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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Horse's Mouth - on minimum wage

TIMES FORGETS THAT SOME ECONOMISTS ARE FOR A MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE. In today's Times piece about Democratic plans to make a minimum wage increase an issue in the midterm elections, reporter Kate Zernike writes that many economists oppose an increase and lets a conservative economist argue the case against a boost -- but forgets to mention that many economists are for an increase, too. From the piece:

Business groups, supported by many economists, have always fought such increases on the argument that setting wages above normal market levels will cause employers to cut back on hiring the very low-wage workers an increase would be intended to benefit.

“The minimum wage raises the take-home pay for some people at the expense of others,” said Kevin A. Hassett, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy group.

“It is wrong to redistribute money from the worse-off workers to other low-income workers.”

For some reason, the Times didn't make any mention at all of the fact that many economists disagree with this assessment and favor an increase (to see a rundown of economists who back a boost go here and click on the PDF link). Nor did the paper let even one of these many economists rebut the anti-minimum wage argument in any serious substantive way. The only argument in favor of a boost the paper acknowledged is that the minimum wage hasn't risen in a long time while inflation has reduced its value to the lowest level in years. But that overly narrow argument is based on nothing more than appeals to sympathy for minimum-wage workers; the piece doesn't tell you that many experts believe it has zero in the way of pernicious effects on the rest of us.

The last increase under Bill Clinton was accompanied by a skyrocketing of low-income employment, and as the Prospect's own Ezra Klein has pointed out, states with high minimum wages tend to have low unemployment rates. If you're going to include the broader substantive case against an increase, isn't it incumbent on you to include the broader substantive case for it, too?

--Greg Sargent

Posted by Greg Sargent on July 13, 2006 06:36 AM
The Horse's Mouth


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