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Higher minimum wage would hurt Md. seniors

A rally is held at City Hall in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 across Maryland. (Kennth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

Seniors are the fastest growing demographic. To ignore the impact of the proposed increase in the minimum wage to those who worked their entire lives at much lower income levels (and with the full expense of health care, child care and college tuition for their children) is a fool’s mistake (“Goucher Poll: Legalizing pot, raising minimum wage, banning plastic foam products popular in Maryland,” Feb. 18). This is a situation where rising tides don’t lift all boats. The portion of the population the minimum wage increase is supposed to benefit will actually only benefit minimally. But the negative impact on seniors being able to sustain themselves could be catastrophic. Our elected officials need to pause and take a good look at this (hopefully) unintended consequence. They should not be blinded by the vision of increased tax revenue from increased wages.

A $15 minimum wage represents almost a 50 percent increase from the current Maryland minimum of $10.10 per hour. Small business owners will incur more than a 50 percent increase in personnel expenses with an associated increase in employer Social Security contributions. The reduction in workers’ hours and the inevitable increase in consumer prices of goods and services necessitated by this proposed change will result in little benefit to those desiring a “living wage.” An increase in hourly wages multiplied by fewer hours worked equals no additional income — while the price of everything goes up! Seniors will see no increase in their fixed incomes to help them cope with higher prices. Social Security benefits will definitely not rise given the condition of the fund.

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Today’s seniors were assured we could live off the interest rates on our savings plus our Social Security since our expenses would be lower in retirement. Until recently, interest rates on savings accounts and certificates of deposit have been well below 1 percent, often hovering at less than 0.25 percent. Even at 1 percent interest, having a million dollars saved for retirement would only yield $10,000 of income per year. Try living on that plus the national average yearly Social Security payout of $16,960 in Howard County. Even those who are receiving the currently maximum Social Security benefit ($34,332 annually if they had the maximum taxable earnings for at least 35 working years) will feel the crunch from the increased cost of goods and services resulting from a 50 percent increase in minimum wages — unless they have many, many millions set aside. Few do.

Susan Garber, North Laurel

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