Pennsylvania Controversy Over Minimum Wage

On various right-wing blogs, I found excerpts from last night’s debate between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz in their race for Pennsylvania’s open seat in the US Senate. Not surprisingly, they focused on Fetterman’s answers to often-awkward questions. I was curious about their views on the minimum wage, which, in Pennsylvania, is still the federal $7.25 an hour.

Here’s a 4-minute segment, uncut, that sums up their views nicely. Although Fetterman describes the issues awkwardly, I at least get his point. I thought some conservative sites did Oz a disservice by not showing his sound arguments on the minimum wage. Watch the whole thing. As I said, it’s only 4-minutes long.

I think that one thing Fetterman said didn’t make sense, and I don’t think it had anything to do with his recent stroke, because I’ve seen many “stroke-less” Democratic politicians say the same thing. The questioner said:

What would you say to the small business owners who told us that if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour, it would put them out of business?

Parenthetical comments before we get to Fetterman’s answer, similar to the one asked in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid When they are relentlessly pursued by a large number of men on horseback: “K is Those guys?” I’ve never seen such a balanced and knowledgeable pair of questioners. They seem to actually want to get the answer. And the “if … were” formula is the grammatical icing on the cake. Their performance is better than any questioner I’ve seen in a presidential race in the last 30 years. well

Now to the part of Fetterman’s answer that I found interesting:

Businesses that simply cannot be avoided cannot be subsidized without paying individuals [I’m pretty sure he means “afford”] to pay their own way.

I’ve heard many people say that paying low wages amounts to subsidizing businesses. I don’t see it. You might say “Well, they can pay lower wages than low-income people because of things like welfare and Medicaid.” But many of these programs reduce the labor supply, making wages higher than they would otherwise be. And while some government programs, such as the earned income tax credit, increase labor supply, otherwise lowering wages, it makes no sense to try to judge the well-being of those wage earners without accounting for their gains from the EITC. .

Oz looks at how wages drive the concept of market forces and the importance of unblocking market forces, especially in the energy sector. I think he overstates the resulting wage rate, but he makes a good point. He also said that $15 an hour has already been achieved in Pennsylvania by market forces. I bet that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Furthermore, where you see people making less than $15 an hour, you should think that a $15 minimum wage would wipe out their jobs.

However, I do wonder what the questioners name is. A few searches on Google didn’t give me this.

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