THE purpose of last week's union-driven protests at fast-food restaurants was to generate support for a dramatic increase to the minimum wage.
The protesters, largely organized by the Service Employees International Union, are calling for an hourly wage of $15. "We can't survive on $7.25!" was the chant.
Of course, the minimum wage was never designed to be a "living wage," whatever that means. It's entry-level compensation for inexperienced workers, usually a starting place until the worker acquires the skills to make more money.
Unfortunately for the union organizers, what the protests actually achieved was a nationwide discussion of economics, which do not support the argument for a higher minimum wage.
President Obama has frequently joined the push for higher pay for entry-level workers, arguing that "there's no solid evidence that a higher minimum wage costs jobs." That statement earned the president two Pinocchios by the Washington Post Fact Checker.
The Post reports that researchers David Neumark and William Wascher have surveyed more than 100 studies on the subject and found that "raising the minimum wage leads
to economic distortions and often has unintended adverse consequences for the employment opportunities of low-skilled workers."
A higher minimum wage means more unemployment for the people who currently are most likely to fill those positions. At $15 an hour, entry level jobs are more likely to be filled by higher-skilled workers, making the job market even tougher for people with low skills.
The protesters are right that you can't raise a family on $7.25 an hour, but most are not trying to.