Daniel Hamermesh is the Sue Killam Professor in the Foundations of Economics. A nationally known labor economist, Hamermesh specializes in social programs, the economic benefits of beauty, academic labor markets and unusual applications in everyday life.
Poor Mitt Romney. He has been vilified by the Republican right this week for reiterating a position he took in 2008 that he favors indexing the minimum wage (having it rise each year with inflation). This position goes counter to the usual Republican ideology that the minimum wage should be abolished.
I don’t like the minimum wage — it does kill jobs, especially among youths and minorities — although not very many. It generates more heat relative to its importance than practically any other social/economic policy. Democrats have to love it to curry favor and obtain money from trade unions; Republicans have to hate it to curry favor and obtain money from small business interests.
Indexing the minimum wage would reduce the rhetoric devoted to this relatively unimportant issue. And given that the minimum wage has not been raised in a while, an indexed minimum would start at a reasonable level. The only major effect of taking the discussion out of politics by indexing the minimum wage would be that politicians of both parties would no longer be able to demonstrate their bona fides to their core constituents by arguing for, or against the minimum.
Mitt is right — let’s finally defuse this issue.
More from Daniel Hamermesh:
- “Labor or leisure?” — February 2012
- “Beauty impacts hiring, salaries and profits, economist finds” — April 2011
- VIDEO: “The economics of Prop 8” — March 2011