The original minimum wage was actually a maximum wage set in 1349 by King Edward III of England, an exploiter of farm workers. By 1604 King James I was finally forced to amend that law giving factory workers an actual minimum wage that would be enough for them to buy food. It was repealed in the 1800s. In the U.S., the earliest attempts to adopt minimum wage laws came at the state level but a reactionary Supreme Court kept declaring them unconstitutional in the 1920s and 1930s, the era of the greatest economic inequality in U.S. history before Trump. FDR tried passing a national minimum wage law in 1933 but conservatives went insane and the Supreme Court struck it down. FDR tried again in 1938 ($0.25, which had the buying power of around $4.54 in today's currency) but this time a less conservative Supreme Court upheld it. It only applied to workers involved in interstate commerce and, believe it or not, it wasn't until 1966 and 1990 that the U.S. minimum wage law was extended to everyone. By 1990 it was $3.80, when Republican bitterly complained about as "Socialism!" Currently the federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour (with tipped labor exempted) and workers under 20 can be legally exploited or $4.25/hour.
A bare living wage varies from city to city but the U.S. average in 2018 was $16.14. High cost-of-living cities are in an entirely different ballpark:
San Francisco- $24.30
The conservative argument against minimum wages and raising minimum wages is a bucket of crocodile tears that it will throw people out of work and bankrupt small businesses. Overall, this has turned out to not be the case for a full century. But that doesn't stop them from trying again and again and again-- exact debunked same arguments.
This is the minimum wage (in U.S. dollars) in 10 industrialized countries. Keep in mind that the U.S. minimum wage is $7.25.
South Korea- $8.60
This afternoon, right after the Congressional Progressive caucus announced it had "secured the inclusion of a $15 minimum wage in the House's pandemic reconciliation package," the notoriously ridiculous Congressional Budget Office announced that increasingly the minimum wage gradually to $15/hour would significantly reduce poverty-- lifting 900,000 people out of poverty-- and increase earnings for between 17nad 27 million workers, while adding $54 billion to the federal deficit over the course of a decade while eliminating 1.4 million jobs by 2025.
In response to the uproar in conservative media, Morris Pearl, the Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires and former managing director of BlackRock, Inc. issued a statement today that emphasized that the report "reinforces what we already know: raising the minimum wage is good policy. This report shows that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would give 27 million workers a raise, increase their income by $333 billion over ten years, lift 1 million Americans out of poverty, drive wages up for 10 million Americans already earning more than $15 an hour, and significantly reduce government spending on SNAP, the child tax credit, and the earned income tax credit. Raising the minimum wage will significantly impact both federal spending and revenue, which qualifies it for budget reconciliation. The facts are undeniable. Raising the minimum wage is good for workers, it's good for the economy, and it's good for the country as a whole. There's no argument otherwise. Opponents of raising the minimum wage will attempt to twist this report for their own misguided purposes, but even with a deeply flawed methodology that ignores the modern economic consensus on this issue, the CBO's worst case scenario is still overwhelmingly positive.
The CBO's ridiculous estimate of 1.4 million jobs lost (which contradicts the vast majority of research that shows raising the minimum wage has little to no negative effect on employment) still indicates that as a whole, low-wage workers end up better off with a higher minimum wage when considering total wage distribution.
The report's estimate of a $54 billion addition to the federal deficit over ten years (which contradicts research showing that raising the minimum wage would save the government tens of billions of dollars a year) ends up amounting to $5.4 billion per year, or less than one sixth of one percent of the annual federal budget, a negligible amount. Much of this increased spending would come from paying Medicaid care workers-- who are often paid egregiously-low wages for extremely important services-- a fair wage. That would be a good thing."