Minimum Wage Hike is Popular, But CBO Report Reels Rightbloggers into Attacking It
That's when a Congressional Budget Office report speculated that the $10.10 minimum might raise the wages of 16.5 million American workers (yay!) but might also lead to a loss of half a million jobs (boo!).
This revived rightbloggers' opposition to raising the wage -- and (as too much ain't enough for the brethren) stirred some of them to advocate lowering it, if not doing away with it altogether.
Obama's SOTU, you will recall, generally and predictably enraged conservatives, but the proposed minimum wage was not so much their focus at first. You might think they kept relatively quiet because the minimum wage hasn't risen much over the years, and in a era of stagnant wages and rising prices it makes sense to raise the wage floor to reduce the number of "working poor." More likely it had to do with the large and widespread public support for the $10.10 minimum wage -- measured by Pew in January at about 73%. If you want to win another election someday, that's a bad number to get on the wrong side of.
Nonetheless some of the brethren had a go. Reacting to pre-SOTU trial balloons, National Review's Jim Geraghty, for example, focused on the small size of the minimum-wage community. "So . . . the Democrats' big idea on income inequality is one that will increase wages for . . . 1.1 percent of the workforce," he wrote. They're like snail-darters of poverty! "The workers making minimum wage may very well appreciate the extra $85 to $114 per week," admitted Geraghty, "but it's not going to have much of an impact on their purchasing power." (The guy living on $15,000 a year may disagree, but who are you going to believe: Some bum making minimum wage, or Jim Geraghty?)
At The Federalist, Sean Davis listed "11 Facts About The Minimum Wage That President Obama Forgot To Mention," which also portrayed the beneficiaries as a small, easily-disregarded minority of young burger-flippers who "Either Dropped Out Of Or Never Attended High School" (which "doesn't mean a college education is best for everyone," Davis cautioned, "but it does suggest that lacking one can make it more difficult to move up the pay ladder").
See? Just because you wanted your own room at the flophouse, you made the children cry and mom forget her word-balloon punctuation! (Via.)
But Davis saved his grimmest news, by conservative standards at least, for last: "A Change In The Minimum Wage Often Triggers Union Wage Hikes And Benefit Renegotiations." By a variety of mechanisms, including the use of the minimum wage as a baseline in contract negotiations, unions may benefit from a raise; therefore, said Davis, "The 'real' reason behind the minimum wage push is to pay back the labor unions who helped re-elect the president in the form of higher wages, increased negotiating leverage, and less competition for jobs."
The connection between minimum and union wages has been explored for decades and, as seen in this 2007 Heritage Foundation report, has developed into a venerable conservative talking-point. Yet for some reason this argument that other workers might also get higher wages out of a higher minimum wage hasn't caught fire with the sheeple. Curse that MSM!
But last week's CBO report gave the brethren a new attack point -- for, while the Democrats had been playing on citizens' fears of falling into poverty, rightbloggers could now play on their fears of falling into joblessness.
"What's better?" asked Rob Port of Say Anything. "More people working at a lower wage? Or fewer people working at a higher one?" (The answer: Obama sucks.) "The question we have to ask ourselves," demanded S.E. Cupp of CNN: "Would that [wage boost] be that worth the potential loss of 500,000 jobs?" (Answer: Obama sucks!)
When the Economic Policy Institute produced a letter signed by 600 economists, including seven Nobel laureates, in favor of a minimum wage hike, Reason's David Harsanyi oh-yeahed, "How many of those findings are driven by partisan and ideological concerns rather than empirical outcomes? I'll let the social scientists argue over it." While you were out looking for social scientists, Harsanyi hustled in his experts: 38 "top economic experts" from the University of Chicago. Given the proposal "raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour would make it noticeably harder for low-skilled workers to find employment," 34 percent agreed, 32 percent disagreed and 24 percent were uncertain. What does this tell us? That "the minimum wage debate splits economists in many ways these days, but what it doesn't do is offer us any consensus that asserts Obama is right. It never does." Because Obama sucks!
At the Western Center for Journalism, Christopher Agee crowed that the CBO report "slaps Obama in the face," called $10.10 "unfeasible" and "unsustainably high," and asserted the hike "would result in widespread price increases for consumers, which would disproportionately affect the very low-income families the policy would ostensibly benefit." Ultimately, though, even the vigor of his contempt could not lift Agee's spirits, for "an uninformed populace" had been taken in by the "false promises and pandering for guaranteed votes" of "leftist politicians." His gloom was shared by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, who lamented that "the American people will never understand the ins and outs of the monopsony debate and the like." (Wiki here.) Later, Cowen asked, "Will raising the minimum wage boost crime?"
In the fun-with-numbers category, Jeffrey Dorfman said at Forbes that "the President is proposing to redistribute around $100 billion per year from business owners and customers to low wage workers" and since, notwithstanding the 16.5 million wage-gainers, CBO proposed only 900,000 citizens rising above the poverty level, "the proposal is to spend $100 billion to remove 900,000 people from poverty. That is about $110,000 per person lifted out of poverty." Gummint spendin' $110,000 a my money fer one freeloader! Mabel, git me my votin' rifle! (Fun game, anyone can play.)
"This is how the numbers have always worked," intoned Daniel Greenfield at FrontPageMag. "The left intervenes in the economy to reduce income inequality and destroys jobs which leads to more income inequality. The more it intervenes, the more people end up out of work or living from paycheck to paycheck." This accounts for the steady decline of the U.S. economy since the minimum wage was established in 1938.
Perhaps swayed by reflection, or an editor, further down Greenfield admitted, "some workers will benefit. Others will lose." But the real problem was liberals' bad attitudes: "If the Dems simply admitted that, we could have a rational conversation on the subject," said Greenfield. "Since they won't, we can't. In their world, no one will lose their job, unless businesses are mean. That's the philosophy that led to people fighting over powdered milk in government stores in Venezuela while the government denounces milk hoarding." You had your chance at rational conversation with Daniel Greenfield, libs, and now look what's happening in Caracas!