Exploring the Politics of the Minimum Wage
As much as the minimum wage is an economic issue, it is above all a political one. First, there are the politics surrounding the choice of models. Second, there are the political interests of those who engage in the debate. The choice of methodological models can lead to different ideological positions which ultimately get played out in the political arena. This paper specifically examines the debate between two models -- the "demand constrained" v. the "supply constrained" -- and the ideological implications that flow from each. After which, it addresses itself to the question of why it is that one particular model has become the political focus of the debate at the expense of others. Because good data on the minimum wage has been so lacking the issue has been ripe for political manipulation. This is most evident in those states with "right-to-work" laws. An examination of voting patterns by members of Congress shows that while Democratic members generally vote for minimum wage increases, they consistently vote against them when they are from "right-to-work" states. Conversely, while Republican members generally vote against increases in the wage, they tend to vote for them when they come from states with high union densities. What this suggests, then, is that given the fact that empirical data on the effects of the minimum wage have been ambiguous at best, it is more likely that the minimum wage will increase when there is strong political support for it. Or at the very least, it is more likely to increase when strong political arguments can be made on its behalf.
|Date of creation:||28 May 1998|
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