October 22, 2019

Why do Jews support a $15 minimum wage?

The majority of Jews support increasing the minimum wage to $15. If asked why, they respond that a person cannot support a family on the current minimum wage, that it is matter of social justice and the Jewish obligation of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

I have no doubt that most of these Jews and the non-Jews who support the $15 minimum wage are sincere in their beliefs.

But sincerity is meaningless when you are wrong. The $15 minimum wage will hurt people, not help them, and it will do economic and social damage to California and New York, the two states that have thus far passed this minimum wage law.

In fact, the governor of California, Jerry Brown, actually admitted as much — on the record — at least twice. 

In January, the Sacramento Business Journal reported that Brown said: “Raise the minimum wage too much, and you put a lot of poor people out of work. There won’t be a lot of jobs.”

And then again this month, the Sacramento Bee reported:

“Brown, traveling to the state’s largest media market to sign the landmark bill, remained hesitant about the economic effect of raising the minimum wage, saying, ‘Economically, minimum wages may not make sense’ [italics added]. But he said work is ‘not just an economic equation,’ calling labor ‘part of living in a moral community.’ ”

But if the minimum wage hike doesn’t make economic sense, it cannot make moral sense. The whole point of the minimum wage increase is to improve people’s economic condition. If it doesn’t, it isn’t moral. When “you put a lot of poor people out of work,” that’s immoral.

Even The New York Times editorialized how disastrous the minimum wage is. It ran the following headline on an editorial:

“The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00.”

The editorial went on to explain, “There’s a virtual consensus among economists that the minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed.”

But that was in 1987 — when some liberals still sat on The New York Times editorial board. Today, The New York Times is edited by leftists who support the higher minimum wage, not by liberals. 

There is a huge difference between liberals and leftists. When deciding what political, social, and economic positions to take, liberals ask, “What does good?” Leftists ask, “What feels good?”

It feels good and moral to raise the minimum wage to $15; and feeling good and moral is a core impulse among progressives.

But the $15 minimum wage isn’t moral. It’s immoral. When the government raises the minimum wage, it destroys jobs and creates inflation — both of which hurt the poor the most. 

Here’s one simple proof: If raising the minimum wage is good for workers and good for the economy, why not raise it to $20 an hour, or $30 or $50? Whatever answer you give applies equally to a $15 minimum wage.

First, many businesses — especially businesses with small profit margins — will either fire employees or just go out of business. 

The Los Angeles Times just reported on the devastating effect of the minimum wage hike on Los Angeles’ clothing manufacturers. And more and more fast-food places — and even sit-down restaurants — will start to replace workers with iPads; customers will order their food via computer. 

In other words, there will be fewer and fewer jobs for the mostly young and low-skilled people who are employed at minimum wage. 

And mandatory wage hikes disproportionately harm poor minorities. 

The first minimum wage law in this country was the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931. Its congressional proponents did not attempt to hide their racist motivation — to protect white unionized labor from being undercut by Blacks and immigrants willing to work for less than the union wage.

Minimum wage laws have functioned similarly ever since. A 2014 study by the Employment Policy Institute found that in some cities, the unemployment rate for teens without a high school diploma approached 50 percent. Raising the minimum wage will ensure that even more teens, particularly minority teens, are priced out of the labor market.

More and more small businesses will close or leave California for states with lower minimum wages. Employers will not only have to pay employees $15 an hour whose work doesn’t justify $15 an hour, they will also have to pay other employees proportionately higher wages. Employees who now make $15 an hour will understandably demand a raise to, let us say, $25 an hour.

Finally, in a recent video, David Henderson, editor of the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics and professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., explained the terrible effects of the rising prices that follow the raising of the minimum wage: 

“Not only is the buying power of the minimum wage worker eroded, but those who are not working, either because they can’t find a job or because they are on fixed incomes — like the disabled and retirees — are also hurt when prices of goods and services go up.”

But none of this matters to progressives. 

So, a note to Jews who support the $15 minimum wage: 

Repairing the world means doing good, not feeling good.

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles from 9 a.m. to noon on KRLA (AM 870). His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).