Liberal activists and Democratic spokesmen are quick to argue that the minimum wage is too low and unfair. But on the January 2 “American Morning,” that argument came from a CNN business reporter.
While CNN’s Ali Velshi did note that “a lot of small businesses oppose” the new Democratic majority’s proposed wage hike, he insisted “the bottom line is it’s simply not fair that there has been a federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour” or “about $900 a week.”
His math was way off – $5.15 an hour comes to $206 per week. Velshi probably meant that a minimum wage earner would pull down close to $900 a month, given a 40-hour work week. Pay at $900 a week translates to $46,800 a year, a few hundred dollars more than the U.S. median income in 2005. Of course if pay “fairness” could be legislated by Congress as Velshi advocated, that would be a minor detail.
Velshi insisted it was nearly impossible to live off one job working at minimum wage, but he failed to inform viewers that most earners in the minimum wage category are entry-level workers. They usually are not the primary breadwinners in a household but young, single workers who don’t remain long at the bare-minimum wage level.
“Three-fifths of minimum wage earners work part time, and many are students and young adults who desire this flexibility,” policy analyst James Sherk of the conservative Heritage Foundation noted in a July 28, 2006, WebMemo.
What’s more, Sherk argued, data collected on wage earners shows that “increased productivity, not government fiat, raises wages,” as “a typical minimum wage employee” working full-time will within a year “enjoy a raise worth five percentage points more than that of” a part-timer putting in less than 10 hours a week.
Simply put, the full-time minimum wage-earner Velshi worried about is precisely the type of worker who will not stay at minimum wage for long, not because of government regulation but because of his or her own work ethic.
And as Velshi pointed out, “Seven states as of this week have new minimum wages.” That means 28 states have mandated minimums exceeding the federal wage floor of $5.15 per hour.