The State of the Union and the State of Inequality in the United States

As I listened to President Obama’s state of the union speech, I was struck by the continued themes related to income inequality.

Will the increase in minimum wage help people in poverty?

In a Forbes articles Robert Lenzner talked about the “Inequality Boom” and the continued decline of the middle class.  He quotes social scientist Sheldon Danziger and his review of census data –

“From 1960 until 1975 the median earnings for a full time male worker rose from $36,420 to $51,670, but then slowly declined to $49,398 in 2012, when adjusted for inflation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And that $49,000 is before taxes.”

Many opposed to the increase in the minimum wage claim that lower wage earners are supported by government programs such as food subsidies and unemployment benefits, while at the same time they are working to decrease the same benefits.  As a result of the continued decline in earnings and government benefits, the “Inequality Boom” is booming and an increase in the minimum wage can only help to improve the lives of low income workers.


Photo Source – Restaurant Opportunity Centers United

This inequality is even more drastic in women.  Why do women still earn much less than men?

In response to the President’s speech, Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women writes about the wage gap between men and women in the Huffington Post.  She quotes the National Women’s Law Center

“Since women are the majority of minimum wage workers, increasing the minimum wage would help close the wage gap. In 2012, women working full time, year round were paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. The wage gap was even larger for women of color: black women working full time, year round made only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.”

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that if the minimum wage were gradually increased to $10.10 per hour by 2016, about 27.8 million workers would get a raise — including 11.1 million workers earning between $10.10 and $11.05 per hour, who would see their pay increase due to the higher floor set by the new minimum wage. Women are 15.3 million (55 percent) of all affected workers. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 won’t solve the problem of income inequality because it is not a livable wage, however it is a small step to lift up those in the community with the greatest need.

At Campaign Consultation, Inc. we work with the Social Innovation Fund to support the efforts of local organizations working to increase the earnings of the lowest paid workers and AmeriCorps VISTA to help communities end poverty in America.  Tell us about programs in your area that are successful in helping working people earn a living wage.

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Kaye Gooch

As a Project Specialist with Campaign Consultation, Inc. I primarily support our efforts to elevate the Social Innovation Fund and highlight its successes in improving communities across the country. I am passionate about advocating for the underserved in the healthcare system. I have worked with state governments in the areas of Medicaid training, adult protective services and services for persons with disabilities. Read more.

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