George F. Will falsely suggested that most employees who would benefit from a Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour are “students and other part-time workers.” In fact, a majority of those who would be affected by the Democratic minimum-wage proposal are full-time workers.
On the November 19 edition of ABC's This Week, Washington Post columnist George F. Will falsely suggested that most employees who would benefit from a Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour are “students and other part-time workers.” In fact, while the majority of workers earning the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour are part-time workers, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS does not provide data for “students”), the majority of workers who would see their wages rise under the Democratic proposal are not; according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a majority -- 54 percent -- of those who would be affected by the Democratic minimum-wage proposal are full-time (at least 35 hours a week) workers. Similarly, an October 25 EPI study found that "[i]f the federal minimum wage were increased to $7.25 per hour by 2008, 14.9 million workers would see their wages rise," and those affected by a minimum-wage increase would be “mainly adults who typically work full time and provide significant income to their families.”
From the study:
Analysis 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. If the federal minimum wage were increased to $7.25 per hour by 2008, 14.9 million workers would see their wages rise. The vast majority (80%) of workers affected are adults age 20 and above. Twenty-six percent of these workers are parents, and as a result over 7.3 million children of low-wage workers would see their parents' income increase if the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25 per hour by 2008. From a historical perspective, this demographic portrait is consistent with the make-up of workers benefiting from the last federal minimum wage increase (Bernstein and Schmitt 1998).
Furthermore, the earnings of minimum wage workers are essential to their families' total income. While not all minimum wage workers are poor or are the sole breadwinner for their families, it is striking how important low-wage workers' income is to their economic well-being. On average, families with affected workers rely on those workers for over half (59%) of the families' total earnings. Nearly half (46%) of all families with an affected worker rely solely on the earnings of those workers.
Today, the earnings of a full-time minimum wage worker (working 40 hours/week, 52 weeks/year) with a family of three would earn $10,712 a year, thus falling 35.5% below the official 2006 federal poverty level of $16,600. Although the federal poverty line is an inadequate measure of the income needed to support a family, this comparison highlights the severe insufficiency of the current minimum wage (Fisher 1999).
A statement released in October by EPI, which it said had been endorsed by "[o]ver 650 economists, including 5 Nobel prize winners and 6 past presidents of the American Economic Association," argued that “modest increases in state minimum wages in the range of $1.00 to $2.50 and indexing to protect against inflation can significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed.” The statement approvingly cited the 1999 Economic Report of the President, which found that “modest increases in the minimum wage have had very little or no effect on employment.”
Despite arguing against a minimum-wage increase by misrepresenting the demographics of those who would benefit from the Democratic proposal, Will also made the seemingly contradictory point that "[m]ost poor people are making more than the minimum wage," a statement that appears to bolster the case for raising the minimum wage by showing how low the current minimum wage is.
From the November 19 edition of ABC's This Week:
WILL: I mean, let's call it fair trade -- that's just for protectionists who don't have the courage of their foolish convictions. It seems to me very clear they have two ideas. One is the minimum wage, raise the minimum wage. Most poor people are making more than the minimum wage, and most people making the minimum wage are not poor people; they're students and other part-time workers. With regard to free trade: If we know anything at all -- and a great tribute to your old boss, Bill Clinton, who stuck in there and passed NAFTA with a majority of Republicans and against his own party -- we know that protectionism makes the world poorer.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (host): Bob, you have 30 seconds.