Of course Dr. Ben Carson was wrong when he claimed in the fourth Republican presidential debate that “Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”
The Pulitzer Prize–winning analysts at PolitiFact rated that statement “false”—with no qualifiers or wiggle words like “mostly.”
Minimum-wage hikes are not always associated with immediate spikes in employment; especially in recessionary moments. But PolitiFact notes that “[of the] five minimum wage hikes that occurred when a recovery was under way, joblessness declined four of those times.”
The PolitiFact rebuke was even more stark than the response from Egypt’s antiquities minister to Carson’s claim that the pyramids were built as grain silos—“Does he even deserve a response? He doesn’t.”
So Carson got the economics of minimum-wage increases wrong, as did the other Republican contenders who said “no” to living-wage proposals during Tuesday’s debate. Billionaire Donald Trump was really wrong when he suggested that the problem facing America is “high wages,” and Florida Senator Marco Rubio was really, really wrong when he argued for permanent wage stagnation as a check against job losses to automation.
But if all the Republican front-runners are wrong, it does not necessarily follow that all Democrats are right. There are plenty of cautious Democrats who favor far smaller increases than those proposed by advocates for a living wage.
Doubling the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, as activists demand, and as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley propose, may seem like an audacious move to those who are unaware of the history of wage hikes.
But it would not be unprecedented.
History tells us that doubling the minimum wage would not pose the threat to employment imagined by Carson and his partisan compatriots.