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Abolish The Minimum Wage

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  • Would More People Be Working without Minimum Wage?

    Clip: Debaters argue the motion "Abolish the Minimum Wage."

  • Is Minimum Wage Causing Problems?

    Clip: Debaters argue the motion "Abolish the Minimum Wage."

Debate Details

The first attempt at establishing a national minimum wage, a part of 1933’s sweeping National Industrial Recovery Act, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1935. But in 1938, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a minimum hourly wage of 25 cents—$4.07 in today’s dollars. Three-quarters of a century later, we are still debating the merits of this cornerstone of the New Deal. Do we need government to ensure a decent paycheck, or would low-wage workers and the economy be better off without its intervention?

The Debaters

For the motion

James A. Dorn

Cato Institute Vice President for Academic Affairs and Editor of the Cato Journal

James A. Dorn is Vice President for Academic Affairs, Editor of the Cato Journal, and Director of Cato’s annual monetary conference. His research... Read More

Russell Roberts

Research Fellow, Hoover Institution

Russ Roberts is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is the host of EconTalk, a weekly hour-long award-winning podcast... Read More

Against the motion

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein

Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities & Former Chief Economist to Vice President Joe Biden

Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. During the Obama administration, he served as Vice President Joe... Read More

Karen Kornbluh

Former US Ambassador, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Karen Kornbluh recently stepped down as US Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development where she negotiated international... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • The law of demand determines that as the price of labor increases, the demand for it will decrease, hurting the lowest paid workers that the minimum wage is protecting.
  • The minimum wage adversely affects low-skilled and unskilled workers by preventing them from taking jobs that, while low-paying, would give them the experience needed to get better jobs in the future.
  • The minimum wage is bad for employers, especially small businesses. It means raising the cost of labor, cutting back on worker hours, cutting jobs, passing on higher costs to customers, and lowering profits.
  • There is no evidence that increases in the minimum wage have reduced poverty. In fact, the benefits of the minimum wage are often felt by those who are second or third earners in households above the poverty line.
Against The Motion
  • A worker earning $7.25 an hour, the current federal minimum wage, working 40 hours per week, will still end up below the federal poverty threshold.
  • Increasing low-income workers' pay will act as an economic stimulus. When they earn more they will spend more—putting more money back into the economy. Increasing the minimum wage does not decrease employment.
  • The minimum wage actually makes low-paying jobs more appealing, reducing turnover and vacancies. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 84.1% of low-wage earners are over 20 years old and nearly half of them would benefit from an increase in the federal minimum wage.

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The Research

The Research

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage

Jonathan Grossman
December 31, 1969

A history of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Why We Need to Raise the Minimum Wage

Andy Stern and Carl Camden
March 10, 2013

A higher wage will lift hardworking Americans out of poverty and break their link with government assistance.

Why We Shouldn't Raise the Minimum Wage

Kevin Hassett and Michael Strain
March 10, 2013

Raising the wage will make it more expensive to hire younger and low-skill workers. There are better ways to help the poor.

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