To the editor: The Chicken Little angst emanating from several quarters regarding the state’s adoption of an increased minimum hourly wage is overblown malarkey. Here’s why.
First, the increase is spread over five years and will not reach $15 an hour until 2025, providing plenty of time for affected employers to adjust to increased wage scales. More significantly, the median hourly wage in Maryland is already $20.68, substantiating the fact that most hourly worker employers have already adjusted their pay scales in recognition of the economic realities of Maryland’s relatively high cost of living.
The fact is that the current $10.10 minimum hourly wage is principally paid to retailing part-timers and certain low-skilled laborers whose choice of employment is severely restricted. Shame on those who advocate denial of a reasonable living wage for these Maryland residents — a circumstance that subjects many of them and their families to a life of poverty and necessary reliance on expensive public assistance.
Second, the irrefutable results of minimum wage increases are that they have no discernible impact on employment, stimulate consumer spending, help businesses bottom lines and grow the economy. Minimum wage increases are also proven to reduce employee turnover and improve worker productivity. A 2019 survey conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 80% of business executives and 60% of small business owners support increasing the minimum wage. Further, across party lines, 75% of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $12.50 by next year.
The question of Maryland’s competitiveness in the U.S. economy isn’t a matter of its minimum hourly wage. Per the Beacon Hill Institute, a nonprofit, non-partisan economic research group that has compiled a respected annual ranking of state competitiveness since 2005, many factors go into determining a state’s relative competitiveness — including its government and fiscal policy (i.e.: state and local taxes, bond rating, etc.), availability of skilled workers, crime rate, infrastructure quality, technology investment, business incubation capability and environmental policy. Beacon Hill’s 2018 report ranked Maryland 36th of all states in terms of relative competitiveness — well behind most states in the nation and including eight states with higher minimum wages.
If our local and state politicians and other concerned citizens are truly invested in improving Maryland’s competitiveness, I suggest that they focus their legislative and public policy initiatives and advocacy in areas that will actually make a positive difference rather than railing against a minimum wage increase that will, undoubtedly, serve to act as a tide that raises all boats.