Labor's minimum-wage mind games
President Obama's sudden support of the Senate's $10.10 minimum-wage bill is partisan politicking of the worst kind. It's a desperate attempt to distract the public from the Affordable Care Act's dismal polling numbers — and it ignores the simple fact that such a wage hike would be similarly disastrous to the small businesses that employ much of the minimum-wage workforce.
The president has tried to cover up this fact via a savvy public-relations campaign from his Department of Labor. Over the past few months, the department unveiled a “Minimum Wage Mythbusting” education campaign ostensibly geared to debunk what it claims are misconceptions about raising the minimum wage.
Despite its name, this campaign supposedly focused on busting myths is, itself, chock full of them. So flawed are Labor's analyses that even the government's own data contradict the “facts” included in Obama's public-education campaign.
Start with Labor's claim that “the typical minimum-wage earner is not a high-school student earning weekend pocket money.” The department's email used this to set up a discussion about minimum-wage earners supporting families.
But this is misleading: High school or not, the Bureau of Labor Statistics — which at last check is part of the Department of Labor — says that minimum-wage earners “tend to be young.” More than half are between the ages of 16 and 24, and about 1 in 4 is a teenager. (The ratio of teens to adults is 1 in 20 for the entire hourly workforce.)
In other words, the “typical” minimum-wage earner is either in high school or is a young adult who is just a few years out of school.
Moreover, most minimum-wage employees are either living at home with family or have a spouse who earns a higher income. The average family income in these households is close to $50,000 a year.
The Department of Labor's sleight of hand on this “myth” pales in comparison to its academic malpractice on the question of minimum wages and employment. It labels “not true” the claim that wage hikes reduce employment for less-skilled job seekers, even though 85 percent of the best economic research on this subject from the last two decades says otherwise.
Labor also ignores the findings of Congress' Minimum Wage Study Commission, which established conclusively in a seven-volume report that each 10-percent increase in the minimum wage reduces employment for young people by as much as 3 percent.
A mistake of this magnitude might be understandable in a freshman economics class, but it's baffling coming from the government agency whose job it is to understand how labor markets work. Given its answers to other questions, though, it seems Labor is more interested in scoring partisan points than in evaluating policy.
Had the Labor Department and the president, who appoints its secretary, been less interested in making a political point, they might have noticed those inconvenient economic details. Instead, they chose political pandering over sound public policy.
Michael Saltsman is the research director at the Employment Policies Institute.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- CMU water service to be interrupted for much of Sunday
- Pirates’ 5-game winning streak ends with 1-0 loss to Brewers
- Gas industry remedies ‘brain drain’ in Western Pennsylvania
- Pirates find a bridge at end of baseball world in Holdzkom
- Paying tuition a challenge as costs skyrocket and aid varies
- Play to watch: Inside zone read slant/bubble
- Pitt blows 10-point lead as Iowa rallies for win
- Starkey: Can Steelers’ Mitchell find Carolina cure?
- Hill District leaders irked as Penguins submit former Civic Arena site plan to city
- Penguins’ Rutherford hopes to raise Cup again
- Penguins notebook: Crosby sits, could be out ‘couple days’