The Minimum Wage in Oregon

THE MINIMUM WAGE IN OREGON….If the radical, business-hating, crypto-socialist Democratic Party takes over Congress next week, one of their first orders of business will be to raise the federal minimum wage. As we all know, this would likely cripple the American economy and send us spinning into a recession. After all, look at what happened to Oregon after they raised their minimum wage:

During the 2002 debate in Oregon, foes of a minimum-wage increase argued that it would chase away business and cripple an economy that traditionally had higher unemployment than the national average. “With so many Oregonians already unemployed, raising the minimum wage and then increasing it annually would devastate our economic recovery,” Bill Perry, head of the Oregon Restaurant Association, wrote at the time.

Four years later, though it is impossible to say what would have happened had the minimum not been raised, Oregon’s experience suggests the most strident doomsayers were wrong. Private, nonfarm payrolls are up 8% over the past four years, nearly twice the national increase. Wages are up, too. Job growth is strong in industries employing many minimum-wage workers, such as restaurants and hotels. Oregon’s estimated 5.4% unemployment rate for 2006, though higher than the national average, is down from 7.6% in 2002, when the state was emerging from a recession.

Read the whole thing. Deborah Solomon provides both sides of the story, but it’s worth noting that virtually all the evidence on the anti-minimum wage side is either anecdotal or theoretical. The evidence on the pro-minimum wage side is concrete and statistical. You can decide for yourself which kind of evidence to believe.

POSTSCRIPT: As a side note, it’s interesting that the only industry that’s still throwing around doomsday claims is the agricultural industry. “Why grow a potato here when you can do it in Idaho for $5.15 an hour?” asks one farmer.

It’s true that agriculture is in a unique position, since even if a higher minimum wage were federalized, farmers would still have to compete with cheaper foreign labor. But guess what? Higher wages are what we’re going to get if we seriously cut down on immigration too. So conservatives need to make up their mind: either we need cheap fruit pickers, in which case agriculture should be exempt from the minimum wage and we should allow plenty of immigrants across the border to follow the harvests, or cheap labor isn’t critical and we do neither. Which is it?

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