Right-wing Republicans like to make grand pronouncements about how enacting this or that progressive policy will bring doom and destruction. The 1993 budget deal passed without a single Republican vote, and Newt Gingrich said it would “kill the current recovery and put us back in a recession.” Other GOPers made similar predictions. In fact, Bill Clinton’s presidency saw the strongest economy in decades, and the federal budget ran a net surplus of $63 billion during his eight years in office.
Obamacare? Same thing. On January 6, 2011, then-Speaker John Boehner said the law “will ruin our economy” and described it as “job-killing” seven times during a 14-minute tirade. That didn’t happen either. We’ve created 15 million private sector jobs since Obamacare became law.
This brings us to the minimum wage. When asked, Donald Trump said: “I would not raise the minimum [wage],” and added, for good measure that in America “wages [are] too high.” In clarifying his remarks (i.e., lying and claiming he didn’t say the exact words he was recorded saying), he reiterated his opposition to raising the minimum wage because, he claimed, we wouldn’t be able to compete with other countries. Right. Like the fast food chains and similar types of businesses that pay minimum wage are in direct competition with foreign multinationals. Any of you plan on flying to China to save a couple of bucks on a Big Mac?
How about economists? Over at the Employment Policies Institute, they claim that raising the minimum wage hurts the economy. Who are they? That EPI is a right-wing front group, a shill for the restaurant industry and other corporations and conservative groups. They are trying to trick you into thinking they are the other EPI, the Economic Policy Institute. The real EPI issued a statement signed by more than 600 actual economists which read, in part:
In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.
Large numbers of economists support raising the minimum wage, and there exists a strong consensus across the field that doing so significantly reduces poverty. Finally, a review done just this May of how federal minimum wage increases going back to 1938 affected employment found:
Basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels, even in the industries that are most impacted by higher minimum wages. To the contrary, in the substantial majority of instances (68 percent) overall employment increased after a federal minimum-wage increase. In the most substantially affected industries, the rates were even higher: in the leisure and hospitality sector employment rose 82 percent of the time following a federal wage increase, and in the retail sector it was 73 percent of the time. Moreover, the small minority of instances in which employment—either overall or in the indicator sectors—declined following a federal minimum-wage increase all occurred during periods of recession or near recession. That pattern strongly suggests that the few instances of such declines in employment are better explained by the overall national business cycle than by the minimum wage.
The last couple of years have only reconfirmed these findings, and further proven Trump and his corporate Republican allies wrong. For example, 21 raised the minimum wage in 2015, and another 14 did so in 2016. A number cities did so as well, most notably Seattle, where the impact on jobs was negligible, and in fact was positive when compared to neighboring areas that didn’t raise their minimum. The minimum wage is also scheduled to rise in a number of other states, most notably in huge ones like New York and California.
In terms of the broader economy, we know that 2015 was the best year, well, ever, when it comes to after-inflation income growth for the median American household. Ever. Also, the poverty rate fell by the largest percentage since 1999, and hit the lowest level since before the Great Recession. Additionally, there are more job openings right now than in at least a decade, and new unemployment claims are at a 40-year low.
Oh, and in response to the release of this impressive economic news, here’s the first paragraph in the lead story in last Thursday’s New York Times: “The eye-popping improvement in economic fortunes last year raises the question: If incomes are up and poverty is down, why is Donald J. Trump’s message of economic decay resonating so broadly?” I don’t want to get off track here, but can I just shake my head and mutter: come frickin’ on.
Does increasing the minimum wage hurt the economy? Does it kill jobs? Absolutely not. What it does is put more money into the hands of hard-working people who will spend it, who will put it right back into the economy. Is there a point at which the minimum wage might be too high? Perhaps, but we are nowhere near that point yet, especially given that the federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, remains almost $4 an hour below where it stood in 1968.
Donald Trump opposes raising the federal minimum wage. Does he actually believe doing so would hurt our economy? That’s beside the point. What matters is he stands on the side of the corporations who want to keep as much profit in their pocket as possible, as opposed to watching it go into the pockets of their employees. Trump’s own record as an employer shows he’ll stiff workers every chance he gets. Hillary Clinton wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour, and has expressed a willingness to support an even higher level.
We need to raise the minimum wage to the point where a full-time job earns at least enough to make ends meet. On this, as with so many other issues, Trump and his fellow Republicans have been wrong for a very long time.
PS. Here’s the video of Trump telling American workers they earn too much money—but he’s the one who’ll make things great again for people who get paid by the hour.