You Won’t Believe How This Dumb Think Tank Wastes Money That Could Have Gone to Minimum-Wage Workers

Paul Ryan: against raising the minimum wage, but presumably for buying wasteful full-page ads in the New York Times.

Paul Ryan: against raising the minimum wage, but presumably for buying wasteful full-page ads in the New York Times.

Last week, think tank/PR firm the Employment Policies Institute—not the good EPI; the bad EPI—paid for a full-page ad in the New York Times protesting the $15 minimum wage. The ad, which depicted an unflattering caricature of SEIU president Mary Kay Henry (because it’s always smart to mock your opponents’ physical appearance), argued that the $15 minimum wage would kill “starter jobs.”

Why did the ad run last week? Who knows? Why did the ad run at all? Well, presumably the organization, which Goldy pointed out is most likely funded by “the restaurant, accommodations, and retail industries,” had to have some kind of splashy results to show its backers. Because the not-that-EPI’s great War Against $15 is really not going well. They’re losing, and their backers can’t be thrilled about how badly they’re losing.

Here’s how badly the not-that­-EPI’s war on raising the wage is going: Some 63 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. Every time you turn around, a new city or state is getting on the road to $15. Several states, including Washington, are voting to raise the wage this November. President Obama is a vocal supporter of raising the wage, as is Secretary Clinton. Walmart and Target have voluntarily raised their minimum starting wages because the government hasn’t kept up. Hell, even a majority of small business owners believe the minimum wage should be raised. Basically, the not-that-EPI just has Paul Ryan and Donald Trump on its side. And even Donald Trump isn’t sure where he stands on the minimum wage.

But really all the not-that-EPI is proving with this ad is that they have enough extra money lying around to take out a full-page ad in the New York Times. I don’t know how much they paid, but based on the Times’s own rate cards (PDF), the rate for a full-page, full-color national ad in the business section is $214,733. Now, there’s every chance that the not-that-EPI got a sweetheart deal of some sort out of the Times, so let’s round the ad rate down to an even $200,000.

Assuming, then, that the not-that-EPI’s coffers are filled by large employers in the restaurant and retail industries, the money to pay for that ad could have instead been used to raise more than 25,800 hours of work paid at the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to a more reasonable rate of $15 per hour. That’s over a thousand days of continuous work that could have been decently compensated. Instead, the money was blown on a splashy ad that likely changed zero minds. But that’s just par for the course for the EPI, which loves spending tons of other peoples’ money in order to accomplish not much of anything.

Because the whole argument that if the minimum wage goes up, employers will stop hiring people is obviously false. When the minimum wage goes up, jobs don’t die. Employment numbers don’t plummet when you raise the wage. We have 78 years of data that proves this. Groups like the not-that-EPI can buy all the ludicrously expensive advertising they want, but they’re not going to change anyone’s minds with it. All they’re doing is ensuring that the people who work for their backers won’t get a raise until their employers are absolutely required to pay it. What a waste.

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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.