Rather than press for a higher minimum wage, workers tired of living in poverty should turn their ire on the government, according to Andy Puzder, the CEO of the company that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
“Government needs to get out of the way,” Puzder, a former Mitt Romney adviser who makes nearly $5 million a year, told Yahoo! Finance on Monday. “If government gets out of the way, businesses will create jobs.”
“When there’s a demand for labor, the cost of labor goes up,” he also said. “When there’s no demand for labor, it goes down and you can’t solve that problem by having the government artificially mandate a wage increase when there’s no economic growth to support that.”
Pudzer’s conversation with Yahoo focused primarily on youth unemployment, with Puzder arguing against a minimum wage hike on the grounds that it would damage young workers’ interests. But low-wage entry-level jobs are no longer the province of young people who should be out working instead of “waiting for mom to make dinner,” as Puzder puts it. They are predominantly grown-ups — 88 percent of workers who would benefit from the sorts of wage hikes Puzder opposes are older than 20 — and they are twice as likely to have children of their own than to be children.
While his opposition to the minimum wage may seem standard for someone in his tax bracket, Pudzer’s comments actually put him on the opposite side of the minimum wage question from several of his fellow CEOs at low-wage food and retail chains. The CEOs of McDonald’s and Subway have each come out in favor of a minimum wage increase, offering measured but clear support for the idea. Non-food companies like The Gap and IKEA have committed to raising entry-level wages above what the law requires.
States that raised their minimum wage at the start of the year are experiencing faster 2014 job growth than states that did not.
Understanding that economic growth comes from the middle out rather than the top down is a potent thing, as Seattle recently learned. The coalition of worker activists, politicians, and businesspeople who brought that city’s $15 minimum wage deal to fruition this spring “weren’t out making social justice arguments,” Nick Hanauer told ThinkProgress in June. “We were saying, if we pay people a living wage then they can afford to shop in the businesses in our city and we won’t have to support the poverty programs that they now all live on.”