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Top Progressives Say $15 Minimum Wage Is Too Low, Call For $26 Minimum Wage Instead
Robert Reich
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Leftists are arguing that a $15 minimum wage is far too low; instead, many are calling for a $26 minimum wage.

As originally noted by Foundation for Economic Education correspondent Brad Polumbo, online debate about the policy started with an August article from the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research. Economist Dean Baker argued in the piece that the minimum wage ought to keep pace with overall economic productivity.

Having the minimum wage track productivity growth is not a crazy idea. The national minimum wage did in fact keep pace with productivity growth for the first 30 years after a national minimum wage first came into existence in 1938…

Think of what the country would look like if the lowest paying jobs, think of dishwashers or custodians, paid $26 an hour. That would mean someone who worked a 2000 hour year would have an annual income of $52,000. This income would put a single mother with two kids at well over twice the poverty level.

And, this is just for starting wages. Presumably workers would see their pay increase above the minimum as they stayed at their job for a number of years and ideally were promoted to better paying positions. If we assume that after 10 or 15 years their pay had risen by 20 percent, then these workers at the bottom of the pay ladder would be getting more than $60,000 a year.

Baker acknowledges that the policy would cause mass unemployment if implemented in the present economic order; however, he recommended fundamentally restructuring the economy such that wealthy Americans earn less income.

We can start with my favorites, government-granted patent and copyright monopolies. Items like drugs, medical equipment, and computer software, which would all be relatively cheap in a free market, instead cost us huge amounts of money because of these monopolies…

The beneficiaries from patent and copyright monopolies are overwhelming those at the top end of the income distribution. Many workers in the tech sector make high six or even seven figure salaries. Lucky winners can walk away with tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars because of these government-granted monopolies. Bill Gates would probably still be working for a living if the government was not prepared to arrest anyone who made copies of Microsoft software without his permission.

Left-leaning pundits and media outlets agreed with the argument.

“Today seems like a good time to remind you that if wages had kept pace with productivity gains over the last 50 years, the minimum wage would be $24 an hour,” tweeted Robert Reich, who served as Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration.

Meanwhile, CBS News ran a story featuring Baker’s argument in a favorable light.

Proposals to hike the federal minimum wage have grown increasingly popular amid attempts to stimulate the economy following COVID-19 and the lockdown-induced recession.

Beyond Democrats’ push to include a provision in the American Rescue Plan to increase the minimum wage, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced “an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour.”

Many proposals were offered by Republican lawmakers. In February, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) proposed a minimum wage increase for corporations that make over $1 billion in revenue; Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) suggested raising the wage to $10 per hour by 2025.

Citing conservative economist Thomas Sowell, Polumbo notes that “the real minimum wage is always zero.”

“Why is the real minimum wage zero? Because there’s always the option not to employ the worker at all,” Polumbo wrote. “And if the minimum wage is arbitrarily set at a level above the value of the worker’s labor, employing them would be charity, not business.”

“As nice as it may be to think that dishwashers would receive $26/hour, in many cases, businesses would invest in technology to do the job, hire illegal immigrants, or otherwise contrive to hire far fewer dishwashers.”

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Top Progressives Say $15 Minimum Wage Is Too Low, Call For $26 Minimum Wage Instead