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

How to Kill the Minimum Wage Movement

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On a visit to the capital a few weeks ago, I was struck by how politically inert the place was. Not just empty, lifeless, devoid of activity in the chambers where great politicians once roamed. Not just a do-nothing Congress living up to its pledge to do even less this year than last. Not just the usual government-by-corporate lobbyists. At the moment, Washington is a dead town.

Not true of the other Washington, across the country. Seattle officials are trying to decide whether an entire city can raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour without killing a robust economy, the social service agencies, and the numerous immigrant and family businesses that pump new blood into old places.

All the evidence shows that, yes, they can — but only if they do it right, and do it gradually over many years. If they rush into it, as the zealots favor, they could hurt the burgeoning raise-the-minimum-wage movement around the country and deprive Democrats of a great voter stimulant for the midterm elections.

Government by sloganeering rarely works. Think: No New Taxes. Every elected Republican would sooner push Grandma over a cliff than break that vow. Yet, a minor tax increase on the rich last year is one big reason the federal budget gap now is far lower than the experts predicted. The deficit for March was the lowest since 2000.

Now think: 15 Now. That’s the slogan of a group of far-left activists who are pushing Seattle to force a 61 percent wage increase — yes, that’s the kind of shock to the system it would be — on everyone next year but a select group of small businesses and nonprofits.

• Category: National, Notable