The political posturing over raising the minimum wage sometimes obscures the huge and growing number of low-wage workers it would affect. An estimated 27.8 million people would earn more money under the Democratic proposal to lift the hourly minimum from $7.25 today to $10.10 by 2016. And most of them do not fit the low-wage stereotype of a teenager with a summer job. Their average age is 35; most work full time; more than one-fourth are parents; and, on average, they earn half of their families’ total income.
None of that, however, has softened the hearts of opponents, including congressional Republicans and low-wage employers, notably restaurant owners and executives.
This is not a new debate. The minimum wage is a battlefield in a larger political fight between Democrats and Republicans — dating back to the New Deal legislation that instituted the first minimum wage in 1938 — over government’s role in the economy, over raw versus regulated capitalism, over corporate power versus public needs.