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The slew of positive effects the Congressional Budget Office reported Tuesday that we can expect from raising the minimum wage shouldn't be ignored. We're talking about giving 16.5 million people a raise and lifting 900,000 people out of poverty. But of course it's the CBO's estimate that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would cost around 500,000 jobs that's grabbing the most attention, even though it goes against economic consensus. Mike Konczal goes into detail on how the CBO put "a thumb on the scale towards an estimate of job losses that is, as Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz told me, 'higher than the consensus.'"

It's important to understand that this report is the CBO's review of the existing economic studies, not any new research. And what they accepted, rejected, or emphasized from the existing literature:

... involved a lot of adjustments in the direction for a higher impact. In the report, the authors themselves clarify that they are taking a more conservative line. All predictions, of course, amount to speculation of things that could happen in the economy, but in this one the speculating goes in a direction that is, to a surprising extent, in tune with Republican ideology.

The report speculates that a minimum wage indexed to inflation would reduce jobs. It speculates that the speed of the minimum wage increase, or its level using various inflation measures, would reduce jobs. It argues job losses will be higher because of very new research centered on growth levels, even though that research is highly controversial. It speculates that technological change is coming faster than expected, and this will have an impact. And it also, crucially, speculates that these would bite much harder at $10 minimum wage instead of a $9 one.

This is not, in other words, the CBO doing original research on federal budget, about which it is especially informed and knowledgeable. This is the the CBO looking at work other people have produced and coming to conclusions that go against the bulk of the most respected work on the subject. That prediction from the report should not be dominating the discussion over all of the good raising the minimum wage would do—good that isn't in even this amount of dispute.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 09:16 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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