Lowry: Minimum wage hike will "give a small boost" to "teenagers working summers"

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

In his latest column, Rich Lowry wrote that "[t]he effect" of a Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage "basically will be to give a small boost to the wage of teenagers working summers or after school." In fact, the Economic Policy Institute found that 71 percent of those who would be "directly affected" by the Democratic minimum-wage proposal are age 20 or over.

In his January 5 column, National Review editor Rich Lowry, repeated a much-circulated myth that "[t]he effect" of a Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour "basically will be to give a small boost to the wage of teenagers working summers or after school." As Media Matters for America noted, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a majority -- 71 percent -- of those who would be "directly affected" * by the Democratic minimum-wage proposal are age 20 or over.

In an October 25, 2006, briefing paper, EPI reported that an "[a]nalysis of the 2005 Current Population Survey reveals that the workers potentially affected by a minimum wage increase are mainly adults who typically work full time and provide significant income to their families."

Moreover, in his column, Lowry wrote that "29 states already have a minimum wage that's higher than the federal rate." But Lowry did not note that, as of January 1, 2007, only eight states have a minimum wage at or above the level proposed by the Democratic majority, according to the Department of Labor.

In response to similar arguments made in a January 4 Washington Post column by George F. Will, EPI senior economist Jared Bernstein wrote, in a letter to the Post on January 8, that Will "implied that only those earning the current minimum of $5.15 per hour would benefit," but that, "[i]n fact, the proposed new minimum wage would benefit any worker earning between $5.15 and $7.25."

From Bernstein's letter:

George F. Will ["The Right Minimum Wage," op-ed, Jan 4] greatly underestimated the number of workers who would benefit from the higher minimum wage under consideration by Congress. He implied that only those earning the current minimum of $5.15 per hour would benefit: fewer than 500,000 workers. In fact, the proposed new minimum wage would benefit any worker earning between $5.15 and $7.25, the proposed new federal minimum.

Our research shows that 5.6 million low-wage workers have earnings that place them in the affected range and thus would directly benefit from the increase. These workers are mostly adults (70 percent are 20 or older; half are 26 or up). About 40 percent of them work full time, and a similar share work more than 20 hours per week.

While many are not officially poor, their incomes typically place them within the bottom two-fifths of the income scale (less than $36,000).

In other words, millions of American workers need and deserve this long-awaited raise.

From Lowry's column:

The Democratic substance is vanishingly thin. They will raise the minimum wage, but 29 states already have a minimum wage that's higher than the federal rate. The effect of the hike basically will be to give a small boost to the wage of teenagers working summers or after school. FDR would yawn.

* When EPI includes those who would be "indirectly affected," which are defined as "workers currently earning above $7.25, likely to be affected by 'spillover effects,' " the total percentage of adult workers affected is 79 percent.

Posted In
Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment, Poverty
Network/Outlet
National Review
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Rich Lowry
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