Sunday, June 16 marks the longest period in American history without an increase to the federal minimum wage. It will be almost a decade since Congress raised the wage floor to $7.25 an hour, while inflation has cumulatively increased by close to 19%, meaning that working people's salaries are stretched thin.
As a wealthy American and an investor, I'm all in on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but not only out of a sense of justice. While raising the minimum wage will decrease economic and political inequality, it would also be good for my bottom line as well.
Nearly a decade of inaction by Congress has left 11.4% of working Americans living with poverty wages despite working full-time jobs. Forty percent of American workers make less than $15 an hour, and not coincidentally, recent studies show that nearly 40% of Americans have trouble affording at least one of their basic necessities like housing or food.
Lawmakers with the power to stop this disaster of epic proportions spend the majority of their time with wealthy donors like me, and almost none with low-wage workers.
So if our elected representatives in Congress are unwilling to listen to the people who suffer from their inaction, then those of us who have their ear should speak up for a raise in the federal minimum wage because it would build a healthy and thriving economy that benefit rich and poor alike.
The American economy is based on consumer demand. When more people have more money to spend on more goods and services, our economy does better.
This principle is the most basic foundation of our capitalist economy, yet somehow it's never mentioned in the discussion surrounding the minimum wage.
For decades, a substantial portion of our population has been all but locked out of participating in the economy in any meaningful way.
Living on $7.25 an hour, or about $15,000 a year for a full-time worker, leaves an individual with virtually no capacity to purchase anything but the most basic necessities (and even those are often out of reach). For those of us who run businesses or earn investment income from businesses based on consumer demand, this is a huge problem.
I own significant stock in Apple. But my Apple stock would be worth very little without a customer base that has the disposable income to buy iPhones and iPads.
Not every business sells products as expensive as a brand new iPhone, but even your local mom-and-pop diner requires customers with the means to go out to eat occasionally. People working minimum wage jobs do not have those means.
This is a significant reason our economy has taken so long to recover from the market collapse over a decade ago.
That's also why raising the minimum wage is an amazing opportunity for workers and business owners alike: it would be an incredible source of economic stimulus, giving tens of millions of consumers more money to spend in their local communities, as well as increasing productivity and decreasing employee turnover.
Business groups in opposition to the minimum wage increase, like the Chamber of Commerce, are forgetting the wisdom of one of our country's most storied business titans. There's a reason Henry Ford paid his workers enough to be able to afford the Model Ts they were making – a business is only as strong as its customer base. By expanding that base, businesses across the country stand to benefit.
They also ignoring that increasingly, more and more business owners support raising the minimum wage.
Forget tax cuts for the wealthy! If Congress wants to kick our economy into hyperdrive and restore the country's middle class, it's time for them to stop stalling and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Morris Pearl is chair of Patriotic Millionaires, which focuses on promoting public policy solutions that encourage political equality, guarantee a sustaining wage for working Americans, and ensure that wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. He previously was a managing director at BlackRock, one of the world's largest investment firms.
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