The Economist (@EconBizFin) July 30, 2015
The fight for $15 movement in the minimum wage could not have been serious about doubling the minimum wage to $15.
Perhaps to their own surprise, they won despite living in what they say is an oligarchic political system dominated by the rich which keeps the poor poorer and poorer.
California, New York, San Francisco and Seattle are among the states and cities increasing their local minimum wages, currently of up to $12, to $15 by 2021 or 2022.
There is nothing special about minimum wages when it comes to mandating wage rises. If it is safe to double the minimum wage, it is safe to double everybody’s wage. That logic is undeniable.
The efficiency wage and inequality of bargaining power arguments that suggest that the wage rise will be paid out of employers’ profits are not special to minimum wage employers.
If minimum wage employers can handle a doubling of their labour costs, any employer can handle the doubling of the cost of employing any of their employees?
Some such as Arindrajit Dube say that these very large wage increases by cities and states in their federal system are experiments “worth running and monitoring” (Lane 2016). As Dube said recently:
“… 30 to 40 percent of the California workforce will get a raise … This will be a big experiment. It’s far outside of our evidence base… If you’re risk-averse, this would not be the scale at which to try things. On the other hand, if you think that wages are really low and they’ve been low for a really long time and we can afford to take some risks, doing things at this scale will get us more evidence” (Lee 2016).
Noah Smith (2016) concluded that the empirical literature on minimum wages suggests that a 10% minimum wage increase would reduce employment by about 2% so doubling the federal minimum wage would see the employment of young people go down by one-fifth. Smith (2016) said this is a
“small but real effect — a $15 federal minimum wage might throw a million kids out of work”.
You should remember that in the USA, if you lose your job, your unemployment insurance is time-limited.
It is not like New Zealand where you can stay on the unemployment benefit forever if you are priced out of the market by a doubling of the minimum wage.
What happens to minimum wage workers who lost their jobs because of the large minimum wage increase after their unemployment insurance runs out?