Minimum wage, maximum hubris

Minimum wage, maximum hubris

What is it about public policy makers continually thinking they can overcome the immutable laws of economics?

The minimum wage debate remains the best object lesson for this recidivist hubris, in Greater Pittsburgh and across the commonwealth and nation.

The “social justice” crowd continues to advocate for a government-mandated $15 an hour wage floor. It is some kind of magic potion that will lift the downtrodden out of poverty, reduce welfare rolls and “restore dignity” to workers.

Of course, the evidence to the contrary grows and grows where local and state governments have succumbed to intellectual vapidity and political expediency.

As an Issues & Insights (I&I) editorial noted last week:

“A little-third grade math goes a long way. If a company adds $1 an hour to every hour its wage employees work, whether it’s done voluntarily or through government force, its payroll has to expand. If the larger payroll is unaffordable, then something has to be cut — hours, jobs, or both.”

And then there’s this:

“The negative economic tradeoffs for minimum wage workers” after minimum wage hikes, “unfortunately, cancel out most of the paycheck gains,” says a recently published Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) report.

CEI noted other disadvantages, too:

“(F)ewer job openings, longer job searches, reduced hours, stricter policies for arriving late or leaving early, increased automation, higher insurance co-pays, less vacation and personal time, reduced or eliminated on-the-job perks (and), reduced employee discounts,” not to mention, as Issues & Insights added, “greater outsourcing, rising youth unemployment and fewer minority workers hired.”

Hey, other than that, allowing the government to set wages by “social justice” fiat is working out just dandy.

“Economists have been warning policymakers for decades of the downsides of minimum wage laws,” I&I notes. “The lessons are out there today, from Seattle, to San Francisco, to New York, to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign staff.

“But policymakers never listen once they get it into their heads that minimum wage increases are good politics.”

Politics – not sound public policy.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).