Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

When is football like the minimum wage?

On the face of it, the two have nothing to do with each other. But one legislator makes this interesting analogy:

When the clock expired at the end of the Super Bowl, a lot of so-called experts turned out to be wrong. The game is played on the field, and that often has a funny way of defying ill-placed prediction.

Overshadowed perhaps by football, but even more important to millions of Pennsylvanians, was the January debunking of forecasts by experts even more certain than football commentators.

Pennsylvania State Senator Christine M. Tartaglione is calling out those who reliably – and wrongly – predict disaster for low-wage workers whenever a state indexes its minimum wage to inflation. She writes:

The game…is played on the field, not on paper. The entire history of the minimum wage in Pennsylvania and in the U.S. has already disproved such dire forecasts. And I pointed out that…projections for the state of Washington in 2000 [were] discredited by strong low-wage job growth in years that followed. Ditto for California in 1998.

If the facts are the referees, the call goes to Sen. Tartaglione. Washington State has the nation’s highest statewide minimum wage ($8.07 as of January 2008). Annual inflation adjustments allow low wage workers to maintain their buying power through both good economic times and bad.

At the same time, Washington’s job growth is far out-pacing the national average. Over the last year, jobs in Washington increased more than three times faster than in the nation as a whole. Jobs rose in both retail and restaurants, the two largest employers of minimum wage workers.

Same was true in Pennsylvania. According to that state’s labor department, the minimum wage increase there was followed by job growth in all three sectors that corporate lobbyists predicted would see job losses is 2007:

  • Leisure and hospitality: 11,000 jobs gained. (Prediction: 3,261 jobs lost.)
  • Retail: up by 2,900. (Prediction: 2,500 losses.)
  • Education and health: 27,000 job increase. (Prediction: 1,651 jobs lost.)

As Tartaglione writes, it looks like “fourth down” for the doomsayers.

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