Tom Steyer, the billionaire longshot seeking to become America’s 46th president, says he’d push Congress to pass a $22 hourly minimum wage if elected.
While other presidential contenders have called for increasing the minimum wage to $15 and even $17 an hour, none have gone as far as Steyer’s $22 proposal.
Is It Necessary?
Polls show the American public supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by nearly a 3-1 margin. That support collapses, however, when respondents are informed that the Congressional Budget Office estimates raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost an estimated 1.3 million jobs.
Critics of the current minimum wage point out that the federal minimum wage is too low and has not changed since 2009.
A total of 29 states (and the District of Columbia) have minimum wage laws that exceed the federal one. In Washington, for example, it’s $13.50. In California, it’s $13. In Massachusetts, it’s $12.75. Maine, Arizona, and Colorado all have a $12 minimum wage.
Data show that when state and local minimum laws are included, the minimum wage in America is historically high.
“Averaging across all of these federal, state and local minimum wage laws, the effective minimum wage in the United States — the average minimum wage binding each hour of minimum wage work — will be $11.80 an hour in 2019,” The New York Times reported in April.
“Adjusted for inflation, this is probably the highest minimum wage in American history.”
Steyer, a hedge fund manager from San Francisco, may simply be desperate, of course. He failed to gain traction in the Iowa caucuses and currently sits at 2 percent in national polls.
His minimum wage proposal could simply be a political gambit—the policy equivalent of the Seven-Minute Abs scheme in There’s Something About Mary. You know what I mean, that part where Ted (Ben Stiller) picks up the crazy hitchhiker (Harland Williams).
Hitchhiker: You heard of this thing, the 8-Minute Abs?
Ted: Yeah, sure, 8-Minute Abs. Yeah, the exercise video.
Hitchhiker: Yeah, this is going to blow that right out of the water. Listen to this: 7… Minute… Abs.
Ted: Right. Yes. OK, all right. I see where you’re going.
Hitchhiker: Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin’ there, there’s 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?
Ted: I would go for the 7.
Hitchhiker: Bingo, man, bingo.
If eight is good, isn’t seven better? The logic follows with the minimum wage. If $15 is desirable, isn’t $22 more desirable?
It sounds crazy, of course, but it would nevertheless be interesting to hear how Steyer’s fellow presidential candidates would respond. What would be the detriment of a $22 minimum wage compared to the $15 minimum wage he or she supports?
The truth, of course, is that wages are strongly linked to productivity, and economic laws are immutable even if the whims of politicians are not. Indeed, there are many good reasons to oppose raising the minimum wage, which has been shown to reduce employment, reduce the earnings of low-paid workers, make products and services more expensive, and reduce the skills of younger workers.
At this point, candidates are essentially bidding for votes with other people’s money: “$15/hour. $22/hour. Do I hear $23?”
While pledging to raise workers’ wages might make good politics, just remember that politicians might as well promise you an eight-minute workout in seven minutes.
Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, and Fox News.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
Image: Gage Skidmore