One size does not fit all

An analysis of raising the national minimum wage

Cade Huston, Guest Writer

Cade Huston, a 3rd year political science student. (Courtesy of Cade Huston)

An increase to the national minimum wage has once again been propelled to the forefront of the national news. President Biden, along with congressional Democrats, has begun to push for a $15 national minimum wage. Proponents of the increase claim this will raise millions out of poverty. However, public policy should not be judged on its intent but rather its objective results. More than doubling the minimum wage will yield terrible results.

Increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 nationally to $15 nationally will kill millions of jobs as well as disproportionately harm the people it intends to help.

The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report detailing how devastating the wage increase would be to the economy. The CBO estimates that a total of 1.4 million jobs would be lost by the increase with an estimation of only 900 thousand people being pulled out of poverty. This 1.4 million estimate is on the low end, as places like the Manhattan Institute estimate it could be as high as 6.6 million.

The people most negatively affected by this artificial wage increase would be the very same people the wage increase tries to help. According to the CBO, young and less educated people would account for a disproportionate share of the reductions in employment. Those who have a high school diploma, some college, or have not graduated high school would see a wipeout of 1.3 million jobs. People with higher education levels are not affected the same way by the wage hike. Only 100 thousand jobs would be lost for those who have at least a college degree. Younger individuals would also be hit extremely hard, with people who are 18 and younger seeing a decrease of 600 thousand jobs. The first to be fired will almost always be the less-educated and lower-skilled. A lower-paying job is better than being unemployed.

The minimum wage hike would destroy families’ income. The CBO estimated that real income would reduce by a whopping $9 billion. This loss in real income would only mean negligible gains for low-income workers with the maximum of an extra $600 for those who are able to retain their job through the onslaught of unemployment.

This intense job loss makes logical sense if you run a very basic economic analysis. For example, let’s say I am a business owner. I make $50 in revenue to pay my employees. I employ 10 people and therefore pay each $5. When the government tells me that I am now to pay my employees at least $10, I must reduce my staff from 10 to 5 people. This very rudimentary example is how unemployment destroys jobs. This is also why big corporations like Walmart and Amazon love the $15 dollar minimum wage. It kills small businesses who can’t afford the wage increase and leaves them with a greater share of the market if not an outright monopoly.

Raising the minimum wage would also increase the prices of goods and services. The CBO states, “In general, increasing the minimum wage tends to reduce employment in two ways. First, higher wages increase the cost to employers of producing goods and services. The employers pass some of those increased costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices, and those higher prices, in turn, lead consumers to purchase fewer goods and services. The employers consequently produce fewer goods and services, so they reduce their employment of both low-wage workers and higher-wage workers.” This is an incredibly deadly cycle of inflation that leads to more unemployment and higher costs. Logically once the $15 minimum wage increases the prices we will need a $20 minimum wage and then a $30. This would very simply decimate our economy.

The $15 minimum wage would provide a one size fits all glove to a nation of diverse people with different needs. It is very obvious that Seattle is different from rural Wisconsin or that Los Angeles is different from Houston. The cost of living in these areas is radically different. Applying a $15 dollar minimum wage to an area of low cost will radically destroy the economy of the area. A national $15 minimum wage would turn our backs on rural Americans across the Midwest and into the Appalachians working in unions and in agriculture, as they are usually the lower-cost areas. We should let states and localities decide their minimum wage, as they know their citizens better than a 78-year-old man from Delaware, or an 80-year-old woman from San Francisco.

This topic is of incredible importance to me as a first-generation student from a low-income single-parent household. My mother worked her butt off to support my sister and me. My grandfather, with only an eighth-grade education, worked his butt off to support his five children. I don’t want to see the jobs of people like them destroyed. I love my country and the people in it. We should let people decide on what is best for them and their communities, not Washington.

Cade is a junior studying political science.