Portland Mayor Michael Brennan has proposed that the city establish a minimum-wage ordinance. Can it be that “Hizzoner” has never taken Economics 101, or is he pandering to economic illiteracy to score political points?

Economists of every political stripe agree that the general wage level can only be raised by increased marginal worker productivity, which is largely a function of increased capital investment that gives workers better tools to increase productivity.

Absent increased productivity, it’s a zero sum game. Increases at one level of the “income ladder” must be offset by decreases at other “rungs” in that ladder.

All Brennan will accomplish is to remove the first “rung” of experience and income opportunity for teenagers and restaurant employees. If teenagers never get on the first “rung,” how do they get to the second “rung”?

Wage rates are best left to the marketplace. Government attempts to control prices and wages, without rationing consumption, as in wartime, have always met with failure. For example, if rent control looks attractive to you, take a drive through the Bronx in New York City. What this debate really highlights is the need to teach economics in our public schools.

If I recall correctly, wasn’t Brennan’s former employer the Muskie School of Public Service? Don’t they teach economics there?

Porter D. Leighton