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Listening to Republican politicians, you would think that the Right is unanimously opposed to raising the "job killing" minimum wage. However, there has been a good deal of serious argument by conservatives in favor of raising it—in some cases, up to $12 or even $15. I'm no conservative apologist, but I think it's worth noting some of their points.

I rely mostly for this on the writings of Ron Unz, the publisher of The American Conservative. Just Google "Unz minimum wage" and you'll find them, starting with his piece "Raising American Wages…by Raising American Wages".

On to the substance of the matter…

In no particular order, here are some of the points raised by conservatives:

•  Many of the jobs the economy will add in the coming years are service jobs (so they can't be outsourced), and do not require a college degree. Since these jobs currently pay very poorly, young people who might not otherwise go to college attend anyway, in the hope that a degree will enhance their earning potential. If we raised the minimum wage so that these jobs earned a decent income, fewer young people would feel compelled to spend years of their lives and lots of their money going to college. By thus lowering the total demand for higher education, this might have the additional effect of driving college prices down for those who do choose to attend.

•  A big driver of illegal immigration is the availability of menial jobs that no one else wants. If all jobs paid a decent wage, these jobs would cease to exist, and unemployment among legal workers would decline, along with the incentive for workers to enter the country illegally.

•  A higher minimum wage would damp the social unrest that could eventually destabilize the country (even some conservatives realize that extreme inequality is bad for everybody).

•  Putting more money in the pockets of workers would boost the economy, giving the money to the people most likely to spend it (as opposed to giving more tax cuts to the rich). Effectively, a higher minimum wage is a "stimulus" program paid for by private industry (thus keeping the dreaded government involvement to a minimum, and not running up the dreaded national debt).

•  Today's poorly-paid employees are forced to rely on government aid for things like health care and housing. This amounts to a huge taxpayer subsidy to low-wage employers like Wal-Mart. Again, a higher minimum wage would reduce the need for government programs. (As Unz wryly notes: "The obvious endpoint of [the current] approach would be for businesses to pay their workers nothing, and have all salaries and social benefits covered by the government as an “anti-poverty measure,” a proposal which would surely seem very attractive to employers and their influential lobbyists.")

•  The argument for a larger increase than the proposed $9 rests in part on pure politics: going from $7.25 to $9 would benefit relatively few people, almost all of them likely Democratic voters. Going to $12 (or more) would benefit lots more people, including many Southern Republican social conservatives.

•  Yes, raising the minimum wage would cause a one-time small increase in the cost of living. But lower-income workers would have a lot more income to deal with the increase, and better-off people would barely notice it.

So how about it? Let's all join hands, sing a chorus of Kumbaya, and get to raising those wages.

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