• 43°

Hiking minimum wage

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, among other city and state officials across the country, have recently proposed raising the minimum wage well beyond the current state-mandated levels of $9 an hour in California and $8.25 in Illinois. And public opinion polls generally show widespread support for these actions.
Low-income workers could take home from $1,000 to $5,000 more a year, and in an era of increasing inequality of income and poverty rates that hover around 15 percent nationally, that is not an insignificant boost.
Yet this advocacy raises some troubling questions, among them whether it’s an appropriate government intervention in the free market. In general, except for temporary measures to prevent, say, price gouging in the aftermath of an unexpected disaster, we as a nation generally regard price controls as bad social and economic policy.
Instead, we allow businesses to charge whatever the market will bear and rely on competitive market forces to keep prices in line with costs. Thus, we don’t tell Nike what price to put on its sneakers or McDonald’s how much to charge for a Quarter Pounder. The presence of competitors for their products, along with reasonably informed consumers, keeps McDonald’s and Nike from marking up their burgers and shoes unconscionably. And in the 21st century, thanks to huge drops in the costs of communications and transportation, coupled with increased international competition, businesses arguably have less power over consumers than they have ever had.
The same pressures of competition also affect the other side of the market — that is, wages. Businesses are under pressure not to unilaterally cut wages, because workers, like customers, have alternatives; they can quit if an employer isn’t paying market rate and look for employment elsewhere. This very real threat keeps firms from reducing pay. Even without minimum wage laws, the interaction of supply and demand would conspire to keep wages about what they are today, based on workers’ experience, productivity and discipline.
The argument made in some quarters is that raising wages has little downside for businesses. Higher pay, the theory goes, would allow them to attract higher-quality workers and make even higher profits. But such hypotheses ring hollow.
…The chief argument against the new trend in cities and states of mandating a higher minimum wage is that it’s not the best way to achieve the goal of pulling hardworking people out of poverty.
In the short run there are more efficient, less intrusive avenues to improve the economic lot of unskilled workers in this country. Tweaks to the federal government’s Earned Income Tax Credit program would be one way to put more money into the pockets of those who need it. Longer term, the goal should be to improve human capital prospects for those at the bottom of the economic ladder, ensuring that all people have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge that will make them worth far more than the current wage rate or poverty standard.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransome

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday