Economic Analyst Steve Rattner on Why a Boost to Minimum Wage is Needed

Steve Rattner, an economic analyst on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, joined the show earlier this month on March 3 to discuss why a boost to minimum wage is needed as Congress debated legislation to increase the rate. The charts can be found online as well.

The minimum wage differs in the U.S. across states and cities, as shown in the cart below, which has made the politics of, and debate over, raising the federal minimum more difficult, Rattner said. Some states already have a minimum wage that is substantially higher than the federal minimum wage, including $13 per hour in California and $13.50 in Massachusetts. In cities like Seattle and New York City, the minimum wage is set at $16.69 and $15, respectfully. There are also states like Texas and Georgia that currently match the federal minimum wage.

While some states have higher minimum wages than others, the federal minimum wage, first established in 1938, has not been raised since 2010, which makes this the longest period that the federal minimum wage has gone without being raised since its inception.

Rattner explained the need for a boost to minimum wage by showing a history of the rate compared to the poverty threshold. As Rattner explained, the minimum wage in the 1960s and 1970s provided an income for a family of three above the poverty line. In the 1980s, the minimum wage income level first dipped below the poverty threshold, as depicted in the chart below. While the minimum wage has been increased since the 1980s, the income level has remained below the poverty threshold.

Additionally, Rattner presented a chart that compares the minimum wage in the U.S. to the minimum wage in other major countries. As shown in the chart below, the U.S. ranks lower than other countries, including Slovenia.

Rattner served as counselor and lead auto adviser to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in February 2009 under the Obama Administration.