Give Every Oregon Employer a Personalized Minimum Wage

CascadeNewLogoBy Steve Buckstein

Union-backed and activist groups are trying to put measures on the November 2016 ballot to raise Oregon’s minimum wage from the current $9.25 to either $13.50 or $15, and to allow local governments such as the city of Portland to go above whatever the statewide minimum ends up being.

State Senator Michael Dembrow (D) thinks he can improve minimum wage policy by recognizing that different regions of that state have different costs of living and employment climates. He’s trying to craft a bill for the February 2016 legislative session that would set three different minimum wage rates: one for the Portland Metro region, one for the Willamette Valley, and one for everywhere else.

Assuming the Senator is on to something (a dubious assumption at best), why stop at three rates? Clearly, every employer has somewhat different circumstances, so why not set a different rate for each of them? Dembrow could give each employer a hearing lasting as long as the legislature gives the public to testify on bills—three minutes—to explain their particular circumstances. He then could assign them their own personalized minimum wage rates. Assuming about 100,000 employers in the state, working eight hours every business day with no breaks, the Senator could have the perfect minimum wage bill crafted in only two and a half years. Voilà, problem solved! Or is it?

Of course, in reality, Dembrow and the activists are trying to solve a problem through government that is better left to free people in a free society. Minimum wage laws are nothing more than price controls that end up hurting the very people they purport to help: often young, less educated, and less experienced workers who will find it harder to get or keep a job when the government prices their labor above what a business can economically justify.

Steve Buckstein is Founder, Senior Policy Analyst, and Satirist-in-Residence at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Economy, Employment, Government Regulation, Initiative & Referendum, Jobs, Oregon Government, Portland Politics, Progressivism, State Government, Unemployment | Tagged , , | 8 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • thevillageidiot

    But doesn’t this help the Federal Reserve get to a 2% annual inflation? The Good Senator is just trying to his part and make everybody equal. I think he has read atlas shrugged and is trying to emulate Wesley Mouch. the Senator has a masterful grasp of how the economy should work. So what is wrong with this. give the economy to the government and every thing will turn out best for all; unless you have read atlas shrugged in which case maybe not. Did not work well for Russia.

    • DavidAppell

      Inflation has been under 2% since August 2014, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

  • Bob Clark

    Here’s a trade for the proponents of the $15 minimum wage, most proponents arguing such hike in the minimum wage will cure most all economic ills. You can have the $15 minimum wage, but in exchange, social service budgets shall be rolled back by 40% and consequently personal income tax rates shall be lowered by these savings; after all, are we not effectively assured by proponents the nearly 40% hike in the minimum wage will result in people rising out of poverty and dependence on the social safety?

    If there are no takers for this exchange among the proponents of hiking the minimum wage to $15, then, maybe we have a test as to the real sincerity (or lack of) concerning the arguments put forth by the $15 minimum proponents.

    • HBguy

      Unfortunately that would actually mainly hit families trying to live on a minimum wage while healthy young single adults would benefit. A better idea would be to eliminate Oregon income taxes on the working poor, which would increase the take home pay mostly for working poor families and not cost the employer a cent. The burden would b equally shared by all instead. Oregon Outpost had article on that.

    • DavidAppell

      Bob Clark wrote:
      “are we not effectively assured by proponents the nearly 40% hike in the minimum wage will result in people rising out of poverty and dependence on the social safety?”

      Bob: Simple question: if people earn more money, do some of them rise above the poverty line?

      Just a “yes” or “no,” please.

  • HBguy

    With housing costs skyrocketing in central Portland how do you expect someone to work part time at a coffee shop or taproom and afford to live there on anything less than $15/hour.
    You don’t expect them to move to Hillsboro do you?
    Should be called the Portland Hipster financial relief act of 2016.

  • Myke

    The only beneficiary of a minimum wage hike is the State. Since most people don’t work for minimum wage, this is a regressive tax on the poor, payed by consumers through businesses. It is inflationary, and, given time, will be equalized by the revaluation of all other cost/labor inputs, resulting in a null effect, except for the increase in State income taxes. Who will again bang their drums for more money. You want to raise wages? Quit chasing away businesses who’s growth would tighten the labor market.

  • DavidAppell

    Steve: if businesses don’t pay a livable wage, guess who makes up the difference?

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