Anti-Minimum Wage Blogger Accidentally Makes the Case for Economic Inclusion

This doesn't happen when you raise the minimum wage.

This doesn’t happen when you raise the minimum wage.

This morning, Tim Worstall wrote a post about Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer. It’s not much of a post, really: Worstall just attacks Hanauer’s most recent article for PBS Newshour by block-quoting it and then block-quoting a column Worstall himself wrote back in May. (As we all know, there’s nothing in all of blogdom that’s more thrilling than a battle of the block quotes.)

Anyway, to summarize Worstall’s many paragraphs of quoted text: he’s arguing that a National Employment Law Project (NELP) study Hanauer quoted in his article only looks at the total number of Americans employed, not at the granular levels of unemployment among smaller portions of the population. If you’ll permit me a single block quote from Worstall’s post, I think this gets to the crux of his argument:

A place that more than doubles its population is going to have more jobs at the end of the process than at the beginning. This proves absolutely nothing at all about the minimum wage.

Hmmmmm. Okay. I’d argue that what the NELP article does most effectively is it disproves the claims that the apocalypse will unfold if the minimum wage is raised—the restaurant owners who say they’ll never open another restaurant in their “beloved Seattle” if the minimum wage goes up, say, or the newspaper editorial boards that promise nobody will ever open another hotel near an airport if a higher minimum wage is adopted there. Never—not once since the adoption of the federal minimum wage—has that kind of apocalyptic scenario happened in America.

The NELP report is a call for reasonable discourse when it comes to the minimum wage—a plea for business owners to stop threatening their employees with rampant layoffs if the wage goes up, and a demand that newspaper editorial boards address the topic with a more level head. The minimum wage does not cause an outsize drop in employment numbers. Doesn’t happen. The polling successes of wage increases indicates that the American people agree: we need a more rational discussion about what the minimum wage can and can’t do. Stop with the fear-mongering.

Of course, people like Tim Worstall love the fear-mongering because it doesn’t facilitate discussion. If the top one percent can just blithely threaten the lowest earners in a society with unemployment, that works out much better for the top one percent. But when NELP comes along and indicates that unemployment doesn’t skyrocket when wages increase, that removes one of their most successful arguments.

I do want to point out, though, that what Worstall says in the block quote above is central to the idea of middle-out economics. When more people are involved in an economy, that economy thrives. Add more workers to an economy—workers who spend money as empowered consumers—and you’ll get more jobs. America is exponentially more prosperous now than it was in the times of slavery, say, or when women were largely removed from the workforce. When we allow more immigrants and refugees to take part in the economy, and when we encourage the full participation of LGBTQ citizens, the economy does better. That’s because the top one percent are not the true job creators in this economy—you are. And I am. We all are.

The best way to grow the economy is to ensure that more people are fully engaged as consumers. They buy more goods and services, which increases demand, which means employers have to hire more employees to keep up with that spending. NELP’s study is a major step toward this new and exciting understanding of economics. I’m glad to see Worstall staggering toward embracing a more inclusive economics. Maybe one day he’ll accidentally block quote his way to enlightenment.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.