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New year brings minimum wage hikes for Americans in 14 states

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As the United States marks more than six years without an increase in the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, 14 states and several cities are moving forward with their own increases, with most set to start taking effect on Friday.

California and Massachusetts are highest among the states, both increasing from $9 to $10 an hour, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. At the low end is Arkansas, where the minimum wage is increasing from $7.50 to $8. The smallest increase, a nickel, comes in South Dakota, where the hourly minimum is now $8.55.

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The increases come in the wake of a series of “living wage” protests across the country, including a November campaign in which thousands of protesters in 270 cities marched in support of a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights for fast food workers. Food service workers make up the largest group of minimum-wage earners, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With Friday’s increases, the new average minimum wage across the 14 affected states rises from $8.50 an hour to just over $9.

Several cities are going even higher. Seattle is setting a sliding hourly minimum between $10.50 and $13 on Jan. 1, and Los Angeles and San Francisco are enacting similar increases in July, en route to $15 an hour phased in over six years.

Backers say a higher minimum wage helps combat poverty, but opponents worry about the potential impact on employment and company profits.

In 2014, a Democratic-backed congressional proposal to increase the federal minimum wage for the first time since 2009 to $10.10 stalled, as have subsequent efforts by President Barack Obama. More recent proposals by some lawmakers call for a federal minimum wage of up to $15 an hour.

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Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University and former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said a federal minimum wage of up to $12 an hour, phased in over five years or so, “would not have a noticeable effect on employment.”

Some employers may cut jobs in response to a minimum-wage increase, Krueger said, while others may find hikes allow them to fill job vacancies and reduce turnover, lifting employment but lowering profits.

In recent years, an increasing number of states and municipalities have enacted their own wage floor policies. Currently, 29 states plus the District of Columbia and about two dozen cities and counties have their minimum wage at levels higher than the federal minimum.

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Many are now in the midst of multi-year phase-in plans that will ultimately take them to between $10 and $15 an hour.

The 14 states where increases take effect on Friday are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.

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The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated 2014 federal proposal would have raised the wages of 16.5 million Americans and lifted 900,000 of them out of poverty but would have cost as many as 1 million jobs.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Chicago, Editing by Sara Catania and Cynthia Osterman)


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‘Stop tweeting about Joe Scarborough’: GOP’s Liz Cheney goes off on Trump after being asked about masks

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Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on Wednesday broke ranks with President Donald Trump and said he should stop promoting baseless conspiracy theories about MSNBC's Joe Scarborough murdering a staffer 20 years ago.

As reported by Politico's Jake Sherman, Cheney brought up the president's murder conspiracy theories unprompted during an interview with reporters who had originally asked her about wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I do think the president should stop tweeting about Joe Scarborough," she said. "We’re in the middle of a pandemic. He’s the commander in chief of this nation. And it’s causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died."

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BUSTED: Trump flack Kayleigh McEnany has voted by mail 11 times in the last 10 years

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Trump White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany this week echoed President Donald Trump's statements that allowing everyone to vote by mail would result in an unprecedented surge in "voter fraud."

However, a review conducted by the Tampa Bay Times has found that McEnany herself has voted by mail a total of 11 times in the past decade alone.

"In fact, the Tampa native has voted by mail in every Florida election she has participated in since 2010," the Tampa Bay Times has found. "Most recently, she voted by mail in the state’s March 2020 presidential primary, just as Trump did after he made Florida his new permanent home."

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Kentucky militant’s wife plays victim after militia leader fired for hanging governor in effigy

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A right-wing militant was fired for hanging Kentucky's governor in effigy during a lockdown protest -- and his wife is furious.

Terry Bush, president of the Kentucky 3 Percenters militia group, lost his job Tuesday with Neil Huffman Auto Group after he was photographed and recorded hanging Gov. Andy Beshear in effigy before demonstrators gathered outside the governor's mansion and demanded that he come outside, reported the Courier-Journal.

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