Instead of Shaming the Poor, Let’s Raise the Minimum Wage

Yesterday I joined Fox and Friends for what they billed, in typical Fox News fashion, as a “fair and balanced debate.” The topic was a Maine mayor’s call to publish the names and addresses of all recipients of public assistance online as a sort of “poverty-offender registry.” Mayor Robert MacDonald of Lewistown announced this ugly proposal last week in an op-ed in the local Twin-City Times, offering the justification that Mainers “have a right to know how their money is being spent.”

My conservative counterpart on the show–Seton Motley, a one-man political operation he calls Less Government (hey, at least he gets points for being straightforward)–defended “shaming the people who are sitting on welfare” as a tactic to get them off of assistance, and to crack down on what he termed “widespread welfare abuse.”

As I pointed out when my turn came to speak, the real shame is that our nation’s minimum wage is a poverty wage. In the late 1960s, the minimum wage was enough to keep a family of three out of poverty. Had it kept pace with inflation since then, it would be nearly $11 today, instead of the current $7.25 per hour.

And it’s not just workers earning the minimum wage who are struggling: Working families have seen decades of flat and declining wages, while those at the top of the income ladder capture an ever-rising share of the gains from economic growth.

As a result, millions of Americans are working harder than ever while falling further and further behind. And many are juggling two and three jobs in an effort to make enough to live on: 7 million Americans are working multiple jobs. (Remember Maria Fernandes, the New Jersey woman who died in her car after trying to get a few hours of sleep in between her four jobs?)

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