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Beyond Bare Minimum

One item ignored by Congress in its final days is a much-needed increase in the nation's federal minimum wage, from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour, proposed by the Clinton White House last March.

Democrats wanted this 20 percent increase, but the Republican majority postponed the bill, hoping a Bush administration would argue that it's not a favorable move when the economy is slowing its rapid pace.

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Yet large numbers of dual-income households, where both wage earners earn the minimum wage, are having trouble juggling expenses, despite the boom times. The administration has a persuasive argument: The last increase, in 1996, helped 10 million workers, and that didn't raise unemployment.

And as more families leave welfare for the workforce, an income boost will help them stay off welfare, especially female-heads of households.

Many compromises will be needed between a new Congress and a new president on the budget and other matters. But there's little reason to compromise on making sure employers pay at a level that helps keep the lowest-paid workers out of poverty.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society