A Democratic proposal that would have raised the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour by Jan. 1, 2009, failed in the Senate today. While a majority of senators -- 52 -- backed the proposal, it did not get the 60 votes needed to pass. The vote came the day after Republicans in the House defeated a Democratic-led effort to force a vote on the minimum wage. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said he'd like to hold off a debate on the topic until after the November election. "This is a classic debate between two different philosophies," Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said. "One philosophy believes in the marketplace, competition and entrepreneurship, and the second is a philosophy that says government knows best."
"The federal wage has been fixed at $5.15 an hour since 1997," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The average family income of those on minimum wage is $45,580, according to the Employment Policies Institute, a research organization. During the same period, congressional salaries have increased from $133,600 to $165,200 a year." Maybe Sen. Isakson, who has been a member of Congress since 1999, would like to return his own salary increase to the taxpayers in the name of the marketplace, competition and entrepreneurship.
Update: Many War Room letter writers point out that the $45,580 stat from the Employment Policies Institute, a think tank that advocates that the minimum wage not be raised, sounds fishy. Here's how the group defends the number: "U.S. Census Bureau data reveals that 85% of employees whose wages would be increased by the proposed minimum wage hike either live with their parents or another relative, live alone, or have a working spouse. Just 15% are sole earners in families with children, and each of these sole earners has access to supplemental income through the Earned Income Tax Credit."
Here's perhaps a more relevant figure: The annual gross income of a minimum-wage worker who works 40 hours per week is just $10,712. Also, the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that advocates for increasing the minimum wage, calculates that the buying power of the minimum wage, when adjusted for inflation, is now at its lowest level since 1955.