Acton Institute on increasing minimum wage: 'We shouldn’t be pitting one group of poor people against the other'

Raising the minimum wage was the topic of discussion at a recent event at the International Longshoreman Association Hall in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The Raising Wages Summit held earlier this month aimed to rally support for increased wages and other labor initiatives.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) attended the summit hosted by the AFL-CIO, and said he believed minimum wage should be raised to an hourly rate of $15.

“That’s where it ought to be,” Clyburn told attendees. “The men and women who earn hourly wages must earn a livable wage, not just an hourly wage.”

In response to Clyburn’s call for an increase in minimum wage, Joe Carter, senior editor at the Acton Institute, told Palmetto Business Daily that there is no evidence that a hike from $7.25 to $15 an hour would benefit the poor.

“The question I would ask proponents of the minimum wages increases is: What evidence do you have this is not going to hurt the poor? Because I haven’t seen any and I haven’t seen anyone in Congress presenting any,” Carter said.

Many are under the assumption that raising the minimum wage will automatically combat poverty in the country. Not necessarily, according to the Acton Institute. In fact, the organization believes increasing minimum wages may actually hurt the poor.

“The primary reason the Acton Institute is against it is because it hurts the poor,” Carter said. “We are very pro-poor and the minimum wage is probably one of the harshest policies against the poor in America today.”

Carter, who has written articles on why raising minimum wages doesn’t target poverty, said there is a larger part of the debate that’s often overlooked. Minimum wage hikes often cause employers to lay off workers to prevent an increase in payroll. The workload then gets shifted to other employees, which only creates more poverty, particularly within certain communities.

Studies show that minimum wage increase especially affects African-American males between ages 16 and 24 because it reduces employment for young African-Americans, Carter said.

“People assume that people who are for minimum wage are for helping the poor and people against the minimum wage are against the poor," Carter said. "Actually, they are both for the poor, it is just that one group says we are going to help this poor at the expense of other poor people. The anti-minimum wage people are saying no, we shouldn’t hurt any of the poor people. We shouldn’t be pitting one group of poor people against the other."

Most supporters of a minimum wage increase believe that paying people more will increase productivity because when people are paid more, they work harder. But Carter explained that if employers have to pay their employees more, they will want to employ higher skilled workers and fire workers who they don’t think have a skill-set worth $15 an hour, which benefits white middle-class females, he said.

“Usually young teenage girls are the biggest beneficiary of the minimum wage," Carter said. "The reason why is they have a tendency to be from middle-class families where they already have the work value and skills, and they have the higher education. So really when you are increasing the minimum wage, you are having a trade-off. You are enticing young, usually white workers to enter the work field to take these jobs that would normally go to less skilled or minorities."

Carter said the disagreement among economists over minimum wage is based on where to draw the line.

“For most of them, the debate is about 20 percent increases, going from $7.25 to $8 an hour," Carter said. "Once you start going from $7.25 to $15 an hour, there is just no evidence it is not going to radically hurt the poor."

Several cities across the nation have approved a gradual rise of minimum wage to $15 an hour. San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles are among them.

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