It is difficult to imagine anyone getting by on the New York State minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or about $17,000 a year for a full-time job. This is why opposition to increase it for the first time in years, and by less than a dollar, makes little sense. State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who represents this district, is a co-sponsor of one of a number of bills that would push the rate to $8.50 an hour and from $5 to $5.86 an hour for food-service workers. If this bill or one of several like it is approved, future increases in the minimum wage would be tied to inflation, starting in 2014. This is the least New York legislators can do for low-wage workers.
Among opponents of the change is the State Senate majority leader, Dean Skelos, who considers it a job-killer. He is joined by several Long Island Republicans, including Dan Losquardo, who represents the North Fork. Mr. Losquardo told The Suffolk Times that he believes low-paying jobs are intended for students and part-timers who live at home or are otherwise provided for. In a let-them-eat-cake moment of candor, the lawmaker told the newspaper, “These jobs aren’t intended for people to raise a family with.” A more cynical view of the work force would be hard to find.
By itself, bumping the minimum wage up doesn’t pull people out of poverty. Nor does it do much to correct the fact that 60 percent of single mothers with children have the highest rate of poverty among demographic groups. That said, tying the minimum wage to inflation would help prevent the kind of permanent underclass Mr. Losquardo appears willing to tolerate in the name of free enterprise. Albany-elected officials should set aside ideology for a moment and approve these modest increases.