California Dives Into the Unknown With $15 Minimum Wage

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San Francisco and Los Angeles have already passed laws raising their minimum wages to $15 per hour. Now, in a victory for labor activists who were getting ready to put a $15 minimum wage on the ballot, the state is getting ready to  follow suit:

According to a document obtained by The Times, the negotiated deal would boost California’s statewide minimum wage from $10 an hour to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2017, with a 50-cent increase in 2018 and then $1-per-year increases through 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply, delaying their workers receiving a $15 hourly wage until 2023.

Future statewide minimum wage increases would be linked to inflation, but a governor would have the power to temporarily block some of the initial increases in the event of an economic downturn.

This would genuinely be terra incognita. The chart on the right shows the California minimum wage over the past 40 years, adjusted for inflation. An increase to $11 per hour in 2018 would return the state to slightly above its historical high point. Beyond that, however, the minimum wage goes far higher than it’s ever been.

What effect will that have, especially in lower-wage areas outside the big cities? There’s no telling. It won’t be Armageddon, but it might not be entirely benign either. Small increases in the minimum wage seem to have little or no effect on employment, but this increase isn’t small, and it unquestionably gets us beyond merely catching up with past erosion in the minimum wage. A statewide minimum of $15 would be a brand new thing.

Kansas recently tried out full-bore right-wing economics, and it’s pretty much been a disaster. Now liberals are getting their chance in California. Come back in a decade and we’ll find out if left-wing economics does any better.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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