David Woolner: FDR -- Minimum Wage Critics "Hopelessly Reactionary"

tags: FDR, minimum wage, David Woolner, New Deal, Paul Ryan



David Woolner is Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian at the Roosevelt Institute, and Associate Professor of History at Marist College

Our Nation so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling workers’ wages or stretching workers’ hours.

Enlightened business is learning that competition ought not to cause bad social consequences which inevitably react upon the profits of business itself. All but the hopelessly reactionary will agree that to conserve our primary resources of man power, government must have some control over maximum hours, minimum wages, the evil of child labor and the exploitation of unorganized labor. –FDR, May 1937

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour and to link the future minimum wage rate to inflation. In doing so, the president took note of the fact that at today’s minimum wage, a family with two children that works full time sill lives below the poverty line. This, he insisted, is unacceptable, as “in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.” Higher wages, the president insisted, “could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead.” And for businesses across the country, it would mean “customers with more money in their pockets,” which translates into the simple fact that “our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages.”...



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