Senator Bernie Sanders wants the federal government to provide a $15-per-hour job to every American who wants one. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker — both likely 2020 Democratic presidential aspirants — have expressed support for the idea as well.
It’s hard to overstate the silliness of this proposal, as many pointed out last week.
In 49 states, the bottom 25 percent of wage earners are paid less than $15 per hour. There are two states, Arkansas and Mississippi, where half of all workers earn hourly wages less than $15. Throw in benefits, and my back-of-the-envelope calculation finds over 80 million workers who earn less per year than the government would be obligated to pay them under this proposal. And in addition to workers, more than 100 million non-working Americans would be free to avail themselves of this guaranteed job, as well.
Taxes could never be raised and existing programs could never be cut enough to finance this policy at the level required. The government could not possibly come up with enough jobs to satisfy its obligations under this plan, and it would wreak havoc on the private economy.
Case closed? On Senator Sanders’s idea, yes. But there are two larger issues here worth discussing.