A recent story by Edward D. Murphy (“Minimum wage hike has limits, study says,” Aug. 30) describes research that suggests that the minimum wage can be raised to some percentage of the local median rate before it triggers job losses. The article then calculates what that minimum would be in different parts of Maine.

This is largely a waste of time. A number of factors determine the effects of minimum-wage increases, and, even though they get the most attention, job losses are only one tree in the minimum-wage forest, and not necessarily the most important.

For those not dedicated to using wage mandates to redistribute income, there are other important issues.

 One is that minimum-wage increases are a very inefficient way of helping those in need, because the majority of recipients reside in middle-income or even affluent households.

Second, the great myth in this debate is that if minimum wage increases don’t cause job losses, nothing else bad happens.

On the contrary, the greatest harm the increases do is to prevent more young and inexperienced individuals, many of them minorities, from getting a job at all. For those who lose their job, or can’t get one, the minimum wage is zero, a consequence that advocates determinedly ignore.

Finally, the effort to achieve social goals by micromanaging private labor arrangements is a long and slippery slope with significant economic and social costs, as Europe has discovered.

A much more effective way to target and help those in need would be to expand the earned income tax credit. But that would be public policy, paid for by the public.

Martin Jones

Freeport