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February 18, 2014 5:49 PM CBO Estimates of a Minimum Wage Increase

By Ed Kilgore

So CBO’s official projections of the likely impact of the minimum wage increase the president is calling for are out, and of course you’ll hear Republicans talking almost exclusively about the downside: an estimate that roughly a half million workers would lose jobs (though negligible job losses are also possible) due to a combination of reduced consumer demand for theoretically higher-priced goods and a reduction in positions deemed not worth the higher rate. Indeed, this offers GOPers a nice diversion from having to defend their own refusal to support relief for the long-term unemployed.

CBO also estimates that 16.5 million workers would see significantly higher income thanks to a $10,10 minimum wage, which would generate $31 billion in additional income for low-wage workers when fully implemented in 2016.

Lagging low-end real wages are a problem and unemployment is a problem. There are other ways to deal with the latter, but only one direct way to deal with the former. It’s a popular step, and Congress should take it. The odds aren’t great it will happen so long as Republicans control the House, but supporters should keep up the drumbeat. And they shouldn’t forget that the proposal in question would index the minimum wage after it is raised, which is a very significant step that will mean we don’t have to go through this sort of fight perpetually.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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