Senator Pushes Minimum Wage Myths To Justify His Opposition To An Increase


On Sunday’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) incorrectly asserted that raising the minimum wage would most adversely affect young people between the ages of 16 and 24. He also claimed that companies would replace young workers with machines, a move he said that he’s already witnessed at a burger place that he was at this past week.

During a televised conversation, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) argued that people earning the minimum wage are unable to support their families. But Portman pushed back, emphasizing that the minimum wage is mostly earned by young people, and that raising it would cause job loss:

If you want to deal with income inequality, the number one way is to get people to work. About two percent of Americans get paid the minimum wage of that group — it’s a lot of young people. About 50 percent of them are between 16 and 24 years old. For a lot of them, it’s a part-time job. You don’t want to raise the minimum wage to the point that you’re losing jobs.

I went to a burger place this past week. There was a digital display to buy a hamburger. There was nobody behind the counter except the cashier. You go into the fast food places, there’s a drink dispenser. You have one fewer person. If you raise the minimum wage too high, you’ll have not more jobs but fewer jobs and fewer opportunities for the young people. About half the people who get the minimum wage are between 16 and 24. I think the Republicans want to look at this through the context of how do you get the economy moving?

Portman’s argument closely aligns with the false Republican narrative that associates minimum wage jobs with entry-level positions or a supposed “launching pad” job.


But in actuality, the age group with the largest share of fast-food workers who earn minimum wage or near-minimum wage jobs is 25 to 54 year-olds, who make up 36 percent of such low-wage workers, according to a Center for Economic and Policy Research study conducted this summer. This is also the population most likely to be primary caretakers of children and families. And while not all workers earn exactly minimum wage, a wage hike would increase overall wages, positively affecting those hovering just above minimum wage at between $7.26 and $10.09 an hour.

Meanwhile, other studies have shown that raising the minimum wage simply has no effect on job loss, even when the unemployment rate is high. What’s more, “taxpayers are better off because they have to bear fewer of the negative externalities from low-road employers — such as the costs of food stamps and Medicaid.”

If the minimum wage had been indexed to inflation during its peak in the 1960s, it would now be over $10 an hour. President Obama and Congressional Democrats have proposed increasing the minimum wage, but Republicans remain staunchly opposed.