Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80 from its present level of $7.25. Polls are showing many voters in favor, though they are confused about what it would mean for the job market. The truth is that a move would be good for a slow economy and have a positive impact on the jobs crisis. Naturally, this has led to the usual cries of opposition, largely based on the notion that raising the minimum wage hurts the very people it is supposed to help. Typical of this view is a letter to the New York Times from Michael Saltsman, a fellow at the Employment Policies Institute, a business-backed nonprofit research group (surprise!).
Saltsman trots out the old canards against the minimum wage, claiming that research indicates that a minimum wage increase "simply doesnít help the poor ó in fact, it hurts them." He cites studies which showed that states with their minimum wages between 2003 and 2007 found no associated decline in state poverty rates. Saltsman gives three reasons for this:
1. A majority of working-age individuals who live in poverty donít work, and thus cannot benefit from the raise.
2. A clear majority of those who do earn the minimum wage live in households that arenít in poverty.
3. Less skilled and less experienced employees lose employment opportunities when the cost to hire and train them rises as a result of a minimum-wage increase.
Letís take these arguments in turn. Implicit in the first point is that a majority of working-age individuals donít work because they choose not to (i.e. they are lazy scroungers), or because unemployment is caused by laziness or lack of training. The argument they often use is that ďI can get a job, therefore all the unemployed could get jobs if only they tried harder, or got better education and training.Ē
1. The right freaked out every time it was raised, yet calamity never occurred
Funny too how every time raising of the minimum wage is discussed, they suddenly have empathy for the employees, shedding crocodile tears about how they'll be hurt due to business having to cut back on account of increased expenses. Of course after all the hoopla passes, they go right back to their regularly scheduled publicly stated dislike for the working class.