by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The president’s humble objective was to make sure that “no one who works full time [has] to live in poverty.” That goal is very appealing, and likely explains why a majority of Americans support higher minimum wages.
But they should not. Indeed, President Obama’s own statement helps illustrate why. He begins with the phrase “no one who works full time”—giving the impression that the minimum wage will affect only full-time workers, whose lives will be improved by the increase. This phrase deflects listeners’ attention from the true economic consequences of the minimum wage by excluding from view those who lose their jobs because of the minimum wage, fail to be hired because of the minimum wage, or have their hours cut back because of the minimum wage.
The president was intentionally reinforcing the myth that minimum-wage workers are predominantly parents living close to poverty. But let’s look at the facts. In 2012, almost two-thirds of workers making the minimum wage or less were part-time workers, and a bit over half of all minimum wage-or-lower workers were under the age of 25, many of them students living at home with their parents.
Those two pieces of information suggest that common political rhetoric about the minimum wage is misleading. An analysis from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, represented in the nearby chart, gives a fuller picture of how an increase in the minimum wage would affect workers in the U.S.