Pres. Barack Obama
Dear Mr. Obama:
In last-night’s State of the Union address  you said “And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”
The premise of your plea is mistaken: raises aren’t given by votes, by you, or by Congress: they’re given only by employers. And employers must fund these higher payments out of the revenues they earn by competing successfully in markets. Employers, therefore, can afford to raise their workers’ pay only if their workers become more productive – an outcome that is not achieved by a legislature waving its wand over workers’ paychecks.
You are, however, correct in one sense. Because the policy you propose would price many workers out of jobs, that policy would indeed change these workers’ incomes: it would drop them to $0. So I say this: If you truly believe you could be unemployed full-time and support a family on $0 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America opportunities to work that they are now denied. Abolish the minimum wage.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030