Let’s Raise Nebraska’s Minimum-Wage but Not the Whole Country’s

 

In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama proposed raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from its current level of $7.25 per hour. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this would raise the wages of 16.5 million workers but also put at least 500,000 out of work. At a time of high unemployment, with an estimated 24 million people either unemployed or underemployed, this would be a bad tradeoff.
CaptureThe Wall Street Journal reports, “Some Republicans Back State Minimum-Wage Increases,” that five states, including Nebraska where I live, have minimum-wage proposals on the ballot this year. In Nebraska the minimum-wage would increase in two steps to $9.00/hour from $7.25.  Nebraska’s unemployment rate is currently 3.6%, and it is estimated that there are only 27,000 people in the state being paid the minimum wage.  In other words, Nebraska actually has a labor shortage and it is unlikely that a mild increase in the minimum wage will put very many people out of work.
Capture2A minimum wage contributes to fairness but not to growth.  Both are important but growth is the more important of the two.  A minimum-wage increase in Nebraska will increase fairness without hurting economic growth and so I support this.
At the national level, an increase in the minimum wage would increase fairness but also hurt economic growth (by causing substantial unemployment) and so I oppose it.

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