Raising the Minimum Wage for Working Men and Women in California and the Rest of America

California Millionaire Pushes Minimum Wage as a Conservative Cause

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Ron Unz is a maverick millionaire on a minimum-wage mission.

The conservative Silicone Valley entrepreneur aims to push California’s mimimum wage up to $12 an hour, and like any good Californian he plans to use the state’s ballot initiative process to do it.

Unz, a one-time gubernatorial candidate, expects to start collecting signatures in the next few weeks to get his proposal on the November ballot. It’s a prospect many of his conservative allies do not relish, partly because Democrats have already signaled that raising the minimum wage will be a key issue in their 2014 election push.

Unz thinks his argument is one economic conservatives should embrace. As things stand, he argues, artificially low wages are heavily subsidized by taxpayers, with the working poor receiving $250 billion annually in social welfare payments. The $12 wage Unz advocates, if enacted nationally, would boost low-income wages by roughly $150 billion, he says. Estimates of savings to taxpayers vary, he says, but his guess is that between $40 and $50 billion would be saved in social welfare payments.

Unz argues that very low wages benefit fast-food consumers and employers at the expense of taxpayers. Taxpayers subsidize their cheap hamburgers with their own payroll deductions, hiding from the truth that they are paying for it anyway.

And by allowing government to take the credit for subsidizing low wages, conservatives play into Democrats’ hands, Unz argues. Make businesses carry the true cost of their own operations, and you will weaken the link between social welfare and the ballot box, he says.

• Category: Campaign, National, Notable • Tags: Eric Schulzke