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Poll: Americans support higher minimum wage

A new poll by Gallup finds that Americans overwhelmingly support a higher minimum wage. According to the poll, 71 percent said they favor increasing the minimum wage to $9, as  suggested in his State of the Union address.

In the past, support for raising the minimum wage has been as high as 83 percent.

Gallup notes, “Americans’ support for boosting the minimum wage may be a bit dampened by continued high unemployment, and could reflect public awareness of critics’ argument that raising the minimum wage causes employers to cut back on workers.”

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and California Democratic Rep. George Miller proposed an even bigger hike Tuesday, with a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and peg it to inflation.

The lawmakers described the measure to the Huffington Post as “the right thing to do,” saying it was “a matter of justice.”

Costco’s CEO came out in favor of raising the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour Wednesday.

“Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty. We support efforts to increase the federal minimum wage,” Costco CEO and President Craig Jelinek said in a statement.

“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour,” President Obama said during his State of the Union speech. “We should be able to get that done.”

Gallup notes that “[r]aising the federal minimum wage is typically a crowd pleaser when it comes to policy prescriptions.”

Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason Unversity, argues, however, that families generally don’t benefit from an increased minimum wage.

“There are not millions of working families making the minimum wage,” Hall writes. “In fact, about 1.7 million people currently earn the federal minimum wage – this is 0.7 percent of the working-aged population. Over half of these people are under the age of 25 and nearly a third are teenagers.”

“Raising the minimum wage may reduce low-skilled employment, employer job training, and worker benefits,” he added. “That would have a particularly negative impact during this historically slow economic recovery, not to mention the fact that only 46 percent of the population under 25 years old are currently employed.”

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