A few thoughts on Robert Reich’s video on the minimum wage

In this video, Robert Reich suggest raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. He says that:

Studies have shown that when minimum is raised, more people are brought into the pool of potential employees.

He doesn’t mention why. Our country has a generous safety net. Some of that goes away when you get a job. Why take a pay cut to go to work?

Folks like Reich have a lot to do with creating that generous safety net, but don’t acknowledge that it’s those interventions that make working less economically viable than not.

He also says (emphasis added):

Some opponents [to raising minimum wage] say minimum wage workers are teenagers seeking some extra pocket money. Wrong. About half of minimum wage workers are about 35 or older. Most are women. Many are key breadwinners for their families.

He hopes that you’re stupid to follow his straw man and red herrings off the trail of the original question.

What’s the straw man? That minimum wage workers are ‘teenagers’ seeking extra pocket changes.

I think a more charitable representation of this argument would be that people making minimum wage are generally looking to make extra pocket change, not to solely support a family.

So, throwing in the word ‘teenagers’ allows him to address that and make it appear that he has actually confronted a true opponents argument. He hasn’t.

But, I can’t help help myself. If this argument was about teenagers, why doesn’t he just tell us how many minimum wage workers are teenagers? Probably because that wouldn’t be convincing.

According to this from the Pew Research Center (sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), 24% of minimum (or below) wage workers are teenagers and 50% are ages 16-24. Or, people are who are generally in the first few jobs that most people with a bit of common sense would expect to be making minimum wage.

Progressives like to point to Australia’s high minimum wage, but neglect to mention that even they recognize that teenagers shouldn’t make it. They have a lower, sliding scale minimum wage for people younger than 21.

But, Reich’s red herrings don’t stop there. What does ‘Most are women’ have to do with the argument that minimum wage workers are teenagers? Nothing.

What does “Most” mean? Is it 50.1%, 78% or 90%? This Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that 50.6% are women. So, roughly a little less than make up as the general population, 50.8%. So that’s a worthless statement.

What does “many are key breadwinners” mean? Nothing.

How much is “many?” A third? 10%? 80%? Could be 100.

What does ‘key breadwinner’ mean? Again, nothing. It could mean that the person contributes a portion to household income. But what portion? Is 5% enough to be considered key or 50%? Since there are usually only two breadwinners per household, it doesn’t take a lot to be considered key, especially if that extra income helps the household make ends meet.

So, in short, Reich did not answer the question. Nor, did he he even attempt the larger question of answering how many minimum wage workers are looking to solely support their family or themselves on the wage.

1 thought on “A few thoughts on Robert Reich’s video on the minimum wage

  1. If Reich is correct (he’s not), then by increasing the minimum wage to, say, $1000/hr, virtually everyone would be in the pool of potential employees. Unfortunately, those of us who live and work in the real world understand that this would also mean that virtually nobody would be in the pool of ACTUAL employees.

    Reich and his Progressive allies would remedy this by further increasing welfare benefits thus perpetuating the problem they created.


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