Mayor Michael Brennan has unwisely decided that Portland should increase the minimum wage for those employed in the city from the current $7.50 per hour to $9.50 an hour. This newspaper’s editorial writers have endorsed his policy (“Our View: Minimum wage is not just gas money for teens,” Aug. 22).
In a city that has all-too-obvious unemployment problems with dozens of destitute people reduced to begging for handouts from passing drivers at the city’s intersections, this is a “feel good” policy that could have negative consequences for those unemployed, the working poor, employers, consumers and the city as a whole.
Suppose a small business can hire at a wage rate of $8 or $9 per hour, but cannot afford any more than that. The mayor’s policy would prevent that hiring. He is effectively saying that he would rather have someone out on the street begging for handouts than productively working for $9 an hour. This is a bad policy that unfortunately looks good on the surface. If raising the minimum wage to $9.50 had no bad consequences, why stop there? Why not go to a minimum wage of $15 an hour or even higher? That would obviously drive out jobs and businesses. The difference is only one of degree.
A $15-an-hour minimum wage would be an obvious disaster. The negative consequences of an increase to $9.50 are only smaller and less obvious, so that its advocates can enjoy their “feel good” policy without everyone clearly seeing the harm that they’ve done.
I have no doubt that the mayor and the paper think they are “doing good” in promoting the minimum-wage-hike policy, but a dose of common sense is in order.