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Election Results
A Turning Point for $15 Minimum?

The movement to raise the minimum wage to an unprecedented $15 per hour has racked up an impressive string of victories in liberal cities over the past few years—first in Seattle, then San Francisco, then Los Angeles, then New York. And in August, the Democratic Party made a national $15 minimum a part of its official platform.

Last night, however, voters in Portland, Maine—the largest city in the Pine Tree State and a liberal stronghold—handed the $15 minimum movement the most stinging rebuke it has suffered since it surfaced as a serious political issue last year. The Portland Press Herald reports:

Portland voters rejected a proposal Tuesday to dramatically increase the minimum wage in the city.

The referendum to raise the wage to $15 an hour, double the statewide minimum of $7.50, was defeated by nearly 58 percent to 42 percent. […]

Opponents of the increase, primarily small businesses, organized quickly after the Portland Green Independent Committee submitted signatures in July to put the referendum before voters.

A political action committee called “Too Far, Too Fast” was set up and raised more than $120,000 to oppose the referendum. Boosted by a $50,000 donation from the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, the group organized news conferences featuring business owners who said the higher wages would force them to cut staff sharply or close down altogether. […]

“Too Far, Too Fast” ran television ads in October, and a week ago spent $15,000 to air radio ads during the last few days of the campaign. Many of the opponents of the $15 an hour wage said they supported the city’s new $10.10 minimum, suggesting that voters could oppose the $15-an-hour alternative while still feeling as though something was being done to boost low-income wages.

The results out of Portland suggest that the $15 minimum is still controversial and beatable, even in left-leaning cities. This is a cause for optimism, because as we’ve said before, the case against this kind of radical policy is overwhelming: A $15 minimum is likely to raise prices and destroy businesses, block low-skilled Americans from entering the workforce, facilitate union malfeasance, and devastate America’s fragile manufacturing industry.

The Portland vote could be an outlier in a long march toward ever-steeper minimum wages imposed from coast to coast. But it could also be a sign that maybe—just maybe—sanity may be setting in.

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  • Anthony

    A more pertinent public policy concern for workers (Millennials and U.S. wage workers): dynamic of Capital/Income ratio (minimum wage talk subset baseline variable).

  • Anthony

    A related thought regarding TAI’s focus on minimum wage and targeted audience: by midlife most people’s career trajectory is pretty much set and TAI’s general audience appears to be either in that category or in retirement (now, I could be completely off as no data has been studied). Necessarily, my query initiates from thought that such focus would probably generate more perspective from impacted demographic. That is, ideas/perspectives/commentary/etc. received from demographic affected economically speaking may reveal practical application (real world effect) and challenges thereto of said policy question. Rhetorical exchanges and argued propositions heretofore while revealing may on this issue (on this site) be of limiting effect.

  • Jim__L

    Once again…

    The US would be far, far better served by minimum wage laws *in other parts of the world*.

    A Fordist model in China, Vietnam, etc, where workers were raised into consumers would be a wonderful thing for the economy of the entire world, sending it roaring ahead, creating massive new markets to support massive new employment, and reducing the beggar-thy-comrade offshoring model the US (and especially non-German Europe) has suffered from for decades.

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  • iconoclast

    It just isn’t enough. According to that famous Indian scholar, Elizabeth Warren, the minimum wage should be $22/hour. Personally, I think they hate poor people because truly the minimum wage should be $50/hour. After all, if the minimum wage has no downside why shouldn’t it be high enough so that everyone in the country is above the average wage?

    • Fat_Man

      Bingo.

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