A Silicon Valley multimillionaire and conservative pundit wants to give his state’s poorest workers a raise. Huh?
Entrepreneur Ron Unz, known for his reactionary views on immigration (along with controversial commentary on race, crime, IQ and social policy), is campaigning for a state ballot measure to lift California’s minimum wage to $12—well above the $10 minimum currently set to take effect in 2016 (and a giant step above the federal wage floor of $7.25).
Some progressives might be puzzled that Unz, who in the late 1990s famously pushed a ballot measure to scrap bilingual education programs in California, has taken on this populist fight, albeit with an odd neo-Fordist air.
Of course, the Right’s resistance to this has never been realistic; empirical research shows that lifting the federal minimum wage could boost earnings for a third of the country’s workforce and drive broad economic growth. The opposition is mostly ideological, based on overblown charges that high labor costs will harm employers, along with the business community’s general antipathy toward state regulation of wages.
But some conservatives, including Unz and pundits Phyllis Schlafly and Bill O’Reilly, have come around to seeing a minimum-wage hike as an anti-poverty measure that’s good for capitalism—and perhaps more importantly, a market-based alternative to government welfare. Unz’s initiative still contains kernels of his anti-immigration leanings, though not as explicitly as his earlier ballot initiative. He believes that increased wages for American workers would help those who are legally authorized to work while, over time, squeezing out workers who are not. Read the rest of this entry →