March 3, 2024

George Will’s Minimum Wage Fallacies


Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

George Will’s Minimum Wage Fallacies

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – If columnist George Will’s logic is logical, the minimum hourly wage should not be raised from $7.25 to President Obama’s proposed $10.10; it should be lowered, or better, still, eliminated. And his arguments are rooted in the idea that an individual’s value is less important than a group’s value, an interesting proposition coming from a conservative.

He equates a minimum wage to government price setting, but a wage floor is nothing more than a legal line to prevent predatory wage practices. Above that line, labor and management are free to negotiate.

He says “less than 3 percent of the workforce earns the minimum wage” as if (a) they don’t matter and (b) those earning low wages pegged to the minimum don’t even count (Walmart’s average sales associate earns $8.81 per hour, which at $15,576 per year is well below the federal poverty level of $22,050).

He says “approximately 24 percent of minimum wage workers are teenagers” and “increasing the minimum wage would increase the incentive to leave school early.” If this is logical, then why have a minimum wage for teenagers at all? Does age somehow lessen the value of their labor?

He claims “automation of ordering and preparation of food” would supplant the “43.8 percent of minimum wage workers” who work in the restaurant industry. We have heard this before. The Robber Barons of the late 19th Century threatened labor with automation, which in turn evoked the Luddite movement of fearful workers destroying machines. In fact, history has proven that technological progress increases employment.

He claims “that most minimum-wage earners are not poor” because they “are not heads of households.” In this discriminatory concept, perhaps he would allow employers to base wages upon the total earnings of a household instead of the individual worker’s value.

He acknowledges that “some of the working poor earn so little they are eligible for welfare,” which he justifies by claiming that a higher minimum wage would force them out of work. He fails to note that government funds paid to the working poor are not subsidizing the workers, but their employers.

He claims the minimum wage “will raise the general wage floor” – to what? A living wage?

He says “a strengthened Earned Income Credit is the most efficient way to give money to the working poor.” The operative word is “give.” Workers are not asking for a gift, just a fair wage. And, once again, a “gift” from government is nothing more than a business subsidy that encourages and allows employers to pay substandard wages.

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.


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