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The stagnation and collapse of minimum wage purchasing power has helped drive the divergence between the wealthiest and poorest segments of the U.S. workforce. As minimum-wage jobs have provided less and less stable economic footing for working people, the wealthiest sliver of the country has seen astronomical gains in their compensation. If instead the federal minimum wage had grown at the same rate as one-percenter earnings, it would sit at $22.62 per hour today — 212 percent higher than the current wage floor.
A 212 percent raise may seem outlandish, but previous research indicates American workers have just about earned it. Worker productivity has more than doubled since 1968, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity gains it would have been $21.72 last year. From 2000 to 2012 alone workers boosted their productivity by 25 percent yet saw their earnings fall rather than rise, leading some economists to label the early 21st century a lost decade for American workers.
When will people finally say "enough"?