By: Mark Glennon*
In an Illinois Senate committee hearing yesterday on raising the minimum wage, a witness tried to describe research indicating that, while relatively skilled, secure workers benefit from a higher wage, the unskilled, most vulnerable often lose their jobs entirely. What the witness tried to describe is actually a lengthy compilation of all major research on the minimum wage — dozens of studies done here and around the world, which are not consistent on all points.
The compilation is in a 155 page report completed by the National Bureau of Economic Research (the NBER). As you probably know if you follow big economic issues, and as you would hope is known by your representatives who vote on them, NBER is among the most respected, non-partisan groups of economists around. Its researchers have included 13 past chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and 24 Nobel Prize Winners in Economics. They have included Democrats and liberals like Paul Krugman, Austan Goolsby, Joseph Stiglitz and plenty of others.
The NBIR paper says, “the studies that focus on the least-skilled groups provide relatively overwhelming evidence of stronger disemployment effects for these groups.”
But what happens when you try to tell that to a champion of the underprivileged intent on capitalizing on the popularity of raising the minimum wage? Arrogance, rudeness and willful ignorance.
Listen to Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and judge for yourself. That’s his voice you here through most of the video. The initial question is from a different senator, Terry Link (D-Waukegan) but the rest is Harmon.
Nope, never heard of NBER. But what’s astonishing is Harmon’s claim, made twice, that he’s never seen “any credible economic research that a modest increase in the minimum wage does anything other than help spur economic growth and help the economy.” Really? Haven’t spent even 30 seconds on Google, which would turn up that research? Never took Econ 101? Senator Harmon in fact has an MBA from the University of Chicago, so let’s just say there’s an issue of, um, honesty in his claim.
This isn’t about whether the minimum wage should be raised. Reasonable people differ about that, as do economists (though the NBIR says “among the papers we view as providing the most credible evidence, almost all point to negative employment effects”).
Instead, this is about willful indifference to genuine questions raised by evidence.
Personally, I have always thought the minimum wage is pretty much a wash, looking at it just from the standpoint of the poor — better wages for some but zero wages for others — so I’ve never had a strong opinion about it.
But I do have a strong opinion about this: Senator Harmon and plenty of others on the minimum wage bandwagon don’t give a darn about the evidence.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints