Writes Greg Morin in today’s Mises Daily:
So, we know that a sizable number of minimum-wage earners are not in need of a wage that can support a household. But what of the minimum-wage earners who are? We are told repeatedly that minimum wage is not a living wage, so why are not more minimum wage earners simply starving to death? In reality workers earn two wages: one from their employer and one from the state. For example, someone making the current full-time minimum wage earns $15,000 per year, but they are also eligible for additional government benefits that bring their total remuneration to approximately $35,000 per year if they are childless, or up to $52,000 year if they have children. In fact, earning more does not necessarily help one wean himself off this state sponsored support.
As wages rise assistance can often decline so precipitously that even earning $1 more can mean a loss of thousands of dollars in aid. This creates a disincentive for the worker to improve and earn more; the perverse incentive here is that we are rewarding the very thing we are trying to eliminate (low wages). These wage subsidies serve only to pervert the normal incentives present in an exchange between employer and employee. Both the employer and the employee are aware of the subsidies, so each is willing to offer less and accept less rather than demand more and offer more.