Raising the minimum wage

Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014
Raising the minimum wage story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The White House effort to raise the minimum wage nearly three dollars-an-hour over the next two years has drawn huge criticism from the right.

But our Tom Van Howe, who tonight is back in his corner, says once you get past the rhetoric, a wage hike for some of our poorest people is an idea that’s long overdue.

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Are there problems with this new wage proposal? Sure. There are with any new law.

But getting straight to the heart of the matter: getting by--assuming you’re working full-time--on less than $15,000 a year is no picnic. This proposed wage hike would put a substantial amount of cash--something like $100 a week--in the pockets of more than 16 million workers.

It would move roughly a million people out of poverty.

And guess what those workers will do with that extra money? They’ll spend it. They’ll pump billions of new dollars back in to local markets.

One writer for a national magazine says those billions don’t mean that much in our $17-trillion dollar economy; that it’s hardly worth the effort.

He’s missing the point.

It would mean working people, young and old, would get a 30 percent wage increase. These are working people. These are not people on the dole. We’re not talking about handouts or welfare fraud.

And while twenty grand a year is hardly the American dream, it’s a step toward dignity...Toward a tiny bit of breathing room.

Republicans are citing a Congressional Budget Office report that says a wage increase will cost us a million jobs.

Well, that’s not quite what it said. The CBO report  was vague  and said the hike could cause the loss of somewhere between none and a million jobs. Many economists are leaning toward the White House  view that job loss will be at the low end of the spectrum.

Some job loss is probably inevitable. It’ll push some employers to cut back, others to accelerate automation. But that’ll happen eventually anyway.

And before you absorb all the anti-wage hike rhetoric, take a closer look at the growing disparity between the people we’re talking about here and the incredibly rich.

  • Even at $10.10 an hour, the U.S. minimum wage will be lower after adjustments for inflation that it was in 1975.

  • The 85 richest people on earth have the same amount of wealth as the lower half of the world’s population.

  • Those 85 people are just a handful of the richest one percent who have 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population. Sixty-five times!

  • American corporations have more than $2 trillion tucked away in off-shore and foreign banks to avoid the reach of the IRS. Actually, its probably more than that. We don’t know for sure.

  • In this country, since the start of the recovery four years ago, 95 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent. No trickle down. They got two great tax cuts in the last decade, but nothing trickled down.

  • CEO's are still taking home 300 times the earnings of the average worker.

So can someone please give me a convincing argument that those who struggle most don’t  deserve $2.85 an hour more than they’re getting now?

In this corner...I’m Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on August 29, 2014 17:14 GMT

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in July, with a drop in auto purchases accounting for most of the weakness. Income growth also slowed in July.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending edged down 0.1 percent last month after a 0.4 percent increase in June. It was the first decline in spending since January. Income growth slowed to a 0.2 percent rise in July, the weakest showing in seven months.

The fall in spending came primarily from a decline in auto sales, which took a breather in July after posting big gains in recent months, although spending in other areas was also weak.

Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, so it needs to recover for the economy to keep its momentum in the second half of the year.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer sentiment ticked up in August, driven by greater optimism about jobs, rising incomes, and increasing wealth. The increase largely occurred among higher-income groups.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment rose to 82.5 from 81.8 in July. Still, it has barely risen in the past year.

Consumers have sent mixed signals in recent months. The Michigan index has fluctuated between 80 and 82.5 since December. A measure of consumer confidence by the Conference Board rose this month to nearly a seven-year high. And yet Americans cut back their spending in July.

Nearly 60 percent of households in the top third of income earners say they are financially better off this month, the Michigan survey found, compared with only 36 percent in the bottom two-thirds.

US-FIAT-CHRYSLER

DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. investors should soon be able to buy stock in Chrysler for the first time in seven years.

Italy's Fiat and Chrysler are merging to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Fiat says Friday that an ongoing tally of investors suggests there is not enough opposition to derail the deal.

Earlier this month, Fiat shareholders approved combining the companies. But Italian law gives dissenters the right to cash out. Fiat has said that if investors offered more than 500 million euros ($650 million) in shares, the merger would be off.

Fiat SpA will announce the final tally by Sept. 4. So far the maximum number of shares to be cashed is below the cap.

Shares of Chrysler haven't been publicly traded since 2007 when it was still combined with German automaker Daimler.

REYNOLDS AMERICAN-LORILLARD

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Federal regulators are putting Reynolds American Inc.'s planned $25 billion takeover of rival cigarette maker Lorillard Inc. under the microscope.

The nation's second-biggest tobacco company said Friday that the Federal Trade Commission has asked for additional information as part of an antitrust review of the deal.

In July, Reynolds announced the deal to combine two of the nation's oldest and biggest tobacco companies, creating a formidable No. 2 to rival Altria Group Inc., owner of Philip Morris USA.

Reynolds markets Camel, Pall Mall and Natural American Spirit cigarettes. Lorillard sells Newport, Maverick and Kent cigarettes.

The companies plan to sell the Kool, Salem, Winston, Maverick and blu eCig brands to Imperial Tobacco Group for $7.1 billion to ease regulatory concerns about competition.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-TAX FORMS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal agency that brought you the glitchy HealthCare.gov website has a massive new project.

If the Health and Human Services department has trouble this time, that could delay tax refunds for many people.

Complicated connections between the new health care law and income taxes will start to surface in 2015.

HHS has to send millions of people who got health insurance tax credits this year a new tax form that's like a W-2 for health care. It's called a 1095-A.

If they're delayed beyond Jan. 31, people who got coverage through the new insurance exchanges may have to wait to file their taxes -- and collect their refunds.

Some tax preparation companies are worried.

The Obama administration says it's on task, but won't provide much detail.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Inflation has fallen to an annual 0.3 percent in August for the 18 countries that use the euro, underlining the shakiness of the continent's economic recovery.

Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, says the figure is down from 0.4 percent in July, as expected by market analysts.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, sent a modestly brighter signal as it rose to 0.9 percent from 0.8 percent.

The eurozone economy showed no growth in the second quarter as fears about the Ukrainian crisis weighed on consumers and investment decisions.

The European Central Bank has warned that inflation expectations are worsening and says it will add more stimulus if needed. Many analysts are predicting the bank will launch large-scale purchases of financial assets to pump more money into the economy.

BRAZIL-ECONOMY

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazil's government says the country's gross domestic product contracted 0.6 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three months, sending the country's economy into a recession.

The government's IBGE statistics bureau said Friday it was the second consecutive quarterly contraction of the economy.

In the first quarter of the year, GDP was reported as having grown 0.2 percent. But that figure was revised downward to minus 0.2 percent.

The IBGE says the country's GDP stands at 1.27 trillion reals ($567 billion).

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