As I recently noted, the “expert economists” who support a $15 minimum wage aren't really experts. Some aren't even economists.
It makes California's decision to adopt a $15 minimum wage floor all the more scary. The wage hike not only threatens the jobs of the state's entry-level employees, but also does so on faulty logic—if any at all.
Don't just take my word for it. Ask the liberal economists whose concerns about a $15 minimum wage were recently documented in Vox of all places.
Alan Krueger, who co-authored Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage (the formative text on wage-hiking), balked at such a drastic jump:
“A $15-an-hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences,” wrote Alan Krueger, who has served as an economic adviser in the Obama administration, last October. Krueger supports raising the national minimum to $12 per hour, and he acknowledged that some cities and states might be able to absorb a $15-per-hour minimum wage. But he argued that a $15 minimum is “beyond international experience, and could well be counterproductive.”
And the kicker quote came from Arindrajit Dube, who has rejected the economic principle that higher labor costs result in fewer jobs (i.e. Economics 101):
“If you're risk-averse, this would not be the scale at which to try things.”
So we should definitely stop at $15, right? Well, not so fast. Wage activists in Oakland have now introduced the “$20 in 2020” campaign, exploiting California's Fight for $15 to keep moving the goalposts. In their words, “It's time for $15/hr to become the floor demand of those who seek a livable wage, not a future ceiling. It's time to push the boundaries of what is thinkable—and hence doable—further.”
They're also pushing the boundaries on what's rational. Research shows that the inflation-adjusted minimum wage has averaged $7.40 an hour since the 1930s, so a $20 minimum wage is nearly triple any historical standard—and where the federal minimum wage currently stands. It's no wonder America's fast-food executives are preparing the public for higher menu prices and self-service kiosks. Arbitrarily increasing the minimum wage ignores how businesses will react and the grim consequences for the labor force.
But facts be darned, wage activists will keep asking for more. The question isn't, “When will they stop?” It's “How do we stop them?”