The Progressive Caucus’ push for a $15 Minimum Wage using Lies and Half Truths

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (which includes the four members of The Squad) sent out an email titled “JUST IN: Florida Minimum Wage update →.” The email targets U.S. Senators demanding that they bring up the Raise the Wage Act for a vote. The Raise the Wage Act has already passed by the House of Representatives.

There appear to be some white lies and half truths in the Progressive Caucus email. The email quotes a Common Dreams article stating:

A $15 minimum wage would reduce household and child poverty while increasing worker productivity and retention rates.

Sounds good until you look at the Congressional Budget Office report “The Effects on Employment and Family Income of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage.” The CBO report states:

Effects of the $15 Option on Employment and Income. According to CBO’s median estimate, under the $15 option, 1.3 million workers who would otherwise be employed would be jobless in an average week in 2025. (That would equal a 0.8 percent reduction in the number of employed workers.) CBO estimates that there is about a two-thirds chance that the change in employment would lie between about zero and a reduction of 3.7 million workers. [Emphasis added]

The Bernie Sanders Effect

Senator Bernie Sanders, a member of the Progressive Caucus, has been pushing Senator McConnell to bring the Raise the Wage Act to the Senate floor for a vote. At the same time we have learned that Senator Sanders doesn’t pay his campaign staff a $15 minimum wage. According to their contract with the Sander’s campaign his field workers get an annual salary of $36,000, which is $15 an hour for a normal work week. But Sander’s staff complained that they are putting in 60 hour work weeks, which means they are making $13 an hour.

According to Vox Sanders got away with this bate and switch by making his field staff salaried and therefore not eligible for overtime pay. In a Vox column titled “The controversy over Bernie Sanders’s low-paid field staffers, explained. A moralist gets a taste of his own medicine” Matthew Yglesias notes:

But capitalism abhors a vacuum, so over time, more and more low-paid workers found themselves in the category of being salaried and ineligible for overtime. The Obama administration tried to tackle this with a Labor Department regulation mandating overtime for anyone earning less than $47,000, but it was challenged in court and the Trump administration elected not to defend the rule, instead writing a new rule that set the threshold at $35,000. At an annual salary just below that threshold, Sanders’s field staff would be collecting lots of overtime and thus earning more than $36,000, but instead, their salary was pegged (perhaps not coincidentally) to be just above the exempt threshold.

This is what I call the Bernie Sander effect – do as I say, not as I do.

Conclusion

Senator Bernie Sanders has proved what economists have been saying and now even Vox confirms,

“Beyond the question of campaign optics, however, this is exactly the point that opponents of minimum wage increases are always making — if you force employers to pay more, they’re going to respond by cutting back elsewhere.”

Bernie cut his own campaign staff’s hours understanding that a guaranteed minimum wage, while raising income for some, will cause others to lose income and their jobs. Senator Sanders is playing both sides against the middle. In this case passage of the Raise the Wage Act can, according to the CBO, cause as as many as 3.7 million workers to lose their jobs.

Are you feeling the Bern?

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