Letter: David Zuckerman: Why I support raising the minimum wage

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To the Editor:

The Vermont Legislature's proposed minimum wage would have drastically helped Vermonters across the state. For the average minimum wage worker, a woman in her late 30s, the proposed increase would have meant $5,000 more in her pocket over the next two years. This money could have been used to pay rent, put food on the table, fill the gas tank or the furnace. It could have meant more time at home with family instead of at a second or third job. It might have allowed her to buy clothes for her child or to pay off a credit card balance. The Governor's veto stopped that help reaching the families that need it most.

We have been living under a system of economic suppression for working people ever since the "trickle down" economics policy of the '80s. The Reagan tax cuts for the wealthy were supposed to help the wealthy and then theoretically make the economy better for everyone down the line. However, since the '80s, the wealthiest have seen their incomes increase, while the average working American has seen their income decrease. According to an August 2019 Economic Policy Institute Report, "Compensation for American chief executives increased by 940% from 1978 to 2018, while pay for the average worker rose by a miserable 12% over the same 40-year period." This is the exact opposite of what was promised. This is also the exact opposite of what we should be striving to do. Hard working people should not be left behind.

As many Vermonters living day-to-day on the edge can tell you, and according to the Public Assets Institute, Vermont is a difficult place to make ends meet. What is revealing in this report is while our cost of living is similar to other states in the region, our wages are 18 percent lower than the regional average. We need to bring our wages up to help close the gap.

It's time for political leaders to stop squeezing those at the bottom by misguidedly relying on failed, wealthy-friendly economic policies and present solutions that will actually lift hard-working Vermonters out of poverty. Increasing the minimum wage is one way to do just that. Recent studies have listed benefits to raising wages including an increase in consumer spending, decrease in suicide, higher worker productivity, reduction in employee turnover, and reduction in poverty rates. Increasing Vermont's minimum wage will provide a needed boost to our local economy, help attract and retain a strong workforce, and tangibly improve the lives of more than 40,000 working Vermonters.

David Zuckerman,Hinesburg

The writer is the lieutenant governor of Vermont.

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