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Greenberg on the Minimum Wage

September 22, 1988

Among Greenberg's "better ways to help the working poor" than a higher minimum wage are two with implications that I doubt he really would want.

First, the earned-income tax credit. While it is a good supplementary strategy, as a substitute for a direct wage one can live on it amounts to choosing dependence on a government program over providing an opportunity to earn every dollar in private employment.

Second, an unemployment rate of 2%, which exists in some areas today. Personally, I would be delighted to see a national rate of 2%, but I think economists, liberal and conservative, are agreed that such a rate would produce worse inflation than we saw in 1979-80--far worse inflation, certainly, than the minimal amount that the proposed higher minimum wage would produce.

Furthermore, Greenberg's piece bothers me ethically, as do all discussions that assume economic criteria to be the only ones that count. Even if a higher minimum wage would marginally decrease employment (and it is very doubtful that it constitutes a major factor in determining the overall rate), that may be morally less important than seeing to it that those who work hard are able to hold up their heads as self-supporters through a living wage.

MICHAEL D. REAGAN

Riverside

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