In his recent State of the Union address to Congress, President Obama discussed many issues of national importance, including raising the minimum wage and creating a program for universal preschool education for all. The Delta Democrats support both proposals.
Regarding the proposal that the minimum wage be raised to $9 per hour, we Democrats are fully committed to having all able-bodied people work for their livings. We believe that work is empowering and ennobling and sets a good example for our children, as they watch their parents work hard to give them a fair shot at the American Dream: work hard, and abide by the rules, and you will, eventually — not immediately and not in a way that very wealthy people might understand — succeed. A living wage is the very ground of this ideal.
Opposition to this proposal, voiced by conservative politicians, argues that any minimum wage suppresses job growth. But a quick look on the Internet leads one to doubt that there is a correlation between an increase in the minimum wage and unemployment. Washington state, for example, has the highest minimum wage in the country. Yet as of December 2012 Washington state's unemployment rate was 7.6%, compared with the national average of 7.8%.
In addition, a minimum wage set at an income above poverty underlies the ideal of a working class that is self-supporting and not dependent on subsidies to keep the heat on in winter and food on the table.
Furthermore, Democrats understand that it is the average working person who is the real driver behind our economy. Working people, unlike the wealthy, spend their dollars here in America, and do not save them in some offshore account. This spending translates into jobs for others. If the wealthy spent the way we do, we would be awash in jobs!
But is it true that if we work hard and follow the rules that we will get ahead? Sometimes the cards are stacked against us. For example, anyone born into a family living in poverty may not have the opportunity to participate in an enriching preschool experience, as do their counterparts from better-off families. Yet many studies show that early-childhood education has long-term beneficial effects and correlates positively with academic success in school and with economic success later in life.
We Democrats believe that every child deserves such an experience in their early years. We want everyone to have a shot at the American Dream. Surely this belief is not limited by politics. So if we believe in this as a nation, we should commit ourselves to fighting for the realization of this dream for all Americans!