The Oct. 25 editorial arguing that another minimum wage increase is needed "if only to restore the purchasing power [the wage] has lost since the last increase in 1997" does not pass the red-face test.

If Sen. Edward Kennedy succeeds in raising the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour, employers will face a 45 percent increase in the minimum wage since 1996, while inflation measures less than 2.6 percent per year. Increases of this magnitude will come with a hefty price tag.

Alan Krueger -- Robert Reich's chief economist and one-time advocate of the theory that a higher minimum wage equals higher employment -- appeared on National Public Radio last year to express reservations about another hike "so quickly" after the 1997 increase. "I would think it's probably more likely that [a wage hike] could have an adverse effect," he said.

Since then the ability to raise prices and the inflation rate have moved little.

Any adjustment to the minimum wage "to restore . . . purchasing power" comes at a price. Exacting that price based on the calendar rather than economic changes is thoughtless public policy.



The writer is an analyst at the Employment Policies Institute, a non-profit research organization for the hospitality industry.