The topic of the minimum wage is a well-chewed one, but since the new Democratic majorities in Congress intend to make raising it a signature issue, it is worth masticating again, briefly.
Since only 0.6% of hourly wage workers earn the minimum wage, raising it is more a matter of symbolism than anything else "” but of what is it symbolic? The Democrats will tell you it illustrates their renewed determination to improve the lot of the downtrodden, and to lift the poor out of their poverty.
In fact, most minimum wage jobs are held by entry level workers, or part-timers who are supplementing the family income. It is a very rare worker who is attempting to support a household on $6.15 an hour, because it is not enough money. Neither will $7.25 be, in most cases. Those kinds of jobs are generally marginal, and trying to increase their rate of pay through legislation is as likely to make them disappear as anything else, either through mechanization or out-sourcing. Even where workers' wages can be artificially forced higher, there will be a balancing uptick in prices to the consumer. So who do you like?
The answer, of course, is whoever's vote can be purchased with someone else's money, in this case the minimum wage worker, the Democrats are betting.
However, what we are dealing with is wage and price levels. They are controlled by the pristine logic of the marketplace and, it has long been perfectly understood, cannot be dictated by oafish politicians. Whether Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, they do no work and create no wealth. Even if they did, they could not presume to know the value of labor, or the fair price of goods. Poking the governmental nose into these matters will only provoke unintended consequences, most of them negative.
For the Democrats to once again pretend otherwise will only serve to remind voters that one of the few infallible rules of politics is that less government is better, and usher them off into the minority once again. Come to think of it, that's the very mechanism that just put the Republicans there.