Minimum Wage

MINIMUM WAGE….Nathan Newman is praising Howard Dean for proposing an increase in the minimum wage to $7 per hour. Me too. This is one of the most important things we could do to help the working poor, who have seen the minimum wage fall by a third over the past three decades.

And for those who insist that raising the minimum wage would cause massive economic dislocation, I’d like to point out that Congress doubled the minimum wage in 1950 with no ill effects, and raised it to about $8/hour in present-day terms in 1968, again with no ill effects. What’s more, with a few exceptions, most minimum wage jobs are in service industries, not manufacturing jobs that are susceptible to being sent overseas. Raising the minimum wage would help a lot of people at a pretty small cost. We should do it.

And should we index the minimum wage to inflation? Of course. But I’ll renew an even better idea I proposed a year ago: index it to congressional salaries. Assuming a normal 2000-hour work year, congressmen make about $75/hour right now. How about simply making the minimum wage equal to 10% of that? Congress can then increase their own salaries anytime they want, but only if they’re willing to help out the working poor at the same time. Seems fair to me.