Steve Coll on Raising the Minimum Wage
Steve Colls begins his “Talk of the Town” piece on a $10 federal minimum wage in familiar territory for me: Sea-Tac:
In 2005, Alaska Airlines fired nearly five hundred union baggage handlers in Seattle and replaced them with contractors. The old workers earned about thirteen dollars an hour; the new ones made around nine. The restructuring was a common episode in America’s recent experience of inequality.
But the key graf is near the end and worth reading and re-reading this holiday season, or Christmas for Fox-News watchers:
For decades, business owners have resisted higher minimum wages by arguing that they destroy jobs, particularly for young people. At some theoretical level, high minimum wages will distort job creation, but the best empirical evidence from the past decade is aligned with common sense: a minimum wage drawn somewhat above the poverty line helps those who work full time to live decently, without having a significant impact on other job seekers or on total employment. (For example, a study of pairs of neighboring counties with differing minimum pay found that higher wages had no adverse effect on restaurant jobs.) Even so, a federal minimum wage of ten dollars or more will not solve inequality. It will not stop runaway executive pay or alter the winner-take-all forces at work in the global economy. Yet it will bring millions of Americans closer to the levels of economic security and disposable income that they knew before the housing bubble burst.