Here’s a thought experiment—what if the rising economic tides really did lift all boats, and the fortunes of the lowest-paid workers rose in proportion to those of Wall Streeters? If that had happened every year since 1985, the federal minimum wage would now be $44.12 an hour, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank.
The chart below shows the starkly different trajectories of the annual pay of people working for minimum wage versus the average Wall Street bonus. Minimum wage, $7.25 an hour since 2009, was $3.35 in 1985. It’s a different story for workers in New York’s securities industry, where bonuses have soared from an average of $13,970 in 1985 to $184,000 in 2020, the Institute said, citing data from the New York State Comptroller.
For left-leaning politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, statistics like this are an argument to raise the minimum wage. Efforts to raise it to $15 an hour failed after it was removed from the final version of the American Rescue Plan. Progressive Democrats in the Senate didn’t have the numbers to override conservative opponents, who often argue that raising the minimum wage would actually hurt those it intends to help because employers would respond by cutting jobs.