In the world of Republican economics, Arthur Laffer – yes, the man who brought us the Laffer Curve – has been among the most prominent conservative voices of his generation. His notoriety rose during his tenure in the Reagan White House, but more recently he’s helped Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) shape his regressive state-based economic agenda.
This morning, Laffer appeared on Fox News arguing that the minimum wage should be $0 (there’s a lot of that going around in Republican politics lately). He added:
“[T]he minimum wage makes no sense whatsoever to me. I mean, honestly, it’s just the teenage – black teenage unemployment act and this is the very groups that we need to have jobs, not be put out of work because of the minimum wage.
“So I’m really very much in favor of at least for teenagers getting rid of the minimum wage so we can bring them back into the labor force, get them the skills they need to continue being productive members of our society for years and years. I mean, that’s the way I’d go on minimum wage.”
Is that so.
I suppose in the far-right caricature of a low-wage worker, it’s easy to make assumptions about race and age, but to characterize the federal minimum wage as the “black teenage unemployment act” is not only offensive, it ignores reality altogether. Consider some of the details published this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
For example, most Americans who work for the minimum wage are adults. A whopping 84% are over the age of 20, while nearly half (47%) are over 30.
What’s more, Laffer’s assumptions about race notwithstanding, most minimum-wage workers (57%) are white. Nearly half (47%) work full time.
It seems some on the right have an image in their mind about the “typical” American who works for the minimum wage: an African-American teenager working at the mall of a fast-food restaurant. Perhaps it’s this distorted image that helps drive Republican opposition to an increase.
Perhaps if conservatives gave reality a closer look they’d reevaluate the policy on the merits?