100,000 new full-time jobs, estimates the Economic Policy Institute in a study this August. But the impact might actually be larger: the EPI estimates that another 28 million Americans – 20 percent of the workforce – would see their wages increase because the minimum wage is the floor from which their wages are figured.
So, where do the candidates stand on the issue?
When Obama was campaigning in 2008, he said he would raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011. “Since then, there has not been a peep,” says Jen Kern, the minimum wage coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group in Washington. “Our hope is that this will come up in the campaign.”
It already has for Romney – during the primary. Asked by NELP about his stance on the issue, he said in February he favors raising the minimum and then raising the wage each year to reflect inflation. “He said that was what his position was in Massachusetts and had been ever since,” says Ms. Kern.
Then an editorial in The Wall Street Journal questioned his stand, followed by a verbal spanking by radio commentator Rush Limbaugh. By the time he got to "The Larry Kudlow Show" on CNBC, Romney was full retreat. In March, his spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, told The Huffington Post, “Given the high rate of joblessness, this is not the time for anyone to be proposing an increase in the minimum wage."