Is Charles Lane (and Fox News) advocating a wage cut for millions of Americans?
Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL
Conservatives who bash The Washington Post as liberal tend to overlook the streak of conservatism that runs through the Post's editorial pages -- indeed, we've detailed how some Post editorial positions dovetail nicely with those of the unambiguously conservative Wall Street Journal.
Given that history, it's no surprise that Post editorial page staff member Charles Lane would pen a column that advocates, as one way to boost job growth, reducing the minimum wage. No, really.
In support of this claim, Lane cites the increase in unemployment as the minimum wage increased in increments over the past three years, adding: "I am not saying that the minimum wage increase caused this; far from it. But study after study has shown that this supposed benefit to the poor prices low-skilled workers out of entry-level jobs. It was unwise to keep raising the cost of hiring them in a recession." But Lane ignores that there are studies showing that raising the minimum wage has no significant effect on unemployment -- this one, for instance, and this one.
It's probably not surprising that Lane goes on to cite a Journal op-ed to make his case.
Missing from Lane's article, on top of the lack of data that conflicts with his suggestion, is any acknowledgement of the impact of cutting wages of people who aren't making that much in the first place. As the Economic Policy Institute points out, 4.5 million Americans saw a wage increase with the most recent incremental hike. Is cutting those wages really a smart thing to do in a recession?
Lane's other suggestions are equally dubious. It's unclear how ending federal protection of the domestic sugar industry will create jobs, nor does he explain how repealing the Davis-Bacon Act (which mandates that federally funded projects pay the prevailing local wage) will do anything other than lower wages.
But never mind. Lane's minimum wage suggestion got attention at the one place you'd expect it to (outside the Journal, anyway): Fox News.
James Rosen's report on the December 14 edition of America's Newsroom prominently features Lane's column, as well as similar claims by the author of the Journal op-ed Lane cited, David Neumark. Like Lane, Rosen ignored studies that show the minimum wage does not impact unemployment, though he conceded that a rollback is unlikely.
Rosen went on to misconstrue the debate on the issue, portraying it as between Democrats citing "social justice" and Republicans speaking "in macroeconomic terms" -- ignoring there's an macroeconomic argument for raising the minimum wage in terms of increased consumer spending.
If The Washington Post is supposed to be so unapologetically liberal, why is it manufacturing catnip for Fox News?