New York's Minimum Wage Debate

Monday, April 23, 2012

Nicole Gelinas, contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, and Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, provide the pros and cons of the New York state legislature's proposed minimum wage increase.


Paul Sonn

Comments [22]

dave sanders from north bergen nj

can't tell if gelinas is psychotic or evil.

Apr. 23 2012 04:19 PM

Gary from Queens: Actually, I thought that you mentioned that Williams is Black in order to point out to the vast majority of NPR listeners that there are Black people in this country who are not economically-ignorant.

Apr. 23 2012 02:51 PM
gary from queens

Sheldon from Brooklyn ASKS:
Gary - do you have a favorite Jewish, female, and Asian economist as well?

ANSWER: Sheldon, No, I do not. And I never had a "favorite black" anything either, before Obama was elected president. Because Brian Lehrer and his listeners taught me that being there's a premium on being black. That somehow, by way of one's race, there is something intrinsically better about you if you are black.

I will admit, I have no idea what that could be, if one is supposed to be assessing character and actual accomplishments. So when I mention ones race, I'm really just trying to be sociable and go along with everyone else.

Apr. 23 2012 12:19 PM

Hugh, you make an excellent point about occupational licensing. That's why people who believe in a true free market are against occupational licensing (and all licensing, in general, such as taxi cab medallions and liquor licenses).

Apr. 23 2012 11:51 AM

How much does the disparity between the minimum wage and a living wage cost taxpayers in government programs to assist the working poor? How much do taxpayers pay to support minimum wage requirements for employers?

Apr. 23 2012 11:51 AM

Sheldon from Brooklyn ~

Poor Gary, he just can't help it.

Apr. 23 2012 11:47 AM

$11.50/hr leaves you with somewhere around $300/wk after taxes. $1200/mth.

How do you afford a $500+/mth health "insurance" product on $1200/mth?!?!?!?


Apr. 23 2012 11:44 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

"The things that people are really worried about are crime and noise and the cost of living." Really? I very much doubt it. Cost of living, maybe. Crime and noise are not at the top of anyone's list lately. We're much more worried about jobs and salaries.

Apr. 23 2012 11:40 AM

Has Gelinas been following the news?! People overwhelming cite the economy as their number one concern.

Apr. 23 2012 11:39 AM

The "crowding out" argument that Gelinas just offered directly contradicts the very conservative line she and similar thinkers otherwise endorse. Conservatives claim we are at full employment, so no person able to command higher wages by virtue of skill or training is going to choose a lower-paying job or one that pays the same and requires less skill. That's the _conservative_ line.

The right-winger naysayers want to have their cake and eat it. In one breath they pick from Keynesian thinking to argue against justice. In the next they pick from Friedman and Hayek to to argue against injustice.

Apr. 23 2012 11:36 AM
Lee from Manhattan

Tying minimum wage increases - in percentages - to congressional salaries: has that ever been considered?

Or tying increases - in percentages - to other government workers' salaries?

Apr. 23 2012 11:35 AM
gary from queens

David, that was a good article. Peter Schiff was a guest on BL show a few years ago. he schooled Brian on libertarian economics.

Just like the Buffet Rule, Obama will get dems to advocate for a minimum wage increase before the election, in order to portray Romney as uncompassionate.

This demagoguery is only possible because the public doesnt have a basic understanding of these economic issues.

Apr. 23 2012 11:35 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

He does make a good point....that most of these low wage jobs are not the type that would be moved to another state just to lower overhead.
They are location specific.

Apr. 23 2012 11:33 AM

The United States and New York State _support_ higher wage regulations for doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, real estate brokers, etc. How? By requiring licensing, bar exams, accreditation. These clearly have an effect of raising pay in their various disciplines (there may be other reasons for such things, but not even conservative economists would dispute that such requirements raise costs).

Apr. 23 2012 11:31 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

Any discuusion of NYC's & NYS minimum wage must include the extremely high Regional Cost Of Living (RCOLA) in NY.

I believe that NY's minuimum wage is artificially low, compared, say, to Idaho.

Apr. 23 2012 11:31 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Gary - do you have a favorite Jewish, female, and Asian economist as well?

Apr. 23 2012 11:31 AM

Yet again, we see how low the bar is for somebody to win credibility as an 'expert' if he or she is a right-winger. Nicole Gelinas has a BA in English -- no background at all in economics. But so what! She's conservative.

Apr. 23 2012 11:28 AM

Gary: Never let economic logic stand in the way of "compassionate" people.

Here's another good essay on the subject:

Apr. 23 2012 11:00 AM

What difference would it make anyways? Any low skill job is going to be some "undocumented" worker getting paid "undocumented" wages. Meaningless debate given the realities of the hemisphere.

Apr. 23 2012 10:11 AM
gary from queens

Go back to first principles:

“What exactly does the Constitution authorize the federal government to do in order to ‘provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States’”?

This clause appears in the preamble of Article I, Section 8. Its meaning was fraught with controversy until seemingly settled when FDR, threatening to pack the Supreme Court, cowed the justices into signing off on the New Deal. Progressives insisted the General Welfare Clause was a sweeping grant, citing Hamilton as their champion of omnipotent, centralized government. Though this distorted Hamilton’s notion of general welfare (which was not robbing Peter to pay Paul), the Left maintains that Leviathan is empowered to tax and spend for any ostensibly humanitarian purpose.

Not so. As James Madison explained, the Constitution was designed to limit government. The General Welfare Clause is not an open-ended license to enact someone’s transient notion of humanitarian good — particularly at someone else’s expense. Were that the case, the federal government would gradually eviscerate state sovereignty and usurp the liberties of the people. (See, e.g., the last 70 years.)

The General Welfare Clause, like its companion summons to “provide for the common Defense,” is merely the preamble’s framing of the high purpose behind Section 8’s carefully enumerated powers, which follow. The central government may provide for the general welfare only by those powers: to regulate commerce, see to the integrity of the currency, establish standards for naturalization, raise and equip the armed forces, and so on. If it is not spelled out in Section 8, it is not the federal government’s job — and there is nothing in there about Uncle Sam insuring our retirements, socializing medical care, or dictating a minimum wage.

It is not that Madison was “not concerned about the very poor.” He and the framers were simply possessed of a basic bit of wisdom that eludes us sophisticated moderns: The strength and genius of America lie in its people, not its government. Government, though necessary, tends to corruption, factional self-dealing, and sloth — especially as it gets more distant from the lives it affects.


February 4, 2012 4:00 A.M.

Apr. 23 2012 10:01 AM
gary from queens

My favorite black economist wrote the following:

Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly
25 April 2006
Walter Williams
If higher minimum wages could cure poverty, we could easily end worldwide
poverty simply by telling poor nations to legislate higher minimum wages.
About a fortnight ago, Mrs. Williams alerted me to an episode of Oprah
Winfrey's show titled "Inside the Lives of People Living on Minimum Wage."
After a few minutes of watching, I turned it off, not because of the
heartrending tales but because most of what was being said was dead wrong.

Minimum Wage
March 30, 2005
A proposal by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)
to increase the minimum wage from its current $5.15 an hour is a bad idea.
Moreover, the idea that minimum wage legislation is an anti-poverty tool is
sheer nonsense, says economist Walter E. Williams.
There is little evidence suggesting increases in the minimum wage help the
poor. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal:
While minimum-wage workers earn $5,000 below the poverty line for a family
of three, only 2.2 percent of working adults earn the minimum wage.
Minimum wages discriminate against the employment of low-skilled workers
because employers are not willing to pay $7.25 an hour for a worker whose
skills enable him to produce only $4 worth of value per hour.
The low-skilled worker category is dominated by teenagers who lack the
maturity, skills and experience of adults.

Jewish World Review April 14, 2010 / 30 Nissan 5770
Minimum Wage Cruelty
By Walter Williams
Which allows an American Samoan worker to have a higher standard of living:
being employed at $3.26 per hour or unemployed at a wage scheduled to
annually increase by 50 cents until it reaches federally mandated wages at
$7.25? You say, "Williams, that's a stupid question. Who would support
people being unemployed at $7.25 an hour over being employed at $3.26 an
hour?" That's precisely the outcome of Congress' 2007 increases in the
minimum wage. Chicken of the Sea International moved its operation from
Samoa to a highly automated cannery plant in Lyon, Georgia. That resulted
in roughly 2,000 jobs lost in Samoa and a gain of 200 jobs in Georgia.

Apr. 23 2012 09:58 AM
gary from queens

Entry level jobs are not intended to be a "living wage".

If i want to pay my 15 yr old niece $10 an hour to clean my house or do chores, the government has no right to force me to pay more than that.

Employers will pay the going rate. They will reward a worker for a service to them the same way you reward the Pizza shop for its service to you. If the price of a slice is too much, you decline the transaction. you don't run to the government and demand it establish a minimum price for that slice.

Well, maybe you would. but most people realize today that centralized, command economies fail. (Look up the Soviet Union and Commie China.)

For that matter, look at the condition Europe is in now. Socialist democracies that established living wages have negative growth and border on insolvency now. Statism doesn't work. Europe is your benchmark.

And philosophically, please tell me to what extent I'm my brother's keeper? Must I support HIS children by supplementing his wages?

And what about practicality? A federal minimum wage is an anachronism. One can live on $15/hour in Des Moines, perhaps. But in NYC?!

The less government manipulating prices and resources, the better everything is. Economics and capitalism is not about fairness. it's about what works for the system and most people in it. It's the tragic view of life, as Mamet reminds us. It's no place for utopian idealists.

Apr. 23 2012 09:53 AM

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