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Workers Blamed for Employers’ Response to Minimum Wage
An ad published in the New York Times by think tank Employment Policy Institute argues that raising the federal minimum wage will harm workers because employers won't want to hire, and will only hire more-experienced workers, shutting out the populations that need work the most, such as high school dropouts.
According to advertising and weblog content by the Employment Policy Institute, workers should beware that they’ll never get hired by employers who will only pay $10 an hour to someone as skilled as a college graduate. We must concede to the Washington DC think tank, which recently ran a full-page ad in the New York Times against raising the federal minimum wage (an ad a minimum wage-earner couldn’t afford to run), that it is very difficult to argue with their logic.
Reading an article on hunger (1) in Silicon Valley on the Mercury News’ website, the reader will notice a banner ad above the article tempting the reader to find out about a “bad idea from California.” When researching the ad’s sponsor, one finds the minimum wage section of the EPI’s statistics-armored website.
The Institute argues first that proposed federal minimum wage hikes will not affect the huge percentage of unemployed people because they’re unemployed, and that therefore a minimum wage hike is valueless. Continuing, based on cynical readings of two economic studies from Irvine and San Diego (2), the Institute argues that minimum wage hikes will cause employers not to hire.
This sloppy argument, perpetrated by both the Institute and Sabia, et al., can only be made given the presupposition that employers do not consider the wellbeing of their employees or communities whatsoever, nor that they need this labor to function, but that rather they only consider profit when hiring. Therefore, the Institute takes up, if the minimum wage gets raised radically, employers will supposedly only want to hire very skilled workers to somehow compensate for the higher cost of labor.
Therefore, the Institute argues on the San Diego article again, the minimum wage hike would not help recent high school dropouts and other unskilled labor. Another presupposition arises: that employers really think that it takes years of skill past high school age and a college degree to assemble sub sandwiches, run checkout stands and dispense syrup-based coffee drinks.
Therefore, the EPI concludes, “the best weapon in the war on poverty is a job.” The man in the ad holds a sign that says he doesn’t need a raise, but rather a job. The EPI doesn’t propose where the jobs would come from, doesn’t address real living conditions on minimum wage, and doesn’t address the positive economic impact of literally putting more money into the hands of the communities hosting these employers. Money not in the hands of corporate employers is not considered valuable, if we follow the conditions required to make such an argument. Finally, the Institute doesn’t mention that half of the team introducing the $10.10 minimum wage bill in the Senate is from Iowa. It’s just another bad idea from California.
Perhaps the EPI meant to argue something else and simply isn’t good at saying it. It is probably impossible to test the EPI for the truth values of any of the claims put forth above given their very complex and specific presuppositions. For now we’ll have to take their word for it that low-paid workers simply aren’t worth anything to the billion-dollar corporations who need them so much.
This is true cynicism: demanding that the systemically oppressed and the systemically pampered forget any alternative to the current system, and warning that any attempts to create greater equilibrium will only be punished by those with power.
1 Gray, Leslie. “Hunger in Silicon Valley: Bringing healthy food to poor communities is a challenge” San Jose Mercury News, 2 January 2014