December 1, 2013

From the lengthy article on localities and minimum wage [“Localities lead push to increase minimum wage,” front page, Nov. 29], I identified the states with minimum wages greater or lower than that required for the United States. Then I compared unemployment rates for those states, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for October, with that of states using the minimum wage set by Congress. The average unemployment reported for the 50 states and D.C. was 6.7 percent. The average for the 19 states and the District with minimum wages higher than the U.S. level was 7.5 percent, and the average for the four states with lower minimum wages than the United States was 6.2 percent.

It is interesting to note that the six states with the highest unemployment rates all have minimum wages greater than the U.S. law. Only one of the 19 states with higher minimum wages was in the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates. Perhaps there is a correlation between unemployment and the minimum wage. Disappointingly, the article did not even broach that subject.

Dale Pace, Ellicott City

Regarding “Localities lead push to increase minimum wage”:

The laissez-faire approach to minimum wage isn’t reality. Policies spanning education, trade, tax, regulation and more have reduced the supply of jobs, especially high-wage jobs. Minimum-wage jobs matter most to those with no more than a high school education. 

This group has seen policymakers bend over backward to get kids into college while gutting vocational and technical education, which would prepare them for immediate good employment. Housing close to centers of employment grows more expensive while transportation choices and infrastructure become slower, less reliable and more expensive. Day-care costs can consume most of a paycheck. Those with only a high school education have virtually no access to credit and little or no savings. Finding a well-paying job is difficult, and the transaction costs of switching jobs is high (waiting several weeks for your first paycheck can be devastating). When the available jobs are low-paying, the risk of switching outweighs potential benefits.

Low-wage employers are benefiting from artificially cheap labor. If the labor market were efficient and free, people would not be working for less than subsistence wages. This is not a free, efficient or competitive market. It is perverted by all sorts of forces, hurting the voiceless masses of low-wage workers and society, too.

This is not a local issue; it is a national issue. There is no quick pathway to creating a free and efficient market, but there is a way to make it better: Raise the minimum wage for all.

Mike Fandey, Gaithersburg