The Spectacle Blog

Seattle’s $15 an Hour: This is Not Bleeping Awesome

By on 6.3.14 | 2:02PM

Thrift shops have always been cool in the Pacific Northwest, but with the Seattle city council’s resolution to hike the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and tie the wage’s growth to inflation, popping tags à la Macklemore will soon be the only affordable shopping experience for young people.

The oh-so-pretty in pink socialists of the city council—seriously, one of them was elected on a socialist platform—appear to have succeeded in raising what was already the highest state minimum wage of $9.32 by 62 percent in Seattle. The plan will be implemented in phases, with at least a dollar hike to wages required beginning next April.

San Francisco currently has the highest city minimum wage at $10.74. Seattle looked at a Berkeley study of the San Francisco experiment that concluded there were nearly no negative economic consequences of the Golden Gate city hiking its wage.

Economists who participated in the study, however, have indicated that its data is only relevant to a potential increase of the minimum wage to $13, and cannot speak directly to the effects of a $15 pay floor.

Even the progressive economists at Slate are concerned about the possible results of such a dramatic wage hike. Seattle is straying into uncharted economic territory and it’s difficult not to wonder if here there be dragons.

As a Washington native, I find it well nigh impossible to see this in a positive light. If the resolution is implemented next year unchallenged and unchanged—a franchise owner representation group says it plans to sue the city in an attempt to stop the measure—then young people will bear the brunt of the economic burden in the form of increased unemployment.

Minimum wage jobs are entry-level jobs, training jobs, and economists across the political spectrum agree that it is generally young people and second or third household wage earners who work them, not impoverished breadwinners. That means, for all the socialist enthusiasm for wealth redistribution and shrinking the income gap, this increase, regardless of macroeconomic impact, is not the beginning of a workers' utopia.

King County may think that it can weather the wage increase because its unemployment rate is the lowest in the state, but those numbers are built on tech and manufacturing industries like Microsoft and Boeing, and are not indicative of how entry-level jobs and service industries will be able to handle the strain of growing labor costs.

Seattle’s youth may soon be setting out into the world not with basic job experience and ironic second-hand clothing, but unemployed and only $20 in their pocket. Seattle socialists, this isn’t “f—ing awesome.” 

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