Most Americans don’t wait 10 years for their bosses, much less the government, to give their paychecks a boost. Data show that more than two-thirds have passed the minimum after a year at a particular job. But to ABC’s “World News” anchor Charles Gibson, a congressional hike in the minimum wage is just the salvation workers need.
“After years of waiting, millions of Americans have reason tonight to plan on a pay raise. The House overwhelmingly voted late today to raise the minimum wage in stages from $5.15 an hour to $7.25,” Gibson informed viewers as he introduced a story by reporter Dean Reynolds on the January 10 program.
Of course, Gibson’s premise assumed that there are “millions” earning minimum wage, that they earn the same pay for years despite gaining work experience, and that they are dependent on government to improve their lot in life. All of those notions are false.
According to 2005 data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were only 479,000 hourly workers “earning exactly $5.15, the prevailing Federal minimum wage,” while some 1.9 million take in “wages below the minimum.” Those earning less than the minimum for whatever reasons (legal or illegal) would not get a raise with a minimum wage boost.
What’s more, most of those wage earners are not making a career out of minimum-wage work. Heritage Foundation policy analyst James Sherk noted last summer that “40 percent of minimum wage workers” did not have a job the year before, and a majority of them are under 25.
In his July 28, 2006, WebMemo, Sherk pointed to data that showed “the median minimum wage worker earned a 10 percent raise within a year of starting work” and that “over two-thirds of workers” earned over the minimum after a full year of work.
But the slanted reporting didn’t stop with Gibson. While Reynolds began his story with two small business owners who worried about passing on higher labor costs to customers, he quickly dismissed their fears as “arguments [that] have helped to keep the wage at $5.15 for the last 10 years,” followed by a rebuttal from Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).
Miller, who is sponsoring the minimum wage increase legislation, insisted that the “poor are simply running out of money to pay for the basic necessities of life.” The California congressman scored a perfect 100 in 2005 on the liberal Americans for Democratic Action voter scorecard.
Reynolds continued to stack the deck in favor of the minimum wage, turning to Mark Zandi of Economy.com to insist that “today would be the day” to raise the minimum wage to limit any negative effects on the strong economy. The Chicago-based correspondent, however, found no economist or market watcher with a different perspective.
To cap off his story, Reynolds introduced viewers to single Atlanta mother Irene Cole, who earned $6 an hour – 17 percent more than minimum wage – at a part-time job and lamented she was “going backwards instead of forward” with her low wages, adding that her paycheck barely covered groceries and bus fare to work.
Full-time workers are more likely to enjoy a larger boost in pay over time than part-time employees like Cole – a fact Reynolds didn’t mention. The ABC correspondent also left out that Cole is politically active in the push to raise the minimum wage.
According to the Athens [Ga.] Banner-Herald, “Cole, a single mother and day laborer from Atlanta” spoke in December at “a news conference put on by the Georgia Minimum Wage Campaign” aiming at pushing state lawmakers to raise the minimum wage.
“Something’s got to give … and it starts with you guys,” Banner-Herald staffer Briana Brough quoted Cole scolding state legislators in attendance at the news conference.