Fox News’ misinformation campaign against the minimum wage has shifted into high gear following the passage of statewide increases in California and New York. The network is now hyping worries from senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano that a $15 minimum wage is a subversive attempt to “bribe the poor for votes,” which will result in dramatic price increases and job losses while driving more low-wage workers onto public assistance programs.
In an April 6 op-ed published by the right-wing Washington Times, Napolitano suggested that politicians are raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour “to win the votes of those they promised to help” while claiming that increased wages would have drastic negative economic consequences. On the April 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Napolitano claimed that raising the minimum wage would result in price increases that put necessities beyond the reach of low-wage workers, destroy jobs, and expand reliance on public assistance. Later that morning, Napolitano appeared on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. and claimed that “poor people will lose their jobs because they simply are not worth” a $15 wage. From Fox & Friends:
CLAIM: Minimum Wage Increases Will Result In Job Losses, Price Inflation
Counter to Napolitano’s claim that raising the minimum wage would lead to dramatic price increases, researchers at Purdue University concluded in a July 2015 report that increasing the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $15 per hour would result in only a 4.3 percent increase in restaurant prices. According to The Economist’s Big Mac Index, a 4.3 percent increase in the cost of a Big Mac in the United States would be roughly 22 cents. Researchers at Cornell University found that raising the regular and tipped minimum wages for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries has “not had large or reliable effects” on the number of people working in the industry and price increases have not been large enough to “dramatically affect overall demand." Right-wing media have a long history of claiming that minimum wages destroy jobs and inflate prices, but the overwhelming majority of economic research shows no such relationship.
CLAIM: Minimum Wage Work Isn’t Worth $15 Per Hour
Napolitano’s poor-shaming stance on the supposedly lesser value of low-skilled and low-income workers mirrors similar comments from Fox Business host Charles Payne, who on multiple occasions has slammed minimum wage increases as rewarding and encouraging “mediocrity.” In fact, according to ThinkProgress, a $15-per-hour minimum wage would not even be a living wage in many states, including California or New York -- workers today already need to make closer to $22 per hour. Furthermore, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), minimum wage workers have been undervalued for decades; if the federal minimum wage had kept up with increasing worker productivity since the 1970s, it would have reached $21.72 per hour by 2012.
CLAIM: Minimum Wage Increases Will Expand Dependence On Welfare
Napolitano falsely claimed that increasing the minimum wage would drive more low-income Americans into poverty by destroying opportunities for employment, and that it would result in an increased reliance on public assistance programs. On the contrary, according to research by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on an abandoned 2014 proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by July 2016, the wage increase could have decreased reliance on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as “food stamps,” by $4.6 billion annually. In February 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that a $10.10 federal minimum wage would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty while injecting billions of dollars into the consumer economy. A December 2013 study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) similarly found that the modest wage increase would have directly or indirectly lifted wages for nearly 30 million American workers. Conservative media personalities like Napolitano frequently bemoan the supposed ill effects of raising the minimum wage, completely ignoring the heavy public cost that historically low minimum wages across the country already carry. An October 2013 report by the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center found that low wages in the fast-food industry alone cost taxpayers $7 billion annually by increasing the strain on public assistance.
CLAIM: Minimum Wage Increases Are A Means of “Buying Votes”
Napolitano’s claim that minimum wage increases are a political tool meant to curry favor and “bribe the poor for votes” is a common right-wing media theme. Fox News personalities, often led by Fox Business host Stuart Varney, frequently claim that Democrats support policies aimed at alleviating poverty only as a means of “buying votes.” For years, Fox has claimed that the Lifeline program -- a Reagan-era telecommunications subsidy for low-income families -- was a Democratic plot to “bribe” and “enslave” American voters. In fact, tens of millions of Americans across the political spectrum rely on these vital programs, and Republican politicians are actually more likely than their Democratic counterparts to represent constituents who use food stamps -- a program that low-income families would be less reliant on if minimum wages were increased.