Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 24, 2013

Raising minimum wage might lift all boats

SWARTHMORE, Pa. — Seemingly out of nowhere, a movement to raise the minimum wage has been gathering momentum. It’s about time. No one can live on $7.25 per hour. In real terms, the national minimum wage has dropped about 30 percent since its peak several decades ago. And yet there is a chorus of concern that raising the minimum wage, while it benefits some people, will be a disaster for others, because employers who rely on the minimum wage will find ways to eliminate jobs. The last thing you want to do in a time of high unemployment is threaten jobs. Research comparing adjacent states, one of which has raised its minimum wage, indicates that job loss from raised minimum wages is quite modest. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that if the minimum wage were raised enough, job loss would occur.

I don’t want to minimize the pain that lost jobs would produce, but I want to suggest, based on much research in the psychology of decision-making, that these immediate negative effects of minimum-wage increases would be temporary, and in the long term, raising the minimum wage would have benefits that dwarfed the costs. The research in question concerns the phenomenon of “anchoring.”

It has long been known that we evaluate virtually everything in comparison with something else. What makes a big car big is the existence of smaller cars. Same with a big house. Economist Robert Frank has pointed out that over the years the average size of an American house, in square feet, has doubled, even as family size has shrunk. But a big house isn’t very big if everyone else’s house is the same size. Our assessment of house size is anchored by the size of other people’s houses (though it could be anchored by the size of our previous house, at least temporarily).

Text Only
Opinion
  • Only love can re-make your heart Was Jeb Bush right to insert love into a political debate? Such was the gist of a question I was asked on talk radio in response to the former Florida governor's assertion that some immigrants come into the United States illegally as an "act of love.

    April 18, 2014

  • Stop big tobacco from promoting e-cigarettes The tobacco industry is sharply raising spending on advertisements and other marketing for electronic cigarettes to try to make smoking glamorous again and hook a new generation of Americans on nicotine. We shouldn't let them get away with it. If adu

    April 18, 2014

  • A mental health checkup The country's inadequate mental health system gets the most attention after instances of mass violence of the sort that the nation has seen repeatedly over the past few months. Not all who commit these sorts of atrocities are mentally ill, but many h

    April 18, 2014

  • Your new password: sur**nder Have you changed your passwords since the security flaw known as Heartbleed emerged? Have you made sure they're all long, alphanumeric and randomized? Did you use a unique one for every site -- every bank account, every e- mail address, every music-s

    April 17, 2014

  • Hillary leans on Bill, Obama Recently Hillary Clinton gave what appeared at first to be a rambling and unfocused answer when asked to name the proudest achievement of her four years as Secretary of State. The short version is, she doesn't have one. But Clinton's words make a lot

    April 17, 2014

  • If GOP lost culture war, liberals did, too The "culture wars" have been a feature of American politics for almost a century, but recently a number of commentators have declared their end. Conservatives have lost, swept aside by a wave of enthusiasm for marriage equality and sexualized mass cu

    April 17, 2014

  • Cable guys too slow with Internet upgrade Remember the good-old 1990s, when you could make a pot of coffee while waiting for the screeching dial-up modem to connect to the Internet at a leisurely 9.6 kilobits per second? Two decades later, the average American household's connection is 1,000

    April 16, 2014

  • A May Day fable SPRINGFIELD -- Growing up during the Cold War, May Day always was a bit ominous. On the evening news, we'd watch tanks, missiles and soldiers march by the reviewing stands in Moscow, Beijing and Havana where stone-faced Communist leaders would look

    April 16, 2014

  • Display it proudly Editor: Drive past the demolition site of the old Good Samaritan Hospital on North 12th Street in Mt. Vernon and you will see the Stars and Stripes proudly flying from the flag pole. The hospital has been reduced to a pile of debris, but Old Glory st

    April 16, 2014

  • Got raw milk ... and salmonella? A refresher course in the work of Louis Pasteur should be mandatory for advocates of so-called raw milk. For anyone who missed fourth-grade science, Pasteur discovered that heating milk for a very brief time killed E. coli, salmonella, listeria, camp

    April 16, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks