Off topic post: Comments on Art Woolf on minimum wage

These comments were posted in March 8 edition of  the Burlington Free Press in response to Art Woolf’s column on raising the minimum wage.

It’s interesting to note all the ways Mr. Woolf tries to downplay the impact of raising the federal minimum wage.

“Less than 3% of all workers in the nation earn the minimum wage.” Table 653 of the 2012 Statistical Abstract (

compendia/statab/cats/labor_force_employment_earnings.html ) indicates that this percentage translates to more than 4.3 million hourly wage workers, each with his or her own story. That’s a lot of people to dismiss as casually as Mr. Woolf does. (And it’s 6% of workers paid hourly rates, roughly 1/2 of the work force).

“Few minimum wage workers are trying to raise a family on a minimum wage income. ” But SOME — an unspecified number — are. How about the impact on THEIR lives? And how about the others, trying to help their families or save for college? What about them?

“And if they do, they are eligible for the federal and Vermont Earned Income Tax Credit, which can add $4,000 to the wage of a worker trying to raise a child on $8.50 an hour. That brings the effective wage to about $10.50,” which would give them total income right around the poverty level (and below it, if they’re raising more than one child). Whoopee!

“As Vermont’s labor force shrinks and employers find it more difficult to find workers, minimum wage workers might well become an endangered species.” That may (or may not) be true in Vermont, depending on how well employment levels hold up in the future. But it’s important to recognize that this whole piece is predicated on a hike in the FEDERAL minimum wage, and that, in some states, the impact will be VASTLY greater. Vermont is fortunate in having one of the lower unemployment rates in the nation (despite having one of the highest minimum wage rates).

Mr Woolf provides NO useful information about the minimum wage, its effect on actual people, or on poverty and wealth maldistribution in America (which remains depressingly high), but he does tell us a great deal about where his sympathies lie.

Here are a few questions Mr. Woolf SHOULD be asking: what’s the impact on a highly-developed society when millions of people live at or just above the poverty level? What is the impact on the wages of those earning JUST ABOVE the minimum wage? When considering impacts of raising the minimum, it’s obvious, as noted above, that the impacts are quite real in the lives of those 4+ million who actually receive the wage (plus those dependent on them). But again, what about the impacts on those earning what USED to be the minimum wage? Presumably, they too will see their wages increase. And what about the macroeconomic impact of all that increased spending injected into the economy? (It’s a pretty safe bet that virtually all of the additional income will be spent, not saved).

Too bad Mr. Woolf couldn’t look past his agenda.

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