Today, Barack Obama announced his intention to push for the US federal minimum wage to be lifted to $9 per hour by 2015, and then indexed to inflation.
In case anyone is interested in how the Australian minimum wage[fn1] stacks up against other advanced economies, I thought I’d post a few charts. As at February 2012, the National Minimum Wage is $15.96 per hour, which works out to $606.40 per week for full-timers. The rate is higher if you’re a casual employee (and therefore don’t accrue paid annual leave and sick leave). To find the minimum wage that applies in a particular circumstance, try the Fair Work Ombudsman.
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Articles are springing up all over the place (like Crikey) that try to paint Obama as an unusually unpopular President. Nonsense.
According to Gallup, Obama’s approval rating is 44%. After the same number of days in office, Bill Clinton’s rating was exactly the same, 44%. Jimmy Carter (the previous Democrat to inhabit the White House) didn’t fare much better, with an approval rating of 48% on September 24, 1978, his 612th day in office.
As the old saying goes, everyone is entitled to his (or her) own opinions, but not his own facts. Whatever your opinion of Obama’s effectiveness as a leader, to suggest that he is less popular at this juncture in his Presidency than previous Democrats is false. His opponents’ disapproval may be more fervid than for previous leaders, but it is hardly a surprise that a black President who assumed office in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s would make a few enemies.
The Wall Street Journal examined some new US census data and found that the past decade was “the worst for American families in at least half a century”. They find that:
The inflation-adjusted income of the median household—smack in the middle of the populace—fell 4.8% between 2000 and 2009, even worse than the 1970s, when median income rose 1.9% despite high unemployment and inflation.
What a shocking result. It is no longer safe for American parents to assume that their children will enjoy a higher material standard of living than they have enjoyed themselves.
Absolute poverty has increased, the real earnings of the median American has decreased, and inequality has increased. Some of this is the result of the financial crisis and the ensuing recession, but rising inequality and stagnant real incomes for most Americans are longer term phenomena.
We should be glad that we have never completely given in to an American-style economic policy agenda of deregulating at all costs, slashing taxes at the top end and barely regulating the labour market.