A Pay Hike for the Poor

But the minimum-wage increase may not help low-paid workers

In the 1980s the minimum wage has really lived up to its name. Since it was last raised to $3.35 an hour in 1981, inflation has eroded its purchasing power by 27%. Meanwhile, the Reagan era became famous for skyrocketing maximum wages as greed became fashionable throughout the land. Frustrated by Congress's repeated failures to improve the national standard for the lowest- paid employees, eleven states set higher minimums of their own. Even fast- food chains often find themselves bidding $6 an hour and up for workers who scoff at the minimum wage as "chump change."

Last week the White House...

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