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Minimum Wages, Bipartisan Support, and the Facts

On Tuesday, the Arlington County Civic Federation welcomed the annual visit of Arlington’s General Assembly legislators. The budget impasse in the General Assembly, was obviously the topic du juor, and was covered by the Arlington Sun-Gazette.

Legislators addressed Federation delegates’ questions. For example, Del. Al Eisenberg (D) noted that he was a co-patron of HB 539, which was patroned by Del. Vince Callahan (R-McLean)., to raise the minimum wage in Virginia by stages to $8.15 by July 2008. However, the bill didn’t get out of the House’s Committee on Commerce and Labor.

We were reminded of the bill by the column Dr. Walter Williams, economics professor at George Mason University, who explained in yesterday’s Washington Times why raising the minimum wage is "maximum folly." Dr. Williams cites a few statistics supporters of the minimum wage gloss over, e.g., “(w)orkers earning the minimum wage or less tend to be young, single workers between ages 16 and 25. Only about 2 percent of workers over 25 years of age earn minimum wages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 63 percent of minimum wage workers receive raises within one year of employment, and only 15 percent still earn the minimum wage after three years.” He also cites two surveys of academic economists who “agreed that increasing the minimum wage causes unemployment among youth and low-skilled workers. Thankfully, the vast majority of Virginia state legislators had the good economic sense to let HB 539 die in committee.