Raising the Minimum Wage Will Hurt the Poor

The Wall Street Journal takes issue with Obama's proposal, but it's a popular one

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 18, 2013 1:12 PM CST

(Newser) – President Obama's State of the Union call to raise the minimum wage to $9 will ironically hurt his core supporters: young people and minorities, the Wall Street Journal argues in an editorial. "Setting a floor under the price of labor creates winners and losers," the editors argue. Some workers will get a raise, "But others—typically the least educated and skilled—will be priced out of the job market and their pay won't rise to $9. It will be zero." The proposed change would increase unemployment, they argue, without combating poverty, since few minimum wage earners are primary household breadwinners. "It'd be nice to think that some Republicans, even one, would make the moral case that the minimum wage hurts the poorest workers," but instead they usually fold on it, the paper laments.

There's a reason for that. Eleanor Craft at the Daily Beast points out that minimum wage increases are overwhelmingly popular; one survey last year found almost all Democrats, 74% of independents, and 50% of Republicans in favor. Paul Krugman at the New York Times, meanwhile, argues that the effects would be "overwhelmingly positive," and benefit "hard-working but low-paid Americans" without raising government spending. As for the argument that bumping the wage will eliminate jobs, Krugman writes that there's plenty of evidence to the contrary, much of it touching on the simple fact that "workers aren't bushels of wheat." They're people, and "the human relationships involved in hiring and firing" them are complex. "One byproduct of this human complexity seems to be that modest increases in wages for the least-paid don’t necessarily reduce the number of jobs."

These kinds of jobs could soon pay more. Is that a good thing?
These kinds of jobs could soon pay more. Is that a good thing?   (Shutterstock)
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