Income inequality and the minimum wage

As reported by the New York Times on Dec. 29, 2013, Democratic Party leaders are pushing a new agenda for the 2014 election cycle: an increase in the minimum wage. Democrats are "focused on two levels: an effort to raise the federal minimum wage, which will be pushed by President Obama and congressional leaders, and a campaign to place state-level minimum wage proposals on the ballot in states with hotly contested congressional races." A Pew Research/USA Today poll, published today, shows that most people agree that income inequality has increased, but disagree on how the government should deal with the problem. The poll illustrates that 65 percent of the 1,504 adults surveyed believe that the gap between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of the country has increased over the past decade. However, the poll also shows that 90 percent of Democrats say that government should do more, "but only half as many Republicans (45 percent) think the government should do something about this gap." David Brooks wrote in a recent New York Times column, 'The Inequality Problem,' that there are issues with the inequality debate. He said there are two separate concerns - growing wealth of the top 5 percent of Americans and an enlarging lower class - and that politicians are confusing the two. "If you have a primitive zero-sum mentality, then you assume growing affluence for the rich must somehow be causing the immobility of the poor," Brooks said, "but, in reality, the two sets of problems are different, and it does no good to lump them together and call them inequality." Eric Alterman of The Nation disagrees with Brooks. In his article, Alterman argues that the growing wealth of top-earning Americans leads to more government corruption and that it has a direct correlation with policy governing poorer Americans. "Brooks, like other conservative commentators, seeks to evade the fundamental facts of economic inequality by shifting the ground to cultural, social and 'behavioral' terrain," Alterman wrote. Whether or not the two issues of the richest Americans and the poorest correlate, The Economist explains why some experts oppose minimum wages. "Historically, economists' skepticism was rooted in the worry that wage floors reduce employment," it said. "Firms will hire all the workers it makes sense to hire at prevailing wages, the thinking goes, so any minimum wage that forces firms to pay existing workers more will make those jobs uneconomical." Obama is set to deliver his State of the Union address next week, and according to the Associated Press he's expected to speak on the issue of the minimum wage.%3Cimg%20src%3D%22http%3A//