Today, the national minimum wage increases by 70 cents, from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour. I am proud to say that this is the second of three increases due to take effect under the Fair Minimum Wage Act, enacted by this Democratic Congress and signed into law on May 25, 2007.
The increase in the minimum wage comes at an important time for the millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. Real incomes have dropped since 2001, while the costs of gasoline, health insurance, and attending college have skyrocketed. With today's increase, Americans who most urgently need a pay raise will get a badly needed boost.
These pay increases aren't just about helping workers provide for their families. Unlike tax breaks for the wealthy, the minimum wage increase for American workers will be spent locally, which is good for local businesses, large and small, and good for a struggling economy.
Democrats in Congress have been working to ensure that all Americans are able to share in the benefits provided by their hard work. We will keep working toward those goals in order to help grow and strengthen America's middle class. So far, Congress has enacted a stimulus package to try to get our economy back on the right track, approved legislation to make college more affordable, and pushed efforts to lower energy and health care costs.
In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, it is an outrage that anyone who works full-time would still wind up in poverty. Democrats will continue to look at solutions that will help all Americans build a better life for themselves and their families.