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Biden Redefines Non-Discretionary Income to Push Idea of $15/Hour Minimum Wage

President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan includes another step toward normalizing the $15 minimum wage:

Raise the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary income and therefore is protected from repayment, guaranteeing that no borrower earning under 225% of the federal poverty level—about the annual equivalent of a $15 minimum wage for a single borrower—will have to make a monthly payment [The White House, Fact Sheet: “President Biden Announces Student Loan Relief for Borrowers Who Need It Most,” 2022.08.24].

This plank of the student debt relief plan doesn’t raise anyone’s wages, but it reinforces the idea that $15 an hour is a proper floor for wages. CNBC gives some more details on raising the non-discretionary income threshold:

Under current rules, a borrower with income of less than 150% of the federal poverty level qualifies for a $0 monthly loan payment. In 2022, that equates to roughly $20,385 before tax for a single individual — about $9.80 an hour for a full-time worker.

President Biden proposed raising that threshold to 225% of the federal poverty level — about $30,577.50 of annual income, or $14.70 an hour [Greg Iacurci, “President Biden Used Student Loan Reform to ‘Push the Idea that $15 Should Be the Minimum Wage,’ Expert Says. Here’s How,” CNBC, 2022.08.25].

President Biden has set $15 an hour as the minimum wage for federal employees and contractors. South Dakota’s Board of Economic Development has set $15 as the minimum wage worthy of state REDI Fund loans. As we have noted previously, $15 an hour still isn’t enough to cover family needs.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-08-26 10:29

    The rise of companies like Amazon suggests many people are simply too afraid to go into town to shop and I’m hardly the first person to say this but with the right messaging we could transform the pandemic into a general strike in protest of Republican obstructionism. It would not only destroy the entire Republican Party it would bring American capitalism to its knees.

    So, watching the entire GOP circling the drain while they drown their comrades trying to flounder from the Trump maelstrom is the schadenfreude we Democrats need right now.

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