During a press event with journalists on Tuesday, radio host and gubernatorial recall candidate Larry Elder decried California’s $14 minimum wage, arguing that the ideal minimum wage in the state was $0.
Elder reiterated his stance that businesses and workers should decide what the pay should be and that, among other reasons, a minimum wage cuts back workers powers and that prices go up to compensate for the new labor costs. Overall, his minimum wage message directly tied in to his messages of California’s businesses being harmed under Governor Gavin Newsom and the overall decline of California which have been part of his campaign since he announced his candidacy last month.
“The ideal minimum wage is $0.00. For somebody who’s never run a business to tell business people ‘I’m going to jack up your price of labor, and you’re going to deal with it,’ to me, it’s offensive,” said Elder on Tuesday.
When asked how Californians would react to a $0 minimum wage, Elder answered that it would not be received well, but also gave his reasons for the $0 minimum wage.
“Given the indoctrination that people have to the minimum wage, people wouldn’t adapt to it well,” added Elder. The radio host also brought up a 1987 New York Times article that also touted a $0 minimum wage, adding that the same arguments it made can be made today, specifically noting that “people’s powers are cut back, hiring decisions are deferred, and prices go up to compensate for the forced increase in labor costs.”
“I never have quite understood why a third party like the government fells like its anybody’s business what my relationship with an individual who willingly sold their labor and my relationship with that person when I willingly bought that labor. Why two people who are adults can’t determine what the price of labor ought to be, is beyond me, and why a third party feels it is his or her business to interfere with that is also beyond me.”
Labor experts say minimum, living wage is needed
Labor experts slammed Elder’s statement on Wednesday, pointing out that the minimum wage is there to protect workers from low pay and that it gives protection to help ensure a basic living wage amount.
“If anything it should be higher in California,” said Joseph Symington, a British economist who specifically looks after labor and wages on the West Coast of the United States, to the Globe on Wednesday. “Right now the living wage, for a single person in California, is at $19 in US currency. The minimum wage is due to go up to $15 by 2023 there, which is a good start, but right now it isn’t meeting many people’s needs in the state.
“For employers, automation is helping reduce wages of work staff. California is usually the first state to really popularize things such as touch screen menus at fast food restaurants and self check-out lines at grocery stores, and we are seeing more and more of this partially to counter growing wages.
“It’s a terrible idea to make the minimum wage zero. There’s always going to be someone willing to work for less, especially during desperate times, and that’s something that Elder has not taken into account. Slate wrote a good article on what would happen if there was a $0 minimum wage, and not only would it lead to a worse quality of life for most workers, but it would also lead to fewer jobs in total.
“It would not be good to say the least.”
Nobel Prize winning Economist Milton Friedman would agree with Elder. “The minimum wage destroys the best kind of training programs we’ve ever had: on-the-job training,” Friedman said back in the 1960’s. “The main way people have risen in the labor force is by getting unskilled jobs and learning things.” He said we get more unemployment when politicians boost the minimum wage because employers have to let some workers go to be able to pay the artificial minimum wage increases.
The other aspect of the minimum wage according to Friedman is that people buy less of something when it becomes more expensive, as products and services are with minimum wage increases.
However, despite his more conservative and libertarian stances clashing against more liberal political stances in California, Elder has been rising rapidly in the recall polls. While Governor Newsom is essentially at even support between staying in office and being recalled, Elder has shot up by 7 points in only a few weeks. Currently sitting at 23% support among recall candidates, he now has as much support as the next 4 candidates combined. And, despite some backlash over the minimum wage remarks, Elder has shown no signs of slowing down just yet.
“The more I got into this, the more I became optimistic that maybe, just maybe, somebody named Larry Elder can do a little something about some of the problems plaguing California,” added Elder on Tuesday.