Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders successfully worked himself up the ladder of a party he refuses to belong to, to become chair of the Senate Budget Committee. From that position, we expect Sanders to insert a federal minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $15/hour.
Unfortunately, we doubt there’s going to be a Sanders Minimum Wage Increase bill voted on by Senators. Instead, we expect, Sanders will slip it into the budget reconciliation bill that will include almost two trillion in new spending to help Americans cope with the economic effects of the pandemic.
The strategy is, that a standalone bill would require sixty votes to overcome a filibuster, where the reconciliation bill requires only the votes of fifty Democrats plus vice president Kamala Harris.
The counterargument is that the minimum wage, first adopted in 1938, has never been raised by burying it in a huge spending bill that a sizable majority of Senators view as essential to getting the country back on its feet. It has been raised by a standalone majority vote of House and Senate, putting every member of Congress on record to answer for its consequences. That is notably unpersuasive to the Left, which has been bleating about “democracy” for the past three months but isn’t too keen on actually voting democratically, on the record, where there may be political consequences.
What possible consequences?
Setting the minimum wage above the labor market wage is a job killer. The Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ chief budget scorekeeper, said Monday that Sanders’ legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 would kill 1.4 million jobs, though it also would lift 900,000 people out of poverty.
Getting $15 an hour instead of $10, or $7.25, certainly benefits workers who still have jobs. It ruins workers who find themselves priced out of the market, and replaced with contractors, outsourcing, imports, automation - or small business employers forced out of business in the middle of a pandemic.
The CBO also points out a budget deficit increase of $54 billion through 2031 as the legislation forces government to spend more on unemployment and health-care programs for the professionally displaced.
We agree that anyone who works hard should be able to make a liveable wage, but the truth is that some jobs don’t provide $15/hour in value. That’s certainly true when you consider disparities across labor markets.
The workers cut loose are invariably those with the fewest skills and least job experience. That means disproportionally the young, poorly-educated, and minorities, out of a job thanks to poorly-crafted legislation. But Sanders will explain (if ever asked) that they lost their jobs due to the reprehensible greed of rapacious billionaires. The truth is more scientific and quite predictable.