Minimum Wage is Pathetically Low

c27aMinimum Wage is Pathetically Low

You can read it below: last years banker’s bonuses were twice the entire income of all those making the minimum wage.

Certainly, this should be considered evidence that the minimum wage is set too low. A good argument can be made that the social utility of what minimum wage earners do is far superior in benefits for our larger society than investment banking and some of the practices of regular banking.

It’s important to think about fairness and just deserts when dealing with this issue. In this country, the game is tilted toward those with influence and power. The minimum wage workers hardly register on either of those scales.

It is for the rest of us to add to their voice, to sometimes be their voice. What isn’t fair for our fellow Americans is a part of our responsibility.

We are not individual atoms floating in some kind of cosmic vacuum. We live, work and thrive with other people and those connections are important and a big part of what we consider civilization.

James Pilant

New report: Bankers’ bonuses more than double full-time minimum wage workers’ pay –

The $26.7 billion spent on Wall Street bonuses last year was greater than the entire 2012 income of America’s full-time minimum wage workforce, according to a new report from the progressive Institute for Policy Studies.

Had that $26.7 billion instead gone to increased wages for the country’s 1,085,000 full-time minimum wage workers, writes report author Sarah Anderson, those workers’ wages ($15.1 billion total in 2012) would have more than doubled. Anderson estimates that such a raise for minimum wage workers would have done much more than bank bonuses to spur economic growth: In contrast to a $10.4 billion multiplier effect from the payouts to bankers, she calculates a $32.3 billion multiplier if the cash had gone into the pockets of those now making $7.25.

via New report: Bankers’ bonuses more than double full-time minimum wage workers’ pay –

From around the web.

From the web site, Arindrajit Dube.

So to take stock, if you consider the Sabia and Burkhauser simulation results  as “facts” you also are claiming that no worker reporting a wage below the old minimum will get a raise, and no one above the new minimum will get a raise. These are not very good assumptions, and they certainly are not facts.

Of course, you don’t have to make these assumptions. You could allow for spillovers. You could allow for wages to rise below the minimum. You could allow for measurement error in reported wages and other sources of income. But then you are not in a world where tabulating survey data gives you simple facts that are beyond reproach. You need to make additional assumptions to make causal claims. And we have not even begun to talk about behavioral effects—be they on labor demand side, or on labor supply side such worker search effort, etc. (And by the way those do not all go in the same direction.)  So you could add a lot more assumptions and continue with the simulation route, or you could use quasi-experimental approach used in almost all of applied micro-economics to empirically estimate the effect of minimum wages on poverty and other outcomes.  Of course, you would want to subject your identifying assumptions to specification checks and falsification tests to ensure you have reliable control groups; and you would account for possibly confounding policies such as state EITCs. And when you do all of that, and some more, you would probably end up with a paper like this one.

So where does this leave us?   As I said in my paper, policies like cash transfers, food stamps, and EITC are better targeted to help the poor, although even there minimum wages are better thought of as complements and not substitutes. More generally, however, motivations behind minimum wage policies go beyond reducing poverty. The popular support for minimum wages is in part fueled by a desire to raise earnings of low and moderate income families more broadly, and by fairness concerns that seek to limit the extent of wage inequality, or employers’ exercise of market power.  And the evidence suggests is that attaining such goals through increasing minimum wages is also consistent with a modest reduction in poverty, and moderate increases in family incomes at the bottom.

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