Helping the Poor Is the Right Thing to Do, But Maybe Not Much of a Political Winner

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I don’t want to make too big a deal out of one comment from one guy, but here’s the response of a minimum-wage worker who got a big increase when Emeryville raised its minimum wage to $14 per hour:

Security guard Kenneth Lofton was among the workers who benefited last year when this East Bay city hiked its hourly minimum wage to nearly $15 for employees at large companies. The jump was almost 70% more than what he used to make in nearby Oakland when he was paid $10 an hour.

….”It’s somewhat better, but not much,” Lofton said Tuesday morning while eating breakfast and manning the security gate at an Emeryville parking lot. “The high cost of living here takes a big bite out of whatever monetary increase you get, so it’s like not getting an increase at all.”

But, he said, “at least they’re trying.”

This is crazy. If Lofton works full time, he’s seeing an increase of $160 per week. Call it $130 or so after taxes. That’s real money. But “it’s like not getting an increase at all.”

Raising the minimum wage—whether to $12, $14, or $15—is the right thing to do. But as a purely political matter, comments like Lofton’s make you wonder if this kind of thing provides any benefits for Democrats. It earns them plenty of annoyance from employers, along with at least some annoyance from consumers who have to pay higher prices, but it’s not clear if this is offset much by increased loyalty from the folks who are helped. Is Lofton more likely to show up at the polls in November because he got a raise? Hard to say.


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