Certain members of our political class are terrible prognosticators. Tax cuts for the rich? That was supposed to be a rising tide that would lift all of America's boats. It definitely lifted a select few. The war in Iraq? We'd be greeted as liberators, we were told. Not even close. Obamacare was going to wreck the country. But costs are coming under control and people like it.
If these guys were weathercasters, they'd have been fired a long time ago.
The next prediction to fact-check is raising the minimum wage. Never mind that George W. Bush raised it or that Mitt Romney recently said he'd raise it; all but one GOP senators recently voted to kill the idea of even talking about raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. They predicted it would kill jobs. But consider Washington state's experience. Here we have the nation's highest minimum wage at $9.32 an hour, and since February of 2010 we've added 218,000 jobs, among the highest rates in the nation.
We have a big problem with pay not even coming close to covering too many families' expenses. Increasing the minimum wage is a powerful solution. It attacks poverty — the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a $10.10 minimum wage would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty. It gets people and corporations weaned off welfare — if people make more money, they'll need fewer food stamps, and low-payers like Walmart won't need public subsidies to help their working-poor employees. It's a stimulus package — estimates say bumping the minimum wage up to $10.10 would pump an additional $450 billion of consumer spending into our economy every year. And it's the morally righteous thing to do — people simply can't live on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
So let's all watch the experiment in Seattle to see how accurate the predictions of economic apocalypse turn out to be. While D.C. is too busy doing nothing to address our problems, the Seattle City Council just broke through the noise when it voted to enact a $15 minimum wage in the city. While they may not be phasing it in carefully enough, the idea is already spreading, with Chicago and New York taking a closer look.
The Seattle Times mentioned Spokane as a potential next stop in the campaign. But it may not even come to that, as Gov. Jay Inslee and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp could introduce a $12-an-hour statewide minimum wage next session. Pay attention, people: Politicians want you to forget, but only one side will be right about raising the minimum wage. ♦