Missouri may not have an African-American Democratic nominee running a thrilling, high-profile potentially historic general election campaign in 2018, as do a number of other states, but it has a number of very important ballot issues that should drive black and progressive voters to the polls, even if they are not exceptionally energized by the Democrats on the ballot.
Among the most impactful initiatives on the ballot statewide on November 6 is Proposition B, which would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 by 2023. The initiative would increase Missouri’s minimum wage from its current rate of $7.85 an hour to $8.60 next year, and then increase it gradually each year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2023. “The increase to $12 phases in gradually, giving low-paying businesses time to adjust and experience the benefits of a rising minimum wage – such as increased consumer spending, cost savings from lower employee turnover, increased productivity, and happier customers,” said Pam Hausner, owner of Big Vision Design in Kansas City and business campaign manager for Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
Advocates claim that raising wages for low-income workers would cut government spending and save taxpayers money. A recent study by the Labor Center at the University of California Berkeley, “The High Public Cost of Low Wages,” showed that poverty wages for working families in Missouri alone are costing federal taxpayers more than $2.4 billion annually, and Missouri state taxpayers more than $335 million each year.
The Republican supermajority in the Missouri Legislature has killed local minimum wage increases in the state in recent years, ostensibly because a higher minimum wage would be bad for business and result in higher prices and/or cuts in staff. However, a report, “The Distributional Effects of Minimum Wages,” by two economists at the U.S. Census Bureau (not exactly a bastion of wild-eyed economic speculation) found that a raise in the minimum wage “increases earnings growth, and increasingly does so over the long-term, all without declines in employment,” as Business Insider (not exactly a socialist propaganda organ) reported.
In the abstract to their report, published in March, the authors from the Census Bureau, Kevin Rinz and John Voorheis, write that they “find that raising the minimum wage increases earnings growth at the bottom of the distribution, and those effects persist and indeed grow in magnitude over several years.” They write that “minimum wage increase comparable in magnitude to the increase experienced in Seattle between 2013 and 2016 would have blunted some, but not nearly all, of the worst income losses suffered at the bottom of the income distribution during the Great Recession.” This, in turn, works against the growing income inequality in the United States, which ultimately stabilizes the economy and puts a damper on costly social unrest.
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