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Poverty Wages In America

Solving America’s low wage conundrum. Looking for a way up and out of the poverty wage trap. Plus

Colorado Walmart employees and supporters join nationwide protests, in front of a Walmart store in Lakewood, Colo., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, for Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the nation's biggest shopping day of the year. (AP)

Colorado Walmart employees and supporters join nationwide protests, in front of a Walmart store in Lakewood, Colo., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, for Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the nation’s biggest shopping day of the year. (AP)

Low-wage America is a big country, and it’s not an easy place to live.  The nation’s grown a lot richer over the decades, but retail wages have fallen by almost a third. America’s minimum wage, as a percent of average pay, is now the lowest of any OECD country but Mexico.  We all know the stories of McDonalds and WalMart workers on food stamps.  It can make you feel guilty just buying a burger.  But what to do about it?  There’s a new push on to raise the minimum wage, even if just locally.  And then what? This hour On Point:  America’s low wage crisis, and what to do about it.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Reid Wilson, senior political policy blogger for The Washington Post. (@PostReid)

Jason Fichtner, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. (@JJFichtner)

David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. (@metaCoop)

Tiffany Beroid, 29-year-old married mother of two who works at a Wal-Mart in Laurel, MD.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Push for minimum wage hike led by localities, Democrats — ‘Efforts in Congress to raise the national minimum wage above $7.25 an hour have stalled. But numerous local governments — including those of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and the District — are forging ahead, in some cases voting to dramatically increase the pay of low-wage workers. The efforts, while supported by many unions, threaten to create a patchwork of wage rates that could mean workers in some areas will be entitled to vastly less than those working similar jobs nearby. The campaigns reach from coast to coast.’

Bloomberg Businessweek: What a Higher Minimum Wage Does for Workers and the Economy — “Raising the minimum wage is neither as wonderful as its advocates claim nor as dangerous as its detractors warn. On the upside, it would increase pay for millions of Americans, not only those earning the minimum but also those at fixed increments above it. These are people who could really use a raise. Contrary to what generations of students were taught in freshman econ, new research finds that minimum-wage increases at the state level have caused little, if any, harm to employment. ‘Outside of the simple Econ 101-type environment, increasing workers’ pay can improve the functioning of the low-wage labor market,’ Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts economist, testified before Congress in March.”

America: Francis’ Multi-faceted Reflection — “As has been amply reported and commented upon, Francis sees the need for a more diverse and less centralized and clericalized Church. He dreams of a poor Church living a fundamental option for the poor. He also critiques an economic system in which profit prevails over persons, violating their dignity and legitimate aspirations. Pope Francis has derived important elements of this pastoral vision from the writings of his predecessors mentioned above, upon which he gratefully and extensively draws. However, the powerful and personal synthesis and program is unmistakably his own.”

Pope Francis’ Anti-Capitalist Creedo

Eric LymanRome-based freelance writer who covers the Vatican for USA Today and the Religion News Service. (@EricJLyman)

The Washington Post: Pope Francis lays out a blueprint for his papacy in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ — “Francis blasted the ‘idolatry of money’ in the world financial system, which he called ‘an economy of exclusion and inequality.’ He also called on the church itself to work from the trenches: ‘I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confirmed and from clinging to its own security.'”

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