A University of Chicago economist well-known for tearing down the conventional wisdom on a host of controversial topics is wading into the renewed debate over the minimum wage.
In response to a question in a Reddit Ask Me Anything forum on Tuesday, Steven Levitt, one of the co-authors of bestseller "Freakonomics," wrote: "Honestly, I don't think the minimum wage matters all that much to the economy."
In his State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama proposed raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour, up from $7.25. "We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages," he said in the address.
Explaining that a very small percentage of American workers actually are paid the minimum wage, Levitt wrote: "People can always cheat to get around it."
In 2011, 1.7 million workers earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that year, workers making the minimum wage or below represented about 5.2 percent of hourly workers overall.
Some studies have reinforced President Barack Obama's argument that raising the minimum wage would boost the economy. Raising the minimum wage by $1 would give households comprised of minimum wage workers $2,800 per year more to spend, according to a 2011 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago cited by CNN.
Levitt and his co-author Stephen Dubner are known for a number of counterintuitive economic theories. In their book "Freakonomics" they argued among other things that legalized abortion reduced the crime rate, and that the wage structure of illegal drug dealing is just as skewed as in corporate America. In Tueday's AMA, Levitt also raised the controversial idea that changing the laws around gun buying will do little to stem gun violence.
Also on HuffPost:
Though Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain never outright advocated abolishing the minimum wage, he did argue that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/herman-cain-minimum-wage_n_1035157.html">minimum wage laws prevent workers</a> at the margins from getting their first jobs. Cain was an executive in the restaurant industry, which is one of the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/low-wage-workers-_n_1687271.html">largest employers of low-wage workers.</a>
Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/herman-cain-minimum-wage_n_1035157.html">criticized the commerce clause</a> for creating minimum wage laws in his book "Fed Up! Our Fight To America From Washington."
Alaska Tea Party Senate Candidate Joe Miller
When he was running for Senate in 2010, Joe Miller, a Republican Senate candidate, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/story?id=11790828">told ABC News</a> that "there should not be" a federal minimum wage.
Famed libertarian and former Republican Congressman and presidential candidate said during a presidential debate in 2011 that the country <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/09/ron-paul-abolish-minimum-wage-to-help-poor-people/">would "absolutely" be better off</a> if the minimum wage was abolished because "it would help the poor people."
Frequent Fox guest Peter Schiff claimed in September 2011 that the minimum wage was "one of the most anti-poor people" rules in the country, <a href="http://mediamatters.org/research/2011/09/22/fox-hosts-peter-schiff-to-attack-minimum-wage/183198">according to Media Matters</a>. Correction: <em>A previous version of this slide incorrectly identified Schiff as a Fox host.</em>
Republican West Virginia Senate Candidate John Raese
When he was running for Senate in 2008, West Virginia Republican John Raese called the federally mandated minimum wage "an archaic system that has never worked," <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/43474.html">according to Politico</a>.
Minnesota Congresswoman and one-time Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said in June 2011 that <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/michele-bachmanns-radical-position-on-minimum-wage/2011/03/03/AGyzgXpH_blog.html">she supports abolishing the minimum wage</a>.
Las Vegas Chamber Of Commerce
A spokesperson for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce argued in favor of a 2011 proposal to repeal Nevada's minimum wage, saying that a minimum wage doesn't have to be locked into the Constitution, <a href="http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/feb/16/bill-seeks-repeal-nevadas-825-minimum-wage/">according to the Las Vegas Sun</a>.
Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said in 2010 that while Congress has the right to mandate a minimum wage, he's not sure it's such a good idea. "I think the question you have to ask is whether or not when you set the minimum wage it may cause unemployment, the son of Libertarian <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2010/10/other-gop-candidates-leery-of-minimum-wage/">Ron Paul said, according to ABC News</a>.
The former Federal Reserve Chairman said at a congressional hearing in 2001 that he would get rid of the minimum wage if he had the power, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB995487254182218412.html">according to a Wall Street Journal report</a> at the time. "I'm not in favor of cutting anybody's earnings or preventing them from rising, but I am against them losing their jobs because of artificial government intervention, which is essentially what the minimum wage is," he said.
The New York Times In 1987
In <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/new-york-times-minimum-wage_n_2696194.html?utm_hp_ref=business">a 1987 editorial</a>, the New York Times argued for eliminating the minimum wage saying that it's "an idea who's time has passed."