Being an idealist at heart while at the same time a hopeless political junkie, I rely on rationalism as a compass for steering the middle road between these yin and yang aspects of my personality. I believe there are many people with a similar dilemma out there. Why? Look at the way most people view economics and economists. They steer clear, because for an IPJ, economist's claims are hazardous to our health. Trying to use reason to evaluate competing economist's claims is about as effective as Peter Boyle's Wizard trying to counsel Travis Bickle by telling him he should not "worry so much." So, when John Edwards called in The Ethical Werewolf to make the case for an increase in the minimum wage, I approached it with some trepidation.
You can't swing an indicted Republican without smacking a conservative who will tell you increasing the minimum wage costs jobs, replete with reams of Cato studies. But,
TEW cites no less than five economists with three different studies ( 1: "Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage" David Card and Alan B. Krueger, 2:"The Effect of the Minimum Wage on the Fast Food Industry" Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Kruegar, 3: "The Effects of New Jersey's Minimum Wage Increase on Fast
Food Employment: A Re-Evaluation Using Payroll Records." David Neumark, William Wascher) showing that increasing the minimum wage does not significantly affect unemployment. Neumark and Wascher's results are notable as they are opponents of increased minimum wage and initiated their study with the intention of refuting Card and Krueger.
Granted, the above studies were done in the 90's. But as TEW notes, Florida raised the MW in 2005 with no negligible effect on jobs. When Michael Sasso asked David Denslow, research economist at the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research (an opponent of MW increases) Sasso quoted him saying, "I think it's really quite clear that the effect of the minimum wage is quite small"
Now, Maryland serves up another test case and short of an economist cage match (sponsored by Cato?), no satisfying conclusion is anywhere in sight for long suffering IPJ's.
Let anecdotes be in reason's good stead. From the Sasso piece:
One independent retailer, Ronald "Mac" Walter, who owns two discount furniture stores in Tampa, doubts that the amendment will seriously hurt the job market.
"I don't think it's going to kill jobs because you need the people to do the work no matter what," said Walter, owner of Highland Park Furniture, which has a license to use the trade name Macy's Furniture & Mattress Clearance Center. "But it might hurt profits, and it sounds better to say it's going to hurt jobs than hurt profits."
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