WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Sen. Elizabeth Warren questioned minimum wage increases during a Senate hearing, and cited a study that suggests the federal minimum wage should be standing at $22 an hour.
The Massachusetts Democrat made the case for increasing minimum wage last week during a hearing with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. She suggested that if rate increases had kept up with worker productivity then the rate should have tripled since the 1960s.
“If we started in 1960 and we said that as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more, then the minimum wage is going to go up the same,” said Warren. “And if that were the case then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour,” she said, speaking to Dr. Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor who has studied the economic impacts of minimum wage.
“So my question is, Mr. Dube, with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn’t go to the worker.”
Dube noted that if minimum wage income had increased at the same rate as it had for the top 1 percent of income earners then federal minimum wage would be closer to $33 an hour.
The last time federal minimum wage increased was in 2009. Currently observed in 31 states, the federal minimum wage translates to an annual income of about $15,000 a year for someone working 40 hours per week.
Warren made the case that federal minimum wage should be raised to over $10 an hour over the next two years – a cause that President Obama championed during his State of the Union address last month.
The current minimum wage stands at $7.25 an hour. In 2011, more than 66 percent of Americans surveyed by the Public Religion Research Institute supported raising this figure to $10 an hour.