By Alphonso David
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s call for an increase in the minimum wage is in response to one fundamental problem: the current minimum wage is insufficient, by any standard, to support a family, and thousands of New Yorkers are living in poverty as a result.
All arguments to the contrary distract from the key reason why the governor is seeking to raise the minimum wage. Further, opposing claims are not supported by the basic facts on this issue. Raising the minimum wage bolsters, not harms, the state’s economy, while providing a framework to get families out of poverty.
Since 1991, New York has increased its minimum wage multiple times, and the data show that the economy grew as a result. There is no sound, credible evidence to show that the increase in minimum wage actually hurt businesses or the economy. And the proof is not unique to New York.
Data from several other states that have increased the minimum wage in recent years reiterate the same basic point: minimum wage increases result in economic growth. Similarly, an analysis conducted by economists at Goldman Sachs and the Center for Economic Policy Research found that 13 states – including New York – that increased their state’s minimum wage in 2014 had higher rates of employment growth than the national average.
The governor’s plan to raise the minimum wage this year will, in fact, drive demand for goods and services, reinvest millions back into the local economy and spur economic activity in every corner of the state.
Consider the human impact: Increasing the minimum wage to $15 will lift up more than 1.4 million workers outside New York City and boost direct spending for these families by $9.2 billion. Simply put, this plan will help move this state’s economy forward.
Opponents ignore the facts by blindly claiming that raising wages will cost jobs and shutter small businesses. But their claims are counterintuitive, not supported by the data and perpetuate a disturbing paradigm of corporate welfare. As a threshold matter, those who oppose a minimum wage increase do not and cannot refute one basic fact: the minimum wage is not sufficient to sustain a family. This inequity leads to the absurd result that taxpayers are saddled spending millions of dollars to supplement the income of low-wage workers, while corporate profits balloon.
New York taxpayers – including small business owners, families and single parents – subsidize millions of low-wage workers who are forced to rely on public assistance simply to feed their families or pay their rent on time. By raising the minimum wage we can stop this vicious cycle that crushes thousands of people in this state and keeps them hostage in poverty.
Alphonso David is counsel to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.