Discussion has centered again on an increase in the minimum wage. But then again, an election is right around the corner and that almost always brings discussion on minimum wage hikes. Those in favor of the increase hope that those opposed will be hurt at the ballot box by those laboring for minimum wage salaries. What they forget of course is that less than 3 percent of the American workforce makes the minimum wage and they are not the strongest voting bloc come election day.
What American workers need to discuss is the growing cost of health insurance. Minimum wage discussion pales by comparison to the huge increases in health care premiums. If you want to pick a battle ground with business owners you need to concentrate on this costly issue.
I fully agree that the minimum age of $5.15 per hour is not a living wage. But labor statistics also show that the majority of minimum wage earners are teen-agers or young adults with no families. Now granted, there are countless exceptions. But that's what the numbers show.
Regardless of the rhetoric on minimum wage, politicians know it's a hot button topic. When Ted Kennedy proposes a hike in the minimum wage he fully knows it will have minimal impact on the wage earners of this nation. But he also knows politically that those opposed will be painted with a broad anti-worker brush and that favors Kennedy's political agenda.
I have no major problem with a sensible increase in the minimum age. It may even be time for that increase now. But I also know that an increase is just one small piece of the poverty puzzle and alone it will have little positive impact on the vast majority of workers.
If Congress wants to assist the workers of this nation they should focus on health care costs. In the coming years that issue - primarily because of the explosion of we baby boomers - will take center stage. Unless that issue is addressed, all of the discussion on minimum wage will be just more hot air on the political front. And right now, that's the last thing we need.