Dear Ms. Murray,

Your article in the Baltimore Sun (“A $15 minimum wage benefits Baltimore business”) almost completely ignores the most important economic argument against minimum wage laws: that they cause unemployment. Young people from awful schools in awful neighborhoods with skills worth only $8 an hour will not be hired at $9 an hour. Hiring them would cost their employers $40 a week, $2080 a year. It won’t happen. Minimum wage laws cause unemployment for low-skilled people.

Most of your arguments ignore this.

For example, you write that “[i]t’s worth noting that the bill does not apply to young workers under the age of 21. I don’t like this exemption as all workers deserve a fair wage.” But only some workers would receive “a fair wage” if the legal minimum is raised; you ignore that others would be laid off or never hired at all, and therefore receive no wage at all. That is not fair.

You write that “[t]he proposed law would raise the wages of tens of thousands of workers in Baltimore City. That means more people will be able to reduce their reliance on public assistance programs.” No, it does not mean that. While higher minimum wages do “raise the wages” of some, you ignore that they eliminate the wages of others laid off or never hired. Those lost wages might mean more reliance on public assistance overall, not less.

You write that “[c]ity residents will use the extra salary in their pockets to purchase goods and services at the local level, right here in Baltimore, bringing more business to stores like mine.” Are you sure there will be “extra salary”? You ignore that those laid off or never hired would have no salary at all, let alone extra. Those losses might mean less business on net for stores like yours.

You write that “wages for many Baltimore residents remain painfully low even though the economy has recovered to some extent since 2008.” Agreed. And it’s a shame. But you imply that a government decree raising wages paid would raise wages in general. It wouldn’t. You ignore that such a decree would lower to zero the wages of those laid off or never hired.

You write, “Finally, raising wages is simply the right thing to do.” I’m not sure. Is it always the right thing to do? For everyone? No matter how high wages are? Where does it end? On what grounds would we say that wages are high enough? But let’s leave aside those questions and stipulate that raising wages is “right,” as you say. If so, then you advocate a wrong, because increasing the legal minimum wage as you advocate would not raise, but lower to zero, the wages received by those laid off or never hired.

You do touch on the unemployment problem when you write that “[s]ome opponents claim a higher minimum wage will increase unemployment, but rigorous studies of actual minimum wage increases show no such impact.” That is true. It is also true that other, more numerous rigorous studies do show such an impact. But leave the studies aside and ask yourself, if you are forced to pay $15 an hour to an employee who brings in only $10 an hour worth of benefit to your store, will be able to keep him working for you? And will it be good for him when you must lay him off?