90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
A Conservative Case For A Higher Minimum Wage

Our Jan. 28 hour on economic mobility and the current state of ‘The American Dream’ featured a fascinating closing segment on an unusual campaign for a higher minimum wage in California.

Ron Unz (AP)

Ron Unz (AP)

The advocate? Conservative millionaire Ron Unz, chairman of the Higher Wages Alliance and part of a growing number of figures on the right side of the political spectrum asking for a higher minimum wage. Unz is advocating for a state wage as high as $12 an hour in the Golden State. He was joined on our air by Mercatus Center economist Tyler Cowen, who thinks a higher minimum wage is a step in the wrong direction.

TOM ASHBROOK: President Obama will announce tonight that he is ordering the minimum wage for federal contracting to be raised from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. There’s a push on in Congress to raise the minimum wage for all Americans to $10.10 an hour. A millioniare conservative in California, Ron Unz, is pushing a state ballot measure for a $12 minimum wage in California. Unz says it’s time to stop allowing big companies to pay so little that the government has to step in with services to support the working poor. What do you think? Does a conservative argument for a higher minimum wage make sense to you?

Ron Unz joins me now from Stanford, California. He’s chairman of the Higher Wages Alliance. Ron Unz, welcome to On Point. Thanks very much for being here.

RON UNZ: Great to be here.

TA: We’ve heard you make the case, but make it for us right now: why a $12 minimum wage for California?

RU: Well The situation right now is that so many tens of millions of low-wage workers in the United States can’t get by on their own paychecks. Therefore, they receive vast numbers of dollars form the taxpayers andthe government. The total around the country is $250 billion a year in social welfare spending going to the working poor. If the working poor were paid a reasonable wage by their employer, they would no longer be eligible for many of those programs, and the taxpayers would save tens of billions of dollars a year. What we have right now is a system where many of these businesses have privatized the benefits of their workers, they get the work, and socialized the cost and shifted the expense to the rest of society and to the taxpayers, and I don’t think that makes sense.

TA: How are your fellow conservatives responding to your idea of a $12 minimum wage in California?

RU: Surprisingly open to the idea. I mean the minimum wage is an issue that really dropped off the American radar screen 10, 20, 30 years ago. It hasn’t been one of these hot-button ideological issues. The main concerns conservatives have is whether a higher minimum wage would cause massive job less. The evidence is that it wouldn’t, very few workers would lose their jobs, their in the non-tradeable service sectors. All that would happen would be that the extra costs would be passed along to the consumer. And the price rises would be very small. Wal-Mart could cover a $12 minimum wage by raising their prices one percent, one time.

TA: Onepercent, one time, at Wal-Mart and just keep it there, on out, and that would cover all this? If you had a 12 minimum wage in California what would that mean if you had a two income family — where would it put their annual earnings?

RU: It would be a life changing difference. A single worker, at $12 a hour minimum wage, would make $25,000 a year. A couple would make $50,000 a year. $50,000 a year doesn’t make you affluent, it doesn’t make you rich, but you can generally get by on something like that. And the tax-payers would save tens of billions of dollars each year nationwide if something like that were generally adopted.

TA: There’s the argument from millionaire Ron Unz. He’s former publisher for the American Conservative, he’s saying higher minimum wage for California, $12 an hour.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • geraldfnord

    I like seeing rich, powerful, men acting smart. I think we’ve got somewhere here who realises that respect for his property rights were intimately tied-in with the extent to which respect for those rights were seen as part and parcel of respect for their own property rights…which can only seem important to the great mass of men and women if they have enough property to protect.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Jul 24, 2014
Youths seen playing basketball through bars on a window at the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Ethan Allen School in Wales, Wis. (AP file)

The cold hard facts about juvenile prisons. And the case for shutting them all down.

Jul 24, 2014
Nickel Creek

After a 7-year hiatus, progressive folk trio Nickel Creek is back together. We’ll hear from them and their latest album, “A Dotted Line.”

RECENT
SHOWS
Jul 23, 2014
Actor Wallace Shawn attends special screening of "Turks and Caicos" hosted by Vogue and The Cinema Society at the Crosby Street Hotel on Monday, April 7, 2014 in New York.  (AP)

From “The Princess Bride” to “My Dinner with Andre “and “A Master Builder,” actor and writer Wallace Shawn joins us.

 
Jul 23, 2014
In this Saturday, July 12, 2014, photo, migrants walk along train tracks and boxcars after getting off a train during their journey toward the US-Mexico border, in Ixtepec, southern Mexico. (AP)

Crisis at the US border. What do Latinos on this side of the border have to say? We’ll ask our special roundtable.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: July 11, 2014
Friday, Jul 11, 2014

As we prepare for a week of rebroadcasts, we reflect on Facebook posts, misplaced comments and the magic of @ mentions. Internet, ASSEMBLE!

More »
Comment
 
Two Former Senators, One Fix For US Democracy?
Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

Former US Senators Tom Daschle and Olympia Snowe joined us today with a few fixes for American political inaction.

More »
Comment
 
Future Radio Interns Of America: On Point Wants YOU!
Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

On Point needs interns for the fall. Could YOU be one of them?

More »
2 Comments