In a new report, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that raising the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour would raise the incomes of low-wage workers who remain employed while lowering the incomes of low-wage workers who lose their jobs. CBO’s “middle” estimate is that a $10.10 minimum wage would reduce total employment by about 500,000.
In the State of the Union address, President Obama endorsed a bill to raise the $7.25 federal minimum wage by nearly 40% over three years to $10.10 an hour in 2016. That would be an exact copy of what President Bush did on May 25, 2007, by signing into law a 40% minimum wage hike in three stages — from $5.15 to $5.85 on July 24, 2007, then $6.55 a year later and $7.25 on July 24, 2009. Have we not learned anything from what happened last time?
President Obama set the chattering classes abuzz after his unilateral announcement to raise the minimum wage for newly hired Federal contract workers. During his State of the Union address, he sang the praises for his action, saying that “It’s good for the economy; it’s good for America.” Yet this conclusion doesn’t pass the economic smell test; just look at the data from Europe.
When President Obama advocates a higher minimum wage in his State of the Union Address, he will no doubt argue that by increasing the minimum to $10.10, workers will have fatter pay checks and spend more, thus stimulating the economy and creating more jobs. In fact, economic logic tells a different story.
Seventy-five economists, including seven Nobel winners, have signed a letter advocating an increase in the minimum wage. The letter was preceded by a New York Times editorial on January 2 making the same argument. I assume that there will be an opposing letter shortly, probably also including some Nobel signers.
A new essay on the negative effects of the minimum wage has been added to Downsizing Government's Department of Labor page. According to author Mark Wilson, a former deputy assistant secretary at Labor, "current proposals on Capitol Hill and at the state level to raise minimum wages could not come at a worse time." He notes that " While minimum wages may be a well-meaning attempt to help workers, economic research clearly shows that somebody must pay the price for any increase, and it is usually the least skilled and least fortunate among us." Wilson argues that policymakers should instead "focus on policies that generate faster economic growth to benefit all workers."