Boosting Paychecks

The Politics of Supporting America's Working Poor

Boosting Paychecks illuminates a commonly neglected part of the American safety net—policies designed to support low-wage workers and their families—at a time when they are needed more than ever.

In this clear-eyed account, Daniel Gitterman focuses on two policy tools that have been used to aid the working poor since the early twentieth century: the federal tax code and the minimum wage. The tax code can be fine-tuned in many ways—through changes to exemptions, deductions, credits, tax brackets, and rates—to alter the amount of income workers are left with at the end of the day. In combination with the minimum wage, it helps determine the economic well-being of many lower-income households.

Gitterman analyzes the partisan politics that have shaped tax and wage policies since the New Deal while paying particular attention to the past three decades. He also examines the degree to which politics and the resulting policies have succeeded in lifting low-wage workers and their families out of poverty.

Forging a new political bargain that balances labor-market flexibility with security for poor working families is one of the most critical challenges facing government today. Boosting Paychecks sheds new light on the scope of this challenge, the political constraints and opportunities policymakers face, and their prospects for success in this critical endeavor.