The current New York State minimum wage is $8.75/hour. Imagine trying to live on that. It comes out to about $1,400 a month, before any payroll taxes or deductions. Rent in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx is about $1,000/month. A Metrocard costs $116.50. That doesn't leave a whole lot left over for anything else—say food, or clothes for your kids.

That's assuming you even get 40 hours a week of work: a lot of minimum wage employers, which are concentrated in the retail, fast food, and health care industries, won't give you more than 30. You can obviously forget about health insurance, or paid time off beyond the miserly five days a year recently passed by the City Council.

The low wage and paltry hours means that most minimum wage workers end up on various forms of welfare: Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, etc. These benefits are paid by the rest of us, in the form of higher taxes. This is corporate welfare, and all New Yorkers are paying it out right now to the shareholders and executives of McDonald's, Burger King, Target, Rite Aid, Citibank—just about every big company with a storefront presence in New York City.

This morning I went to a press conference held by Comptroller Scott Stringer, on the economic effects of a hypothetical $15 minimum wage (phased in at $12.75 in 2017, $13.75 in 2018, and $15 in 2019), which was being discussed in Albany before getting shot down by the Republicans during budget negotiations.

Stringer called the minimum wage hike "an economic imperative for our city" and said that his office found that it would put "$10 billion into the pockets of nearly 1.5 million workers," and would "boost consumer spending, lessen the burden on social assistance programs, and benefit students."

The main bullet points from his report:

1) "New York City has the nation's highest cost of living, and when adjusted for the cost-of-living, the City's minimum wage is the lowest of any major U.S. city."

2) Queens would see the biggest benefit of a $15/hour hike, with 456,000 workers seeing $3.2 billion in additional income. Brooklyn is close behind with 453,000 workers and $3.1BB in income.

3) "Workers in food services, retail trade, and home health care... would see average weekly wage increases ranging from $113 to $149 by 2019."

4) The increase in wage would "decrease the amount spent... for Food Stamps and Medicaid by $200 to $500 million annually" and households receiving the minimum wage increase would be expected "to pay approximately $250 million in additional New York City income taxes."

5) Annually, these households would be expected to spend $1100 to $1800 more on housing, $300 to $600 on groceries, $200 to $400 on entertainment, $200 to $300 more on healthcare, and $200 to $300 more on dining out.

6) "The wage would reduce the number of households earning less than $30,000 by 169,000... and the number of households earning $10,000 to $30,000 would go down by 44%."

7) "The $15 minimum wage would reduce the number of New Yorkers who spend more than half of their income on rent by over 90,000."

The main objections to increasing the minimum wage are that it reduces total employment, because employers simply switch to using more technology instead of human employees, and that it hurts small businesses. Neither of these objections are true. The majority of economists have concluded the unemployment effects are negligible, because the increased consumer spending creates more jobs, and a number of cities, including Seattle, have increased the minimum wage and still seen strong small business growth.

(During the Q&A, Stringer also suggested that raising the minimum wage would allow small businesses to attract better workers and retain them longer, and that the city should help out small businesses by reducing the fines and fees they are subject to. He said: "we can't afford to pit small businesses and families against each other.")

Unless you are a large McDonald's shareholder, there is literally no reason to dislike or fear a higher minimum wage. It benefits the poor, it benefits the economy, it benefits taxpayers. Who would oppose something like that?

Only Republicans in Albany, obviously, and the corporate donors who support them. Also Andrew Cuomo, who, for a Democratic governor in the most liberal state in America, has been surprisingly unsupportive of an increase to $15.

Momentum does seem to be shifting to the side of the raise-the-wage organizers, though- even Walmart has slightly capitulated. Tomorrow the main labor organizers are having a big rally at Columbus Circle at 5 p.m.—it's part of a nationwide series of events in 200 cities. Consider joining them if you want a less unequal society!

N.B.: NYC is actually behind the curve here: besides Seattle, San Francisco has also adopted a $15/minimum wage (after phase-in), and at least seven states currently have higher minimum wages in place than we do.